The author of biographies on Cond Nast and Marietta Tree, Seebohm here intriguingly fictionalizes the glitterati of WWI-era New York and France (with "Mrs. Cond Nast" making an appearance on the first page), but can't follow them all the way into psychosis. The mother of Dorothea and Iris Crosby, identical twins in New York Society, dies after giving birth to them and their father dies soon after in a riding accident. The two cling tightly to each other, overseen by their befuddled older brother, George. After the 1911 Triangle Shirtwaist Factory fire, the teenage twins do wrenching work identifying burn victims. After several (chaperoned) trips to France, the twins, in their mid-20s, return to France as Red Cross volunteers when the U.S. enters WWI. When Iris falls in love with Southern Jewish aviator Maurice Aronsohn, Dorothea feels threatened. The two repledge their mutual loyalties, but the unhealthiness of their attachment becomes readily apparent. Seebohm's wartime Paris is particularly vivid; her prose throughout is concise and rich, and her narrative is peppered with period dialogue and epistolary correspondence among the characters. What doesn't come through is the sisters' desperation or the claustrophobia of their unraveling. One comes away wishing these innocents were a little less so. (Apr.) Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information.
VOYA - Barbara Johnson
After her beloved Grandmother Nonna's funeral, BJ Ellington returns to Blue Lake to the house that Nonna shared with her partner, Grandma Lena. BJ has not visited Blue Lake since her fourteenth birthday in 1983, and she brings her son, Sam, plus the burden of her crumbling marriage. When Travis arrives, their teenage romance is rekindled, and they become lovers. Husband Bryce pleads for another chance, but BJ has found Nonna's letters to BJ's deceased mother, Judy, and they reveal secrets that affect BJ's decisions about her marriage and her future. Lena, not Nonna, was Judy's biological mother so Travis is actually BJ's cousin. Trusting the wisdom garnered from Nonna's writings, BJ musters the courage to depart from the norm like her grandmothers and chooses the unconventional path with Travis. Although this novel deals with homosexuality, sexual abuse, and incest, it is primarily a tender tale about difficult choices and love. Both grandmothers' stories are plausible. Nonna married a soldier, became pregnant, miscarried but kept it a secret even as a widow. Lena, raped by her drunken fiancT, called off the wedding but delivered his child. Both collaborated on the birth deception and later their friendship evolved into love. The author skillfully builds suspense with flashbacks to 1983 and adds even more as Nonna's notebook spills its secrets. Characterization is exceptional; both grandmothers sparkle. Spikes of humor, brilliant descriptive passages-Nonna's hedonistic summer on the Aegean-all contribute to a memorable, thought-provoking novel. Buy it for public libraries and recommend to serious teen readers.
In this first novel, Barbara Jean "BJ" Ellington is facing a summer filled with change, reminiscence, new beginnings, and hard choices. BJ has just left her cheating husband, Bryce, back in Michigan to travel with young son Sam to the home of her recently deceased grandmother, Nonna, in Pennsylvania. BJ had spent many summers as a youth with Nonna and Nonna's partner, Lena. It doesn't take long for Travis, BJ's adolescent crush and Lena's nephew, to show up and rekindle a flirtation. In the novel's first part, Althouse-Wood reveals BJ's past and present in alternating chapters. In the second, she tells the history of Nonna and Lena's relationship through BJ's reading of Nonna's notebooks. The surprising disclosures in the notebooks cause BJ concern over her relationship with Travis, and Bryce's apology and pleas for a second chance leave BJ confused about how to move forward. Skillfully weaving together summers past and present, this fascinating story is perfect for the season's waning days and is sure to please readers of women's fiction. Recommended for all public libraries.
Yet another first novel about a woman returning to the old home place to recover from a broken marriage and, lo and behold, finding true love. After her lawyer husband Bryce has an affair and asks for a divorce, metal craftswoman BJ brings her five-year-old son Sam to the small lakeside town in Pennsylvania where she has recently inherited her deceased maternal grandmothers' house-two maternal grandmothers, because BJ's mother had lesbian mothers before gay parenting was fashionable. BJ spent wonderful summers in the house in the 1970s and '80s with her biological grandmother Nonna, a baker, and her partner Lena, a wedding photographer. Now BJ sets up her metalworking studio in Lena's old darkroom and has a burst of creative success. Her best friend from those summers has become a lawyer who handles BJ's amicable divorce from Bryce. Most important, BJ rekindles her romance with the son of Lena's half-sister whom she hasn't seen since she was 14. Travis is BJ's patient, sensitive soul mate-in other words, unbelievably perfect. After a surfeit of niceness-even Bryce is a good father and decent ex-husband-trouble, or at least complication, finally surfaces. Bryce comes to visit Sam and begs BJ to take him back with pretty convincing arguments. At the same time, BJ finds a notebook from Nonna explaining her family history: After being molested as a child by her evil stepfather, then raped and abandoned by her equally evil fiance, Lena found herself unmarried and pregnant. Nonna, happily married to a soldier serving in World War II, secretly had a miscarriage around the same time. So Nonna raised Lena's baby as her own. Nonna's husband was killed, she and Lena moved in together for the baby'ssake, and their love blossomed. Reading the notebook, BJ realizes she and Travis are cousins. Will true (if ickily close to incestuous) love prevail over a sense of marital/parental duty? Of course. Bland, despite the contrived melodrama. Agent: Denise Marcil/Denise Marcil Literary Agency
Aptos Times - Robert Francis, APTOS TIMES
“An engaging character study that alternates between the past and present, “Summers at Blue Lake” investigates how the actions of one generation can have consequences many decades later.”
Voya Book Reviews - Barbara Johnson, VOYA BOOK REVIEWS
“The author skillfully builds suspense…Characterization is exceptional…Spikes of humor, brilliant descriptive passages…all contribute to a memorable, thought-provoking novel.”
Booklist - Carolyn Kubisz, BOOKLIST
“In Althouse-Wood's engaging novel, she alternates between past and present; gives BJ a fresh, honest voice; and beautifully develops the relationship between the grandmothers."