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Leaving the World

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On the night of her thirteenth birthday, Jane Howard made a vow to her warring parents: she would never get married, and she would never have children.

But life, as Jane comes to discover, is a profoundly random business. Many years and many lives later, she is a professor in Boston, in love with a brilliant, erratic man named Theo. And then Jane becomes pregnant. Motherhood turns out to be a great welcome surprise—but when a devastating turn ...

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Leaving the World: A Novel

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Overview

On the night of her thirteenth birthday, Jane Howard made a vow to her warring parents: she would never get married, and she would never have children.

But life, as Jane comes to discover, is a profoundly random business. Many years and many lives later, she is a professor in Boston, in love with a brilliant, erratic man named Theo. And then Jane becomes pregnant. Motherhood turns out to be a great welcome surprise—but when a devastating turn of events tears her existence apart she has no choice but to flee all she knows and leave the world.

Just when she has renounced life itself, the disappearance of a young girl pulls her back from the edge and into an obsessive search for some sort of personal redemption. Convinced that she knows more about the case than the police do, she is forced to make a decision—stay hidden or bring to light a shattering truth.

Leaving the World is a riveting portrait of a brilliant woman that reflects the way we live now, of the many routes we follow in the course of a single life, and of the arbitrary nature of destiny. A critically acclaimed international bestseller, it is also a compulsive read and one that speaks volumes about the dilemmas we face in trying to navigate our way through all that fate throws in our path.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
Published to acclaim in the U.K. and France in 2009, Kennedy’s ninth novel is a complex study of a line early in the book: “nobody gets away lightly in life.” On the morning after narrator Jane Howard’s 13th birthday, her father, citing Jane’s comment that “No one’s actually happy,” walks out on the family. Jane shuts down emotionally, but excels academically and while at Harvard begins an affair with her married thesis adviser, David, which ends four years later when he’s killed in an accident. Moving on from making big bucks in finance, Jane ends up teaching at a third-tier university in Boston where she falls in love and has a daughter with film archivist Theo, who along with his new paramour, cheats Jane out of most of her savings. Life only gets harder, until, just when Jane is ready to give up, she gets involved in a child-murder investigation in Calgary, Canada. Jane is a quintessential heroine who never makes excuses or wallows in self-pity, despite her grief. Episodically structured yet with a strong narrative drive, this is a book with lasting impact: powerful, provocative, and tender. (June)
From the Publisher
“Kennedy is a master storyteller, who never fails to keep you gripped until the last page.”

Leaving the World is a classy page-turner from a novelist who has become a cultural icon in Europe. This is a novel about guilt, uncertainty, redemption, and the fact that we build the roads upon which the accidents of chance occur. Kennedy's characters embark on long, complex, provocative journeys, and their ultimate strength is that — like the writer — they can throw off bright sparks in the dark.”

"The tough, bright heroine of Leaving the World barrels ahead through life, with pluck and acerbity, bruises and injustices not always stepping out of her path. In his fast-paced, engrossing novels Douglas Kennedy always has his brilliant finger on the entertaining parts of human sorrow, fury, and narrow escapes. Wonderful."

"Douglas Kennedy is famous for two things: writing insightfully about women's lives, and crafting narratives so utterly gripping as to redefine the concept of unputdownable. In Leaving the World, these strengths combine to make an unforgettable reading experience."

“This is a book with lasting impact: powerful, provocative, and tender.”

“In this surging epic, a veritable decathlon of the spirit, Kennedy incisively dramatizes the enigma of chance, petty cruelty, and catastrophic evil, 'unalloyed grief,' and the tensile strength concealed beneath our obvious vulnerability.”

“If you read only one book this summer, make sure it’s Douglas Kennedy’s Leaving the World.”

“Readers who enjoy well-written mainstream works like those of Richard Yates, Richard Russo, Jodi Picoult, and Jane Smiley will be happy to add Kennedy to their list of favorites.”

