Laura Kalpakian, Author . St. Martin's $24.95 (288p) ISBN 978-0-312-32275-5

"The memoir is... literary shape that you give to the past," but how might an understanding of past events shape the future? Kalpakian (Educating Waverly ; Graced Land ) explores this question in her 12th novel, in which six women enrolled in a university extension class on the memoir grapple with their personal histories. When the class ends, these memoirists, who vary in age, financial status and life experience, continue to meet once a week to explore their pasts and discover each other. Alternating chapters focus on each of the women in turn, and Kalpakian expertly reveals them as distinct, believable individuals: Rusty, still mourning the newborn daughter she gave up some 30 years ago; Francine, the devoted widow of a brilliant man whom she learns hid a devastating secret from her; Sarah Jane, an author and child of the Depression; adopted Jill, who yearns to understand her Korean roots; Caryn, a doctor flailing in a sea of grief since a terrible tragedy; and her strong best friend, Nell, who has kept her afloat. As compelling as each woman is, Caryn and Nell are clearly the stars, and their intense friendship forms the core of the story. As lives intertwine and unlikely kinships are formed, the members turn to each other when tragedy strikes one of their own. That tragedy is an unnecessary and unfortunate plot twist, and the conclusion is too tidy. But the moral of the story remains clear: we all have a story to tell—of loss, regret and yearning—and in telling it, we are all connected. Agent, Deborah Schneider. (Jan.)

Reviewed on: 12/08/2003
Release date: 01/01/2004
Genre: Fiction
Hardcover - 523 pages - 978-0-7862-6563-3
Paperback - 280 pages - 978-0-312-32277-9
Open Ebook - 288 pages - 978-1-4299-7609-1
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