Greetings from the Golden State

Leslie Brenner, Author Henry Holt & Company $23 (278p) ISBN 978-0-8050-6564-0
Brenner's smart, quirky narrative follows the exploits of the likable Kelbow family of West Hollywood, Calif., from the election of JFK through the Bush administration. The insouciant, goofy Kelbows weather earthquakes, divorce, religion, recession and disillusionment with the kind of blithe sunniness befitting the state that birthed the Beach Boys, hippies and the political career of Ronald Reagan. Young Fanny Kelbow bears her first son, Andrew, in 1960. She and husband, Don, an entertainment lawyer, build a life in the rosy dawn of Camelot that reflects the social and political growing pains of the times, including brand-name loyalty, protest marches and pot. The happy family also swaps its duplex apartment for a house in Van Nuys in the San Fernando Valley and adds second son Little Mike and maid Margarita Pilar Takanawa to the household mix. By the time Kennedy has been shot and Nixon elected to the presidency, Don has quit his law firm and his marriage, Fanny has taken a job and a lover, and Andrew and Little Mike are left to struggle toward adulthood in the confused, hedonistic decades that follow. First-novelist Brenner puts her food-writing experience to good use (American Appetite: The Coming of Age of a National Cuisine) by making Andrew and Little Mikey amateur gourmet chefs. She chronicles the Kelbows' life in a loping, anecdotal style that can be both laugh-out-loud funny and genuinely touching. The myriad period details are spot-on, triggering vivid memories for baby boomers. All in all this is a winning debut, full of snappy insights into the Kelbows and the rapidly transforming world that surrounds them. The standout, Technicolor jacket photo of a California suburb signals exactly what Brenner is about. Author tour. (Feb.)
Reviewed on: 02/01/2001
Release date: 02/01/2001
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