The Times (London)
"Douglas Kennedy is famous for two things: writing insightfully about women's lives, and crafting narratives so utterly gripping as to redefine the concept of unputdownable. In Leaving the World, these strengths combine to make an unforgettable reading experience."
Booklist
“In this surging epic, a veritable decathlon of the spirit, Kennedy incisively dramatizes the enigma of chance, petty cruelty, and catastrophic evil, 'unalloyed grief,' and the tensile strength concealed beneath our obvious vulnerability.”
BookPage
“If you read only one book this summer, make sure it’s Douglas Kennedy’s Leaving the World.”
Sarah Dunant
“Kennedy is a master storyteller, who never fails to keep you gripped until the last page.”
Colum McCann
Leaving the World is a classy page-turner from a novelist who has become a cultural icon in Europe. This is a novel about guilt, uncertainty, redemption, and the fact that we build the roads upon which the accidents of chance occur. Kennedy's characters embark on long, complex, provocative journeys, and their ultimate strength is that — like the writer — they can throw off bright sparks in the dark.”
Lorrie Moore
"The tough, bright heroine of Leaving the World barrels ahead through life, with pluck and acerbity, bruises and injustices not always stepping out of her path. In his fast-paced, engrossing novels Douglas Kennedy always has his brilliant finger on the entertaining parts of human sorrow, fury, and narrow escapes. Wonderful."
Booklist (starred)
“In this surging epic, a veritable decathlon of the spirit, Kennedy incisively dramatizes the enigma of chance, petty cruelty, and catastrophic evil, 'unalloyed grief,' and the tensile strength concealed beneath our obvious vulnerability.”
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780099509677
  • Publisher: Atria Books
  • Publication date: 1/1/2010
  • Format: Mass Market Paperback
  • Pages: 592
  • Product dimensions: 4.25 (w) x 7.00 (h) x 1.55 (d)

Meet the Author

Douglas Kennedy is the author of eleven previous novels, including the international bestsellers The Moment and Five Days. His work has been translated into twenty-two languages, and in 2007 he received the French decoration of Chevalier de l’Ordre des Arts et des Lettres. He divides his time between London, New York, and Montreal, and has two children. Find out more at DouglasKennedyNovelist.com.

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Read an Excerpt

Leaving the World

A Novel
By Douglas Kennedy

Atria

Copyright © 2010 Douglas Kennedy
All right reserved.

ISBN: 9781439180785

On the night of my thirteenth birthday, I made an announcement.


?I am never getting married and I am never having children.?


I can remember exactly the time and the place where this proclamation was delivered. It was around six p.m. in a restaurant on West 63rd Street and Broadway. The day in question was January 1st 1987, and I blurted out this statement shortly after my parents had started fighting with each other. Fuelled by alcohol and an impressive array of deeply held resentments, it was a dispute which ended with my mother shouting out loud that my dad was a shit and storming off in tears to what she always called ?the little girls? room?. Though the other patrons in the restaurant gawked at this loud scene of marital discontent, their fight came as no great shock to me. My parents were always fighting ? and they had this habit of really combusting at those junctures in the calendar (Christmas, Thanksgiving, the anniversary of their only child?s arrival in the world) when family values allegedly ruled supreme and we were supposed to feel ?all warm and cuddly? towards each other.


But my parents never did warm and cuddly. They needed shared belligerence the way a certain kind of drunk needs his daily eye-opening shot of whiskey. Without it they felt destabilized, isolated, even a little lost. Once they started baiting and taunting each other, they were in a place they called home. Unhappiness isn?t simply a state of mind; it is also a habit . . . and one which my parents could never shake.


But I digress. New Year?s Day, 1987. We?d driven in from our home in Old Greenwich, Connecticut for my birthday. We?d gone to see the New York City Ballet perform the famous Balanchine production of The Nutcracker. After the matinee, we adjourned to a restaurant called O?Neill?s opposite Lincoln Center. My dad had ordered a vodka Martini, then downed a second, then raised his hand for a third. Mom started berating him for drinking too much. Dad, being Dad, informed Mom that she wasn?t his mother and if he wanted a goddamn third Martini, he?d drink a goddamn third Martini. Mom hissed at him to lower his voice. Dad said he was not going to be infantilized. Mom retorted, telling him he deserved to be infantilized because he was nothing more than a little baby who, when reprimanded, threw all his toys out of the crib. Dad, going in for the kill, called her a failed nobody who?


