Louise Shaffer, Author . Ballantine $14 (352p) ISBN 978-0-345-50209-4

Shaffer's ho-hum latest (after Family Acts ) chronicles a neurotic New Yorker's quest to learn more about her recently deceased and famous mother. Carrie Manning, the daughter of philanthropist Rose and legendary playwright Bobby Manning, uncovers some secrets about mother while cleaning out her apartment. Reluctant to contact her estranged grandmother, celebrated stage actress Lu Lawson, Carrie talks to her great-uncle Paulie, who relays the story of Carrie's great-grandmother Mifalda, an illegitimate child raised by nuns. Fearing her “bad blood” corrupted Lu, Mifalda does her best to prevent Lu from becoming a singer, but when Lu eventually has a baby out of wedlock, Mifalda raises the child as Lu pursues her Broadway career. While Shaffer conveys how Rose's constant criticism plunged Carrie into an unhappy life, Carrie comes off as ditzy and simple, and Bobby and Rose feel stock. Often heavy-handed and prone to stating the obvious (“The thing about smiling and pretending—and tongue biting—year after year is that eventually it takes its toll”), Shaffer gets in the way of a promising premise. (Apr.)

Reviewed on: 11/03/2008
Release date: 03/01/2009
Hardcover - 320 pages - 978-0-345-50208-7
Hardcover - 445 pages - 978-1-60285-432-1
Open Ebook - 216 pages - 978-0-345-51317-5
Show other formats
The Best Books, Emailed Every Week
Tip Sheet!