Good Dog Stay By Anna Quindlen Essays


Anna Quindlen, Author . Random $24.95 (320p) ISBN 978-1-4000-6112-9

Bestselling author Quindlen (One True Thing ; A Short Guide to a Happy Life ; etc.), a veteran reporter and winner of the Pulitzer Prize for commentary, couldn't have picked a more apt title for her latest collection of columns from Newsweek and the New York Times . Whether or not readers agree with Quindlen's opinions on everything from youth culture to gun control, these razor-sharp musings will open avenues of debate and discussion long after the book is closed. Quindlen is at the top of her game when she turns her eagle eye on the tiny threads that make up the fiber of domestic life. After all, "The world of children and child-rearing is social history writ small but indelible, whether it's the minutia of Barbie dolls and Power Ranger action figures or the phenomenon of books like Harry Potter or The Cat in the Hat . It's a shared experience, not just for the children but for their parents, and a snapshot of where we were then." The only weak link in this memorable book is the scant connective tissue between sections. Quindlen divides the essays by theme—heart, mind, soul, voice and body—and while the individual pieces shine, the overviews of each topic provide thin explanations for why they are grouped this way. Overall, however, this is not a matter of great concern. Quindlen's columns speak for themselves, loud and clear. (On sale Apr. 6)

Forecast:Although all of these essays have been previously published, the book should still attract an enormous number of buyers. National TV and radio interviews in New York and Washington, D.C., as well as print ads and a chapter sampler promo, will ensure high visibility.

Reviewed on: 02/23/2004
Release date: 04/01/2004

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Essayist and novelist Quindlen (Good Dog. Stay., 2007, etc.) tosses a grenade of murderous mayhem into the middle of an otherwise standard-issue novel of manners about an upper-middle-class community in Vermont. 

Mary Beth Latham, who runs a landscaping business, and her eye-doctor husband Glen are the parents of 14-year-old twins Alex and Max and 17-year-old Ruby. The first half of the novel is Mary Beth’s self-deprecating yet vaguely self-congratulatory narration of her family’s life. Mary Beth’s marriage to dull but decent Glen continues on middle-aged simmer. Soccer star Alex is as popular in his way as self-confident iconoclast Ruby, who is past her little bout of anorexia. Only Max, geeky and socially awkward, seems to be struggling. Although he does seem to like his therapist—by coincidence a specialist in twins and a twin himself—his only friend is Ruby’s boyfriend Kiernan. But Ruby has outgrown Kiernan, who continues to hang around the house mooning after her and adopting the Lathams as a surrogate family since his own parents’ nasty divorce. Mary Beth deals with small business crises and her Mexican workman. She and her friends commiserate over their children, although not their marriages, in admirable if not quite believable rectitude. Then Kiernan, whose mental problems Mary Beth has either missed or ignored, although they’ll seem pretty apparent to the reader, goes berserk and commits a horrendous act of violence against Mary Beth’s family. Only Mary Beth and Alex survive, and the remainder of the book details their road to emotional recovery. Unfortunately, while Quindlen’s a pro at writing about the quotidian details in the life of a bourgeois Everywoman like Mary Beth, the actual plot is hard to swallow. The murders are too obviously meant to shock. Mary Beth’s guilt over a brief affair she had with Kiernan’s womanizing dad years ago rings false. And the outpouring of support she receives from friends and family is too saccharinely redemptive. 

An unsatisfying mix of melodrama and the mundane.

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