At which point she screamed ? in her most actressy voice ? ?You pathetic shit!? and made a dash for ?the little girls? room?, leaving me staring down into my Shirley Temple. Dad motioned to the waiter for his third vodka Martini. There was a long awkward silence between us. Dad broke it with a non-sequitur.


?So how?s school??


I answered just as obliquely.


?I am never getting married and I am never having children.?


My father?s response to this was to light up one of the thirty Chesterfields he smoked every day and laugh one of his deep bronchial laughs.


?Like hell you won?t,? he said. ?You think you?re gonna dodge all this, you?ve got another think coming.?


One thing I?ve got to say about my dad: he never spared me the truth. Nor did he think much about cosseting me from life?s manifold dis­appoint­ments. Like my mom he also operated according to the principle: after a vituperative exchange, act as if nothing has happened ? for a moment or two anyway. So when Mom returned from ?the little girls? room? with a fixed smile on her face, Dad returned it.


?Jane here was just telling me about her future,? Dad said, swizzling the swizzle stick in his vodka Martini.


?Jane?s going to have a great future,? she said. ?What did you tell Dad, dear??


Dad answered for me.


?Our daughter informed me that she is never going to get married and never have children.?


Dad looked right at Mom as he said this, enjoying her discomfort.


?Surely you don?t mean that, dear,? she said to me.


?I do,? I said.


?But a lot of people we know are very happily married . . .? she answered. Dad cackled and threw back vodka Martini number three. Mom blanched, realizing that she had spoken without thinking. (?My mouth always reacts before my brain,? she once admitted to me after blurting out that she hadn?t had sex with my father for four years.)


An awkward silence followed, which I broke.


?No one?s actually happy,? I said.


?Jane, really . . .? Mom said, ?you?re far too young for such negativity.?


?No, she?s not,? said Dad. ?In fact, if Jane?s figured that little salient detail out already, she?s a lot smarter than the two of us. And you?re right, kid ? you want to live a happy life, don?t get married and don?t have kids. But you will . . .?


?Don, really . . .?


?Really what?? he said, half shouting in that way he did when he was drunk. ?You expect me to lie to her . . . even though she?s already articulated the fucking truth??


Several people at adjoining tables glared again at us. Dad smiled that little-boy smile which always crossed his lips whenever he misbehaved. He ordered a fourth Martini. Mom strangled a napkin in her hands and said nothing except: ?I?ll drive tonight.?


?Fine by me,? Dad said. Martini number four arrived. He toasted me with it.


?Happy birthday, sweetheart. And here?s to you never living a lie . . .?


I glanced over at my mother. She was in tears. I glanced back at my father. His smile had grown even wider.


We finished dinner. We drove home in silence. Later that night, my mom came into my room as I was reading in bed. She kneeled down by me and took my hand and told me I was to ignore everything my father had said.


?You will be happy, dear,? she told me. ?I just know it.?


I said nothing. I simply shut my eyes and surrendered to sleep.


When I woke the next morning, my father had gone.


I discovered this when I came downstairs around eleven. School wasn?t starting for another three days ? and, as a new-fangled teenager, I had already started to embrace twelve-hour zone-outs as a way of coping with that prevalent adolescent belief: life sucks. As I walked into the kitchen I discovered my mother seated at the breakfast bar, her head lowered, her make-up streaked, her eyes red. There was a lit cigarette in an ashtray in front of her. There was another one between her fingers. And in her other hand was a letter.


?Your father has left us,? she said. Her tone was flat, stripped of emotion.


?What?? I asked, not taking this news in.


?He?s gone and he?s not coming back. It?s all here.?


She held up the letter.


?He can?t do that,? I said.


?Oh, yes, he can ? and he has. It?s all here.?


?But this morning . . . he was here when you got up.?


She stared into the ashtray as she spoke.


?I cooked him his breakfast. I drove him to the station. I talked about going to some barn sale in Westport this Saturday. He said he?d be home on the 7:03. I asked him if he wanted lamb chops for dinner. He said: ?Sure . . . but no broccoli.? He gave me a peck on the cheek. I drove to A&P. I bought the lamb chops. I came home. I found this.?


?So he left it before you went to the station??


?When we were walking to the car, he said he forgot that Parker pen of his and dashed back inside. That?s when he must have left the note.?


?Can I see it??


