The Red Book

The Red Book

by Deborah Copaken Kogan

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Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781401341992
Publisher: Hachette Books
Publication date: 05/07/2013
Pages: 384
Sales rank: 660,334
Product dimensions: 5.20(w) x 7.90(h) x 1.10(d)
Age Range: 18 Years

About the Author

Deborah Copaken Kogan worked as a photojournalist from 1988 to 1992, and her photographs appeared in Time, Newsweek, The New York Times, L'Express, Liberation, and Geo, among many other international newspapers and magazines. She spent the next six years in TV journalism, including a time as a producer for Dateline NBC. Her writings have appeared in The New Yorker, the New York Times and elsewhere. She is a Harvard alumna. She lives in New York City with her husband, Paul Kogan, and their three children.

Read an Excerpt

The Red Book


By DEBORAH COPAKEN KOGAN

Hyperion Books

Copyright © 2012 Deborah Copaken Kogan
All right reserved.

ISBN: 978-1-4013-4082-7


Chapter One

Friday, June 5, 2009

Addison

It had simply never occurred to Addison that the Cambridge Police Department not only kept two-decade-old records of unpaid parking tickets, but that they could also use the existence of her overdue fines, on the eve of her twentieth college reunion, to arrest her in front of Gunner and the kids. If such a scenario had struck her as even remotely possible, she'd be thinking twice about zooming through that red light on Memorial Drive.

But it hadn't, so here we go.

"Oh my God, look at these idiots," she says, slamming her hand down hard on the horn of her blue and white 1963 VW Microbus, which she purchased online one night in a fit of kitsch nostalgia. Or that's the story she tells friends when they ask what she was thinking buying a vehicle that takes weeks or even months to fix when it breaks down, for want of parts. "Take my advice: don't ever go on eBay stoned," she'll say, whenever the conversation veers toward car ownership, online shopping, or adult pot use. "You'll end up with a first generation off the master Cornell '77 along with the friggin' bus the dude drove to the show."

While the story is technically true, the impetus behind the purchase was much more about economic necessity, practicality, and appearances than Addison likes to admit. For one, she and Gunner couldn't afford a new Prius. They refused, on ecological principle, to buy a used SUV, or rather they refused to be put in the position of being judged for owning an SUV. (While they loved the earth as much as the next family, they weren't above, strictly speaking, adding a supersize vehicle to its surface for the sake of convenience.) A cheap compact, with three kids and a rescued black Lab, was out of the question. And they couldn't wrap their heads around the image of themselves at the helm of a minivan. To be a part of their close-knit circle of friends, all of whom have at least one toe dipped in the alternative art scene in Williamsburg, meant upholding a certain level of épater-le-bourgeois aesthetics. If a minivan or even a station wagon could have been done ironically, believe her, it would have.

Traffic in front of the Microbus has halted, an admixture of the normal clogged arteries at the Charles River crossings during rush hour compounded by the arterial plaque of reunion weekend attendees, those thousands of additional vehicles that appear every June like clockwork, loaded up with alumni families and faded memories, the latter triggered out of dormancy by the sight of the crimson cupola of Dunster House or the golden dome of Adams House or the Eliot House clock tower, such that any one of the drivers blocking Addison's path to Harvard Square might be thinking, as Addison is right now (catching a glimpse of the nondescript window on the sixth floor of that disaster of a modernist building that is Mather House), There, right there: That's where I first fucked her.

No, that wasn't a typo. Prior to marrying Gunner, Addison spent almost two years in a relationship with a woman. This, she likes to remind everyone, was before "Girls Gone Wild," before the acronym LUG ("lesbian until graduation") had even debuted in the Times, so she'd appreciate it if you wouldn't accuse her of following a trend, okay?

