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The Red Book

The Red Book

3.4 26
by Deborah Copaken Kogan

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

Clover, Addison, Mia, and Jane were roommates at Harvard until their graduation in 1989.

Twenty years later, their lives are in free fall. Clover, once a securities broker, is out of a job and struggling to reproduce before her fertility window shuts


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

Clover, Addison, Mia, and Jane were roommates at Harvard until their graduation in 1989.

Twenty years later, their lives are in free fall. Clover, once a securities broker, is out of a job and struggling to reproduce before her fertility window shuts. Addison's marriage to a writer's-blocked novelist is as stale as her so-called career as a painter. Hollywood closed its gold-plated gates to Mia, who now stays home with her children, renovating and acquiring faster than her husband can pay the bills. Jane, the Paris bureau chief for a newspaper whose foreign bureaus are now shuttered, is caught in a vortex of loss.

Like all Harvard grads, they've kept abreast of one another via the red book, a class report published every five years, containing alumni autobiographical essays. But there's the story we tell the world, and then there's the real story, as these former classmates will learn during their twentieth reunion, a relationship-changing, score-settling, unforgettable weekend.

"Utterly engrossing."
--Entertainment Weekly

"A wonderfully epic 'cradle to grave' story . . . about the enduring power of friendship."
--Sunday Express

"Destined to be a classic."
--Vanity Fair

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
As readers of photojournalist and author Kogan’s second novel learn, Harvard doesn’t content itself with the alumni mags and e-mails and letters other colleges make do with: before big reunions, it sends out a bound crimson book containing alumni updates on their lives, a reunion cheat sheet that gives Kogan both her title and structural framework. That exasperated sigh you hear, from those of us who didn’t go to Harvard, carries through the first pages, which feature the entries of Kogan’s four main characters: WASPy Addison Cornwall Hunt, an artist and trust funder living in Williamsburg, Brooklyn; black, commune-raised Lehman Brothers managing director Clover Pace Love; Jewish ex-actress and stay-at-home mom Mia Mandelbaum Zane, splitting her time between L.A. and France; and Boston Globe journalist Jane Nguyen Streeter, born in Vietnam, raised in the American suburbs, and based in Paris. Their entries are obviously written to impress and to cover up; real life is what happens before and after, which, in this case, means these class of ’89ers’ 20-plus years of friendship and the three days that constitute their 20th reunion and the bulk of Kogan’s book. What starts out feeling like a marketing-driven “women’s” book—the perfect read for a mani-pedi—turns out to be a smart, funny, engrossing, and action-packed meditation on women’s lives, growing up, having and not having it all, class and the expectations that come with having gone to Harvard, love lost and found, infidelity and sexuality, and finally, loss and lying, especially to yourself. Agent: David McCormick, McCormick & Williams. (Apr.)
From the Publisher
"A wonderfully epic 'cradle to grave' story . . . about the enduring power of friendship."—Sunday Express"

Destined to be a classic."—Vanity Fair

Adam Gopnik
"The Big Chill for the Facebook generation."
Entertainment Weekly
"Utterly engrossing."
Sunday Express
"A wonderfully epic 'cradle to grave' story . . . about the enduring power of friendship."
Vanity Fair
"Destined to be a classic."

Product Details

Hachette Books
Publication date:
Sold by:
Hachette Digital, Inc.
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File size:
1 MB
Age Range:
18 Years

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Read an Excerpt

The Red Book


Hyperion Books

Copyright © 2012 Deborah Copaken Kogan
All right reserved.

ISBN: 978-1-4013-4082-7

Chapter One

Friday, June 5, 2009


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.


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)

Meet 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.

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The Red Book 3.4 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 26 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.
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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!
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