?No. It?s private. It says stuff that??


She stopped herself and took a long drag off her cigarette. Then suddenly she looked up at me with something approaching rage.


?If only you hadn?t said . . .?


?What?? I whispered.


She raised the letter to her face. And read out loud:


?When Jane announced last night that ?no one?s actually happy?, the decision I had been pondering ? and postponing ? for years suddenly seemed no longer inconceivable. And after you went to bed I sat up in the living room, considering the fact that, at best, I will be alive for another thirty-five years ? probably less the way I smoke. So I couldn?t help but think: enough of you, enough of this. Our daughter got it right: happiness doesn?t exist. But at least if I was out of this marriage, I?d be less aggrieved than I am now.?


She tossed the letter onto the counter. There was a long silence. I felt for the very first time that strange traumatic sensation of the ground giving way beneath my feet.


?Why did you tell him that?? she asked. ?Why? He?d still be here now if only . . .?


That?s when I ran upstairs and into my room, slamming the door behind me as I collapsed onto the bed. But I didn?t burst into tears. I simply found myself in freefall. Words matter. Words count. Words have lasting import. And my words had sent my dad packing. It was all my fault.


An hour or so later, Mom came upstairs and knocked on my door and asked if I could ever forgive her for what she had said. I didn?t reply. She came in and found me on my bed, curled up in a tight little ball, a pillow clutched against my mid-section.


?Jane, dear . . . I?m so sorry.?


I pulled the pillow even closer to me and refused to look at her.


?My mouth always reacts before my brain.?


As you?ve told me so many times before.


?And I was so stunned, so distraught . . .?


Words matter. Words count. Words have lasting import.


?We all say things we don?t mean . . .?


But you meant exactly what you said.


?Please, Jane, please . . .?


That was the moment I put my hands over my ears, in an attempt to block her out. That was the moment when she suddenly screamed: ?All right, all right, be calculating and cruel . . . just like your father . . .?


And she stormed out of the room.


The truth of the matter was: I wanted to be calculating and cruel and pay her back for that comment and for all her attendant narcissism (not that I even knew that word at the time). The problem was: I?ve never really had it in me to be calculating and cruel. Petulant, yes. Irritable, yes . . . and definitely withdrawn whenever I felt hurt or simply overwhelmed by life?s frequent inequities. But even at thirteen, acts of unkindness already struck me as abhorrent. So when I heard my mother sitting on the stairs, weeping, I forced myself up out of my defensive fetal position and onto the landing. Sitting down on the step next to her, I put my arm around her and lay my head on her shoulder. It took her ten minutes to bring her weeping under control. When she finally calmed down, she disappeared into the bathroom for a few minutes, re-emerging with a look of enforced cheerfulness on her face.


?How about I make us BLTs for lunch?? she asked.


We both went downstairs and, yet again, pretended that nothing had happened.


My father made good on his word: he never returned home, even sending a moving company to gather up his belongings and bring them to the small apartment he rented on the Upper East Side of Manhattan. Within two years the divorce came through. After that I saw my dad sporadically over the ensuing years (he was usually out of the country, working). Mom never remarried and never left Old Greenwich. She found a job in the local library which kept the bills paid and gave her something to do with the day. She also rarely spoke much about my father once he vanished from her life ? even though it was so painfully clear to me that, as unhappy as the marriage was, she always mourned his absence. But the Mom Code of Conduct ? never articulate that which is pulling you apart ? was clung to without fail, even though I could constantly sense the sadness that coursed through her life. After Dad left, Mom started drinking herself to sleep most nights, becoming increasingly reliant on vodka as a way of keeping at bay the low-lying pain that so defined her. But the few times that I danced around the subject, she would politely but firmly tell me that she was most aware of her alcohol intake ? and she was well able to control it.


?Anyway, as we used to say in French class: ?? chacun son destin.??


Everyone to their own destiny.


Mom would always point out that this was one of the few phrases she remembered from her college classes ? ?and I was a French minor?. But I?m not surprised that she kept that expression close to mind. As someone who hated conflict ? and who went out of her way to avoid observations about the mess we all make of things ? it?s clear why she so embraced that French maxim. To her, we were all alone in a hostile universe and never really knew what life had in store for us. All we could do was muddle through. So why worry about drinking three vodkas too many every evening, or articulating the lasting grief and loneliness that underscores everything in daily life? ? chacun son destin.