If anything, Addison has come to realize, thanks to a cut-rate Jungian who came highly recommended, Bennie was just one more way—like the roommates she wound up choosing—she'd been trying to shake off her pedigree, to prove to herself and to others that she had more depth and facets than her staid history and prep school diploma would suggest. Addison may have been one of the eighth generation of Hunts to matriculate from Harvard, but she would be the first not to heed the siren call of Wall Street. For one, she had no facility with numbers. For another, she'd seen what Wall Street had done to her father. He, too, had been enamored of the stroke of fresh Golden's on canvas from the moment he could hold a paintbrush, but he'd tossed his wooden box of acrylics into the back of the closet of his Park Avenue duplex—where it gathered dust until Addison happened upon it one day during a game of hide-and-seek—because that's what Hunts did: They subsumed themselves into their Brooks Brothers suits. The cirrhosis that killed him in his early fifties, when Addison was just a sophomore in college, was no act of God. It was an act, every glass-tinkling night, of desperation.

Bennie was the first person in her life to make that suggestion. Out loud, at least, and to Addison's face. And though both Bennie and her pronoun were aberrations in the arc of Addison's sexual history, what the two had together—although Addison would only be able to understand this in retrospect, per the cut-rate Jungian—was love.

(Continues...)



Excerpted from The Red Book by DEBORAH COPAKEN KOGAN Copyright © 2012 by Deborah Copaken Kogan. Excerpted by permission of Hyperion Books. 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.

What People are Saying About This

Adam Gopnik

The Big Chill for the Facebook generation. (Adam Gopnik, author of Paris to the Moon)

Ayelet Waldman

I gobbled up The Red Book in two days, ignoring my work, my family, my life, so immersed was I in the lives of the people Deborah Copaken Kogan has so masterfully brought to life. Kogan's eye is at once wry and empathetic, and the book is a delight. (Ayelet Waldman, author of Red Hook Road)

Dani Shapiro

Striking, funny, sad, and true-to-life, The Red Book sweeps us into the intersecting lives of characters who all started their adult lives in the same place, but upon whom time works both its magic and its entropy. Deborah Copaken Kogan is a deeply feeling writer, and this novel is a joy to read. (Dani Shapiro, author of Devotion)

Meg Wolitzer

The Red Book, which is filled with Deborah Copaken Kogan's smart take on everything from friendship to sex to child raising to getting over the past—or not—makes for old-school compulsive reading. (Meg Wolitzer, author of The Uncoupling)