Certainly, Mom put up little resistance some years later when, at the age of sixty-one, the oncologist to whom she had been referred told her she had terminal cancer.


?It?s liver cancer,? she said calmly when I rushed down to Connecticut after she was admitted to the big regional hospital in Stamford. ?And the problem with liver cancer is that it?s ninety-nine percent incurable. But maybe that?s its blessing as well.?


?How can you say that, Mom??


?Because there is something reassuring about knowing nothing can be done to save you. It negates hope ? and also stops you from submitting to horrible life-prolonging treatments which will corrode your body and destroy your will to survive, yet still won?t save you. Best to bow to the inevitable, dear.?


For Mom, the inevitable arrived shortly after her diagnosis. She was very pragmatic and systematic about her own death. Having refused all temporary stop-gap measures ? which might have bought her another six months ? she opted for palliative care: a steady supply of intravenous morphine to keep the pain and the fear at bay.


?You think I should maybe get religion?? she asked me in one of her more lucid moments towards the end.


?Whatever makes things easier for you,? I said.


?Jessie ? the nurse who looks after me most mornings ? is some sort of Pentecostalist. I never knew they had people like that in Fairfield County. Anyway, she keeps talking about how if I was willing to accept Jesus as my Lord and Savior, I?d be granted life ever after. ?Just think, Mrs Howard,? she said yesterday, ?you could be in heaven next week!??


Mom flashed me a mischievous smile which then faded quickly as she asked me: ?But say she turns out to be right? Say I did accept Jesus? Would it be such a bad thing? I mean, I always had comprehensive automobile insurance when I was still alive . . .?


I lowered my head and bit my lip and failed to control the sob that had just welled up in my throat.


?You?re still alive, Mom,? I whispered. ?And you could be alive for even longer if only you?d allow Dr Phillips??


?Now let?s not go there again, dear. My mind is made up. chacun ? son destin.?


But then she suddenly turned away from me and started to cry. I held onto her hand. She finally said: ?You know what still gets to me? What still haunts my thoughts so damn often . . . ??


?What??


?Remember what you said to your father on the night of your thirteenth birthday??


?Mom . . .?


?Now don?t take this the wrong way, but you did say??


?I know what I said, but that was years ago and??


?You said: ?I?m never getting married and I?m never having
children,? and followed it up with the observation that ?nobody?s actually happy? . . .?


I couldn?t believe what I was hearing ? and found myself thinking: She?s dying, she?s on severe painkillers, ignore what she?s saying, even though I knew that she was having one of her rare moments of perfect lucidity right now. We had spent years sidestepping this issue. But in her mind I was still to blame for my father?s departure.


?You did say those things, didn?t you, dear??


?Yes, I said them.?


?And the next morning, what happened??


?You know what happened, Mom.?


?I don?t blame you, dear. It?s just . . . well, cause and effect. And maybe . . . just maybe . . . if those things hadn?t been said at that specific moment . . . well, who knows? Maybe your father wouldn?t have packed his bags. Maybe the bad feelings he was having about the marriage might have passed. We?re so often on the verge of walking out or giving up or saying that it?s all not worth it. But without a trigger . . . that something which sends us over the edge . . .?


I hung my head. I said nothing. Mom didn?t finish the sentence, as she was racked with one of the small convulsions that seized her whenever the pain reasserted itself. She tried to reach for the morphine plunger that was attached to the IV bag by the side of her bed. But her hand was shaking so badly that I had to take it myself and press the trigger and watch her ease into the semi-catatonic euphoria which the morphine induced. As she drifted into this chemical stupor, I could only think: Now you can fade away from what you just said . . . but I have to live on with it.


Words matter. Words count. Words have lasting import.


We never spoke again. I did take some comfort in the knowledge that my parents could never stand each other and that my long-vanished father would have ended it with Mom no matter what.


But ? as I?ve come to discover ? there is a profound, vast gulf between understanding something that completely changes the contours of your life and accepting the terrible reality of that situation. The rational side of your brain ? the part that tells you: ?This is what happened, it can?t be rectified, and you must now somehow grapple with the aftermath? ? is always trumped by an angry, overwrought voice. It?s a voice railing at the unfairness of life, at the awful things we do to ourselves and each other; a voice which then insidiously whispers: And maybe it?s all your fault.


Recently, on one of the many nights when sleep is impossible ? and when the ultra-potent knockout pills to which I am addicted proved defenceless against the insomnia which now dominates my life ? I found myself somehow thinking back to an Introductory Physics course I took during my freshman year in college. We spent two lectures learning about a German mathematical physicist named Werner Heisenberg. In the late l920s, he developed a theorem known as the Uncertainty Principle, the details of which I?d so forgotten that I turned to Google (at 4:27 in the morning) to refresh my memory. Lo and behold, I found the following definition: ?In particle physics, the Uncertainty Principle states that it is not possible to know both the position and the momentum of a particle at the same time, because the act of measuring would disturb the system.?


So far so theoretical. But a little further digging and I discovered that Einstein abhorred the Uncertainty Principle, commenting: ?Of course we can know where something is; we can know the position of a moving particle if we know every possible detail, and thereby by extension we can predict where it will go.?


He also noted, rather incisively, that the principle flew in the face of a sort of divine empiricism, saying: ?I cannot believe that God would choose to play dice with the universe.?


But Heisenberg ? and his Danish theoretical collaborator, Niels Bohr (the father of quantum mechanics) ? countered Einstein with the belief that: ?There is no way of knowing where a moving particle is given its detail, and thereby, by extension, we can never predict where it will go.?


Bohr also added a little sardonic retort at the end, instructing his rival: ?Einstein, don?t tell God what to do.?


Reading about all this (as the sun came up on another nuit blanche), I found myself siding with Heisenberg and Bohr. Though everything in life is, physically speaking, composed of elementary particles, how can we ever really know where a certain particle ? or that combination of particles known as an action, an event, another person ? will bring us? Einstein, don?t tell God what to do . . . because in a wholly random universe, He has no control.


But what struck me so forcibly about the Uncertainty Principle was the way it also made me trawl back to that New Year?s Day in 1987 ? and how, in my mother?s mind, Heisenberg was right. One launched particle ? my dismissive comments about marriage ? results in a logical, terrible outcome: divorce. No wonder that she embraced this empirical doctrine. Without it, she would have had to face up to her own role in the breakdown of her marriage.


But she was spot on about one thing: had that particle not been launched on that given night, the result might have been a dissimilar one . . . and both our lives might have turned out differently because of that.


I think about that a lot these days ? the idea of destiny as nothing more than a random dispatch of particles which brings you to places you never imagined finding yourself. Just as I also now understand that uncertainty governs every moment of human existence.


And when it comes to thinking that life works according to linear principles . . .


Well, another physicist back in the twenties, Felix Bloch, proposed the idea that space was a field of linear operations. Heisenberg would have none of it.


?Nonsense,? he said. ?Space is blue and birds fly through it.?


But stories work best when told in a sequential, linear way. And this story ? my story ? needs to be told sequentially, as life can only be lived forwards and understood backwards. And the only way I can make sense of what has happened to me recently is by trying to find some sort of significance lurking behind the haphazardness of it all. Even though, having just written that, I know that I am articulating a contradiction.


Because there is no meaning to be found in the arbitrary nature of things. It?s all random. Just as space is blue. And birds fly through it.

Continues...

Excerpted from Leaving the World by Douglas Kennedy Copyright © 2010 by Douglas Kennedy. Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 3.5
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Sort by: Showing all of 17 Customer Reviews
  • Posted December 27, 2010

    This one gets a pass...