Customer Reviews

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The Red Book 3.4 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 38 reviews.
JessicaKnauss More than 1 year ago
The Red Book was hard for me to get into because it starts with the least sympathetic character, then proceeds to introduce a number of characters it's nearly impossible to keep track of, hopping in and out of all their heads like an especially psychologically perceptive housefly. By the tenth page, I had decided that, in spite of my interest in Ivy League culture and love of Boston, I was not the right audience for this book. But I'm not a reader who gives up easily, and I found that by the middle of the book, when we start to see some of the more meaningful revelations, I was well-trained in jumping between the characters' perspectives, and by the end, the technique actually worked in the story's favor. Not a Harvard alum, I've never read a "red book," so was skeptical as to whether the personal essays were realistic, but they served as convenient character guides when I just couldn't figure out who was who otherwise. I haven't read any of the author's other books, but she does have some clout coming in, and by the time I was three-quarters of the way through, I had decided she had enough psychological depth to carry off what she was trying to do. I ended up really enjoying the way she takes each character and implies big themes about that character's stage in life. I never did sympathize with that first character, Addison. However, her story arc included a really terrible husband who was echoed lightly in one of the others, and both husbands left the picture. That contributed to the satisfying sense that in spite of all the things that have gone so terribly, everybody's going to be just fine. This book about Harvard alums will astonish with the incredible range of life experience it manages to pack in, and give book clubs in particular a lot to talk about.
bookchickdi More than 1 year ago
Kogan takes the popular concept of four female protagonists (Little Women, Sex & the City, J. Courtney Sullivan's 2011 novel Maine), and adds a dash of The Big Chill (one of my favorite movies) that brought me to tears by the end of this emotional story. Cleverly using the conceit of the Red Book, she introduces her four main characters with their 20 year entries. Sometimes books with multiple protagonists can lead to confusion keeping everyone straight, and by introducing in this manner, that problem is solved. We are thrust into the lives, their marriages, their children, their careers, what they have been doing since college. Addison has put her career as an artist on hold to raise her three children and support her husband, a writer who doesn't seem to do much writing (or any parenting). Clover was a huge success at Lehman Brothers, until they went under. Now she is unemployed and trying unsuccessfully to have a child with her husband, a Legal Aid attorney. Mia went to LA after college to try and make it as an actress. She met an older man, Jonathan, a successful director and they have four children and a good life, with homes in LA and the Antibes. She and Jonathan are deeply in love, but what she doesn't know is that they took a big financial hit during the recession. Jane is a reporter for the Boston Globe, based in France. Her first husband was killed while reporting in Afghanistan. She has a daughter with him and is now living with her husband's best friend. Her adopted mother recently passed away after a long illness, and Jane is bereft. The four women all meet up again at the 20th reunion, bringing their families with them, except for Clover. Clover runs into an old flame and has a plan that unwittingly involves him . Addison ends up in serious trouble for unpaid parking tickets and her old lover, a wealthy woman, comes to rescue. Jane is trying to decide whether to move back to the United States to write a novel, and has to face infidelities from her partner. Mia wants to return to acting. Being back in Cambridge brings back memories for all of them, and causes some of them to reflect on their regrets, the things they should have done. The story culminates at a memorial service for a classmate, and all of the emotions of the weekend coming crashing down around them. I really liked the relationship between Mia and Jonathan. Their marriage is solid and loving, and the scene where Jonathan comforts an upset Jane is so tender and moving. Two of the families have teenage children, and a romance between them ensues. Kogan writes the scenes with the teens with empathy and insight, and I liked that the kids weren't one-dimensional. Their story was important as well. Some books you love right away, this was one that took me awhile to get into, but by the end, when Kogan takes a character down a road that I was not happy about, I actually said "NO!" when I saw it coming, and almost cursed her. That is how much I was invested in this story, in this particular character. I love getting lost in a good story, and I was enveloped in this engrossing book. My husband loves movies where at the end they tell you what happens to the characters, and this novel ends like it begins: we read the 25th anniversary report and find out how things have turned out.
SharonfromCO More than 1 year ago
This book is entertaining but highly predictable. None of the characters are well developed and the life stories do not ring true. In spite of that, I did turn the pages and finished quickly. Light fluff that left no lingering impression.
anniemichelle More than 1 year ago