    This is an author who is acclaimed and has written several books, but we believe he got several things wrong. More about that later.
    One of the central themes in this novel revolves around psychological damage. We discussed this at length, and came to the conclusion that while no one can completely avoid it, for most of us, our damaged parts don't run our lives. Another theme that was repeated was 'Words matter. Words count. Words have lasting import.'
    Jane's parents had a terrible marriage, and truth be told, were awful parents. Her mother was never satisfied with anything Jane did, and her father was never home. Her father left for good when Jane pointed out that she would never marry or have children because no one is happy. And of course, Jane's mother blamed her for her father leaving.
    Jane goes through a series of events in her life that stretch the boundaries of fiction. First she wins a full scholarship to Harvard, proving to her father that she is worth something, after all. She goes on to have an affair with her doctoral advisor. The one time she is open about her feelings, telling her lover that the book he's just had published isn't to her taste, the lover gets killed in a bike/truck accident. (Here there was disagreement: was it accident or suicide?)
    Then she decides to forget about her career as a college professor to enter the world of finance. After a few short weeks Jane alerts her employers to a deal that makes the company $142 million. Then she comes under the scrutiny of the FBI, and is fired. She came away with a $300,000 termination agreement. Then she runs away to Canada and turns her doctoral thesis into a book.
    She got a job as a professor in a third-tier college and got involved with another damaged character: Theo Morgan. She has a baby; Theo leaves her, the child dies in an auto accident, and Jane runs away again.
    A failed suicide attempt in Montana lands her in a psych ward. After finishing her treatment, she runs away again, to Canada. Here it starts to get really weird. She got a job as a librarian, and then turned into Nancy Drew: exposing a child murderer and rescuing his latest victim. THEN she ran away to Europe. She came back later. The end.
    There were parts of this book that we enjoyed. It spurred a great deal of discussion about family dynamics and good choices in life. But there were some very large flaws in the book, too. For instance, even though we loved the use of language, nearly every character spoke in the same college-educated voice. There were a number of Britishisms used: 'car park', 'ring me up'; this is a book about an American, and we simply don't talk like that. And my biggest laugh occurred during the January she spent in Nova Scotia: getting up before dawn, going out at 6, walking on the beach for 80 minutes, and returning at 8:15. Hah. The earliest sunrise in Nova Scotia in January is 11:38 am. Another huge flaw was the beloved daughter Emily. There was not a single description of her, other than she was perfect. The entire second half of the book revolved around Jane's guilt and misery at the death of her daughter, yet we don't know if she had blonde hair or dark, straight or curly; we don't know the color of her eyes; Emily is a mystery to us.
    This book is so flawed. Waste of time.

    1 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted August 31, 2010

    Don't waste the time or the money

    all I can say about this book is that it is TERRIBLE. If the primary character didn't have bad luck she would have no luck. I could not even finish it. I put it in archive after about 110 pages.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted May 19, 2010

    more from this reviewer

    A profound tale

    Jane Howard celebrates her thirteenth birthday with her family when she makes a cryptic comment that no one is happy. The next morning her dad quoting her profound statement on happiness leaves.

    Jane internalizes what happened, blaming herself. She locks away her feelings and turns to the academic world for sustenance. At Harvard she has an affair with her married thesis adviser, who dies in an accident; which affirms her belief people leave. Jane makes a fortune in the finance world, but turns to teaching at a minor Boston university. She falls in love with film archivist Theo and they have a child, but he steals her money while running off with his new partner. Once again Jane learns men leave. However, she finds a new interest a child-murder investigation in Calgary.

    A lot happened to Jane but she courageously is accepting that sh*t happens as That's Life (Sinatra), but what makes her an admirable heroine is that "Each time I find myself flat on my face I pick myself up and get back in the race"; she never quits. Readers will root for Jane who tells her entertaining tale in which "Some people get their kicks stompin' on a dream But I don't let it, let it get me down." That's Life.

    Harriet Klausner

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted July 28, 2011

    more from this reviewer

    Ok read

    This book reads well and keeps you entertained. Its easy to follow his characters. Maybe its just me but I hated the negative spin towards the end of the book which had to do with the pastor of a church. Kinda ruined it for me.

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  • Posted August 19, 2010

    more from this reviewer

    Bridget's Review

    I have a hard time reviewing books like this because after reading it, I'm speechless. The author stirred up my emotions in a way that makes me feel a bit more mature. Everything about this book was amazing.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted July 15, 2010

    WOW! WHAT A READ!!!!

    I have never read any of Douglas Kennedy's books before this. I was not only drawn into the storyline but by the author's style of narrating and presenting his story. This is a 'woman's story line' written by a man. What insight! I haven't read another story of this fashion since "The Geisha".
    Can't wait to read Kennedy's other books!

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