Well, I finally finished "The Red Book" by Deborah Copaken Kogen. I say finally because I had to stop every now and then to put it down and catch my breath. I felt worded out and at times exhausted. There is a lot of "wordage" and not much dialog and many people to keep up with! It has funny, sad moments and at times I even cried…but for me it was a somewhat difficult read. This is a book about what happens to a group of wide eyed & hopeful classmates through the years as they all go about the lives they thought a Harvard education would afford them. Every 5 years each graduate is asked to submit a page of "where they are now" and then all are bound together into a red book and sent out to all the graduates. This is the story of the class of 1989, specifically four women and their 20 year class reunion and how their dreams came true or mostly just changed shape. My favorite parts of the book were the pages the graduates sent in...a book of just those wonderful made up lives would, to me have been much better than the few people the book actually focused on
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Interesting characters. A little predictable.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I really enjoyed this book. The characters lives were so interconnected after many years, which intrigued me as I don't keep in touch with anyone I went to college with.
SuZQ41 More than 1 year ago
If yo're a sucker for reunions, and always wonder what has happened to your classmates - check this book out. I couldn't lay it down. Follow these classmates and see what has happened to them in the 20 years since college.
Coyote99 on LibraryThing 10 months ago
I requested this book from Early Readers and didn't get it, but it looked so good that I immediately purchased it as soon as it was released. I loved it. It has very snappy writing and some pretty intriguing moral questions. Lots of northeast liberal angst but the writing makes up for any predictable lesbian/crossdressing/gender reassignment plot lines and some snarky privileged whining. It has some good chuckles and some poignant "loss of a loved one" dialog. The literary device of introducing the characters with their entries in the Harvard Red Book was great idea. It was a great read. Highly recommend!
mthelibrarian on LibraryThing 10 months ago
Though I did not know about "The Red Book" (Harvard alumni publication) before picking up this book at the library, I was immediately drawn to it because (1) I graduated from college in 1989, the same year as the alums in this book (at their 20th reunion) and (2) I worked at private schools and wrote and edited class notes for alumnae/alumni publications. I found this to be a fun and enjoyable read, and eventually bought it for my e-reader. (Yes, library books do create book/e-sales.) I think it was Adam Gopnik who said on the jacket copy It's "The Big Chill" for the Facebook generation. I pretty much agree. It had a definite soap-opera feel - A LOT happens to this relatively small cast of characters in very short order. I laughed out loud at the $100,000 fine from parking tickets ignored for 20 years. I was struck by the concept of going to a college reunion - I went to a giant state university and have never considered going to a college reunion, nor would I (though I keep in touch with a few college friends), but I can compare it to my small-town high school in which a large percentage of our 109-member class, not to mention some of our former teachers, are Facebook friends and cheer each other on through the ups and downs of life. There were a couple of instances where modern terms crept in - a "flash mob"? I would never think of friends of that era as a flash mob, even if it were today. Minor quibble though. I appreciated that the author filled in so many of the details of what happened to the characters later in life. Loved the ending paragraph.
TheNovelWorld on LibraryThing 10 months ago
For the sake of the review, I tried my best to get through this book, but I only got as far as chapter 3. I found the characters to be boring and their personalities felt forced. I think I had requested this book based on the description and ignored the author. When the book came in the mail, I realized I had read her other book, Between Here and April. I really did not like that book. Maybe that soured my mood for this one. The premise is very chick-lit (a girl's weekend reunion at college turns into life-altering revelations), and also seemed unrealistic. People don't change overnight and they don't change over 2 nights.
bookchickdi on LibraryThing 10 months ago
I had never heard of Harvard's Red Book before I recently read Deborah Copaken Kogan's novel, The Red Book. Every five years, Harvard compiles a book filled with short essays written by each graduate, sharing what they have been up to in the past five years.The actual Red Book made headlines recently when infamous graduate Ted Kazcynski, the man known to the world as the Unabomber, returned his questionnaire listing his occupation as 'prisoner' and under the awards section, wrote 'eight life sentences', and his entry was included in the book, angering many people including his victims' families.None of this has anything to do with Kogan's book, but perhaps the timely story will bring some publicity to this wonderful novel. Kogan takes the popular concept of four female protagonists (Little Women, Sex & the City, J. Courtney Sullivan's 2011 novel Maine), and adds a dash of The Big Chill (one of my favorite movies) that brought me to tears by the end of this emotional story.Cleverly using the conceit of the Red Book, she introduces her four main characters with their 20 year entries. Sometimes books with multiple protagonists can lead to confusion keeping everyone straight, and by introducing in this manner, that problem is solved.We are thrust into the lives, their marriages, their children, their careers, what they have been doing since college. Addison has put her career as an artist on hold to raise her three children and support her husband, a writer who doesn't seem to do much writing (or any parenting).Clover was a huge success at Lehman Brothers, until they went under. Now she is unemployed and trying unsuccessfully to have a child with her husband, a Legal Aid attorney.Mia went to LA after college to try and make it as an actress. She met an older man, Jonathan, a successful director and they have four children and a good life, with homes in LA and the Antibes. She and Jonathan are deeply in love, but what she doesn't know is that they took a big financial hit during the recession.Jane is a reporter for the Boston Globe, based in France. Her first husband was killed while reporting in Afghanistan. She has a daughter with him and is now living with her husband's best friend. Her adopted mother recently passed away after a long illness, and Jane is bereft.The four women all meet up again at the 20th reunion, bringing their families with them, except for Clover. Clover runs into an old flame and has a plan that unwittingly involves him . Addison ends up in serious trouble for unpaid parking tickets and her old lover, a wealthy woman, comes to rescue.Jane is trying to decide whether to move back to the United States to write a novel, and has to face infidelities from her partner. Mia wants to return to acting.Being back in Cambridge brings back memories for all of them, and causes some of them to reflect on their regrets, the things they should have done. The story culminates at a memorial service for a classmate, and all of the emotions of the weekend coming crashing down around them.I really liked the relationship between Mia and Jonathan. Their marriage is solid and loving, and the scene where Jonathan comforts an upset Jane is so tender and moving.Two of the families have teenage children, and a romance between them ensues. Kogan writes the scenes with the teens with empathy and insight, and I liked that the kids weren't one-dimensional. Their story was important as well.Some books you love right away, this was one that took me awhile to get into, but by the end, when Kogan takes a character down a road that I was not happy about, I actually said "NO!" when I saw it coming, and almost cursed her. That is how much I was invested in this story, in this particular character. I love getting lost in a good story, and I was enveloped in this engrossing book.My husband loves movies where at the end they tell you what happens to the characters, and this novel ends like it begins: we read the 25th anniversary report an
karenthib on LibraryThing 10 months ago
I read this novel as part of the Library Thing Early Reviewers program and approached it rather cautiously. Any contemporary novel about alums from an elite university reuniting is immediately compared to The Group and most fall way short. But I have to admit that this one deserves to be mentioned in the same breath as McCarthy's classic.This could have been just another novel about priveleged, college kids with an outsized sense of entitlement who grew up to be priviliged adults with an outsized sense of entitlement, but Kogan added enough dysfunction, regret, struggle and tragedy to temper the characters and make them relatable and likeable. The structure of the book -- opening each section with the bio that each character "wrote" to be included in the class's alumni directory -- was a clever way to introduce characters throughout the novel. (It was also convenient for flipping back to review when I forgot some details about the minor characters.)Overall, I felt this novel was a bit of a guilty like -- like enjoying a candy bar while flipping through an issue of Cosmo -- but there times when it transcended that and offered some moving truths about the choices we make early and how they affect our lives for the long haul. Dealing with parenting and infidelity issues, as well as the death of a parent were also deftly -- and, where appropriate, amusingly -- handled.
curvymommy on LibraryThing 10 months ago
The description for this book made it sound like it would be interesting, but in fact I could hardly finish it. The story never really went anywhere. The characters were annoying and I didn't like any of them. Am I really supposed to believe that each of them could resolve their big "problem" or come to their big "life realization" or experience a big "life moment" over the course of a single weekend? Maybe because I didn't go to an Ivy League college, I just didn't get the whole "reunion weekend" concept. In any event, I didn't enjoy this book and wouldn't recommend it.
jlafleur on LibraryThing 10 months ago
I received The Red Book as a Library Thing Early Reviewer, and noted that the Harvard alumnus magazine recently reviewed it. (My wife is a grad school alum, so she doesn't get "The Red Book". She does connect over a long weekend every summer with two of her Harvard classmates, so they are still quite connected personally- is this unique to Harvard?- I don't think so. I take some issue with those reviewers who didn't enjoy this novel. Some of the characterizations are a bit stereotypical, but they are generally realistic. As I look back at the lives of my classmates from college and graduate school, I see many familiar themes and personalities. Life is what happens when you're busy making other plans. It's difficult maintaining common interests and values with old friends one sees infrequently. People frequently exceed or fail to live up to their "potential". I think this novel captures mid life crises well.
Tmtrvlr on LibraryThing 10 months ago
I just simply didn't like The Red Book. I did not find the characters or the story very interesting. I received the book for review so I felt I had an obligation to finish reading it, but I never got into the story. It sounded promising when I read the teaser where the book promises an "unforgettable reunion weekend". It didn't deliver. People who love their class reunions may enjoy this book, but I found it quite lacking.
lmikkel on LibraryThing 10 months ago
Although I do not attend my own class reunions I seem to have read many a novel dealing with the topic. So although I was delighted to receive this book as an Early Reviewer copy I was a little apprehensive: would it measure up to the best, or be a well-meaning dud or land somewhere in the middle? To my mind it was right up there with some of the best. As another reviewer said, Gincam did an excellent review summarizing the book and it's strengths so I won't attempt to add to that. I will just say that despite the fact that few reunions (I imagine) encompass all the life changes this particular one did, Deborah Copaken Kogan has written a sympathetic, humorous book that was also thought provoking.
Loried on LibraryThing 10 months ago
I was apprehensive about reading yet another reunion book, but I was pleasantly surprised by this one. I received this book from the Early Reviewers program, and I found it a fast and compelling read. Although there were many characters, it was easy to keep track of them. I thought the author did a great job bringing these characters to life. "Gincam" did a great job summarizing the book, so I won't be repetitive. I would recommend this book.
upstairsgirl on LibraryThing 10 months ago
This book could have been really great, I think. There are some very funny moments that, left to their own devices, and joined with more of the same, would have made this into a hilarious but not mean-spirited send-up of middle-aged ennui, college reunions, and the sort of institutional hubris that leads to the creation of The Red Book, a bound, book-length collection of page-long updates about the lives of an entire class of Harvardians every five years in preparation for their reunion.Instead, the book is often self-serious and overwritten, reliant on stereotypes instead of character building, and the early introductions of the four main characters are status-oriented and off-putting. Copaken jumps from head to head to head with dizzying speed, giving us the thoughts of the four main characters, their partners, their kids, and random individuals with whom they interact throughout the weekend of their twentieth reunion. Five pages in I was sure I was going to hate the whole thing, and though there are redeeming moments towards the end that come across as genuine, they're not enough to rescue the book from its flaws (and they're let to go on too long, falling victim to Copaken's inability to extricate herself from a scene and her tendency to give too much of the wrong information). The main characters do turn out to be more complex, and more interesting, than the initial descriptions invite you to believe, and I think it's because of that that the book manages to succeed at all in spite of its weaknesses. The epiphanies, though they require some suspension of disbelief (and a little bit of a buy-in that everybody cheats in marriage and that's okay) don't feel forced, even if the scope of the novel results in them being a bit rushed. This could easily have been four novellas, I think; maybe even four novels.This isn't a terrible book; the plot is complex and engaging, and Copaken is very good at managing the many, many threads she's carrying throughout the book without drawing attention to how she's doing it - not an easy task. But the writing, can't get out of its own way much of the time, and although it's always clear whose head we're in, the constantly shifting point of view - and the multiplicity of points of view - can be a little distracting. Of interest, though, if you've lived through the experience of banging out an entry for a Class Report or awkwarded your way through the four-day festival of recrimination, regret, and free drinks that is a Harvard Reunion.
gincam on LibraryThing 10 months ago
There are three inescapable truths about human beings: the way we see ourselves, the way we are perceived by others, and the way we actually exist. A twenty-year class reunion is the perfect venue to display all three views, as the attendees meet, mix, mingle and migrate through survival of the event. In "The Red Book", Deborah Copaken Kogan serves us a slice of Harvard Pie, as the lives of four roommates from the class of '89 are detailed and given a fortyish mid-life checkup as they reunite after two decades. Harvard, venerable institution that it remains, requests its alumni to update their lives on file every five years, and the results are compiled into a red-covered anniversary report which is sent to every graduate. Kogan's story line begins with the Twentieth Anniversary Report for the class of '89, and its final chapter is the report for the Twenty-Fifth Anniversary. In between these reports, the lives of the four roomies, Addison, Clover, Mia, and Jane, and those around them, are sketched out in sharp lines, vivid hues, and subtle shadings. Since this is a Harvard Pie, the slices are served in grand style, but the ingredients for the recipe are basic. All human beings, regardless of social status and financial state, are made of common elements, just varying in levels of intensity. You may see something of yourself in Kogan's characters, or you may see yourself as an outside observer, but the fascination remains the same. Greener grass still needs to be weeded. Not all of the characters are likeable, but they are quite readable, and that makes "The Red Book" a delicious dish indeed. Review Copy Gratis Library Thing
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MeMaMich More than 1 year ago
Characters were well developed and there was an interesting storyline but the main focus seemed to be how many of the characters were cheating on their spouses/partners.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
A disjointed and defragmented story of a college reunion. No one in our book club finished it!