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for New Members is a beautifully written little book...a gem.
The thoughts are striking and orginal--a
few are quite profound."
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Thursday, November 29, 2012
1:34 pm est
I am one of those people who occasionally Google themselves. No, it's not what
you think. I do it just to see if the meta-tags for my Blog and books are still working and...well, okay, to see what comes
up, the humble egotist that I am. Somewhere in the mix in the beginning of October, I came across a McInerney named Monica
who, as it turns out, just happens to be a writer. "Gee", I wondered. "Are we related?"
out, as I searched a number of sites for her books, McInerney, based in Australia, is quite a prolific writer, with more than
twenty novels to her credit. And her last one, Lola's Secret: A Novel**, was just released last month. I managed to finagle an electronic advanced reading copy, read it, and reviewed it for AuthorsExposure.com.
Here is what I wrote:
year old Lola Quinlan, the jaunty, flamboyant, and vivacious main protagonist of Lola's Secret (by Monica
McInerney), is the most interesting character I’ve met in a long time. Yes, her clothes are ostentatiously gaudy and
her make-up is smeared on a bit too thick. And maybe she is an outspoken busy-body. But she is also pithy, poignant, and outrageously
funny. Alert and sassy Lola is the most wonderfully wise, caring, and loving family matriarch anyone could have. After reading
this delightfully sweet literary novel about family, relationships, happiness, loss, and reconciliation, I yearn to meet Lola
in real life. Oh, what lively long discussions we would have!
Set in southern Australia’s Clare Valley, Lola's Secret (October 16, 2012) is the sequel
to The Alphabet Sisters, the first in the Quinlan family saga. Lola,
a single mother with three, now two granddaughters and six great-grandchildren, is part owner and resident of the Valley View
Motel, operated by her son, Jim, and his wife Geraldine. They and their two daughters, Bret and Carrie, and their own families,
are about to embark upon Christmas holiday vacations leaving Lola, at her insistence, alone to run the motel and continue
her volunteer work at the local Charity Shop. Secretly, computer-savvy Lola plans a free Christmas Special for six guests,
whose back stories are related in alternating chapters. McInerney fleshes out her mesmerizing plot line with Lola’s
friends at the shop; Emily; Luke; and the self-aggrandizing Mrs. Kernaghan, an annoying foil to Lola’s character—all
adding spice and texture to Lola’s meddlesome, but well-meaning antics and adventures.
writing is down-to-earth. Her true-to-life characters and believable intertwining plots and sub-plots mesh nicely together
like a jigsaw puzzle. This, her seventh novel, sparkles with wit and touching moments, pin-pointing the finer nuances of familial
interactions that both grace and blemish domestic lives. I particularly liked the subtly different relationships that Lola
has with each person in her life. McInerney has a fine author’s eye for discerning dissimilar personality traits and
incorporating them into in-depth analyses. She also has the knack of including a bit of suspense and intrigue that keeps one
reading on to find out what happens next. I also liked the descriptions of Clare Valley, McInerney’s own homeland, which
made it an integral part of Lola’s story.
My only complaint is that the overly long Epilogue read like a
main dénouement. Many parts of it should have been incorporated into the main story line and not tacked on as afterthoughts.
However, there are strong hints in it of continuing the Quinlan family stories. Perhaps the author, hopefully, has a third
Lola novel in mind?
McInerney (no relation) is an excellent writer. Her skills are most evident in this novel about kindness—being kind
to oneself and to others—and, as we learn from Lola, about having fun. While reading Lola’s
Secret, best suited for young adults and older, I certainly did.
** © 2012 Monica McInerney. 275 pages. EPUB pre-release e-reader edition. Ballantine Books
Trademark Paperbacks, Random House, New York, NY.
Monday, November 26, 2012
1:50 pm est
This month went by too fast. Despite the fact that it's almost over and the Holidays are on their way, I
still have November tasks to tackle before I venture into December. This next month I plan on spending as the Happy Hermit,
putting a significant dent into my TBR&R stack of books and writing my little aging heart out. These activities, which
I identify with at this phase of my life, define me.
Growing up, I had a friend with the same first name as mine.
We were often mistaken for one another, although we didn't even look alike. However, because of the identical name, people
mistook June for me and me for June, especially when we were young. As friends in high school, we found it amusing. Of course,
we knew who we were and kept our individual identities intact when others didn't. After graduation, we unfortunately lost
touch. June (not me) went on to law school, moved to California, and is now a successful tax attorney. After a stint on the
local newspaper, the other June (me) moved to the mid-west, then back east to make my living working with words. It wasn't
until last November, thanks to the virtual world of social media, that we reconnected.
It seems both of us were
lucky. We didn't spend an inordinate amount of time searching for identity, unlike Sylvia Frankel, the quirky, late-blooming
protagonist of a new novel (just released Wednesday) by, coincidentally, June's daughter, Julia Glassman. June kindly sent
me a copy of Other Life Forms1, which arrived in the
mail late Saturday afternoon. The end-of-November chores I had planned for the week-end fell by the wayside, as I gingerly
cracked open the crisp, orange-colored cover and began what turned out to be yet another two-day odyssey of enjoyable, eye-opening
Other Life Forms relates in the first-person Sylv's quest for two sustainable modes of adult
being: as an artist and as a woman. Working as a waitress in her native California after graduation from a New York college,
she strives to become a recognized sculptor, creating fragile stick-like figures out of wire and plastic. But our heroine
is full of angst over the loss of her boyfriend who is addicted to the world of on-line gaming, where he creates and cares
for virtual creatures. Simon's virtual and Sylv's tactile creatures—the "other life forms"—metaphorically
typify their sense of not quite fitting into society and highlight Sylvia's fondest wish to be uniquely identified and recognized
as a person of worth. Not limited to their Gen-X group, this is the perennial dilemma of being blatantly ignored and rudely
not taken seriously; one to which readers of any age—especially seniors—can easily relate.
beginning, when we first meet Sylvia, she creates and posts a missing person's poster of herself, just to see if anyone would
respond. With Simon already gone, she is tormented by remorse and guilt, intensified by her not-so-quite understanding, self-centered
mother. Our late-bloomer, striving to fit into a harsh adult world, is seemingly ignored at work, eschews close friends and
relationships, and waddles in self-pity ("I am stupid. I am stupid. I am stupid.") But Sylvia is the heroine of Glassman's first entry into the world of emerging novels and authors. And, as heroines are
wont to do, she rises above despondent circumstances, enters a new, seemingly promising relationship, and ventures forth into
the camaraderie of a cadre of smug, self-important artists and writers. What happens next is the gist of Glassman's genius
as she spews forth her subtle satire of conservative communities, rebelling privileged youth, and the overstated, misunderstood
searching of young adults for the purpose and meaning of life.
Glassman's writing is sharp, witty, at times acerbic,
and, in a loose-knit chatty-Cathy kind of way, gets straight to the point. However, there were a few jagged edges, which are
to be expected of a young, talented, first-time novelist. In her search for identity, for example, Sylvia muses on her estranged
father who, she hints, might have been Jewish. She briefly alludes to this twice more in passing. Expanding this allusion
would have added an interesting twist and more depth to the otherwise complex, yet flowing plotline. Glassman also gives away
Sylv's supposed future before the last minor denouement, which substantially weakened the ending. I had to guess what might
have really happened. I am still not sure if this was an intentional hint of a sequel2, a ruse to keep the reader
guessing, or failure of the author attempting to define a satisfying conclusion. I'd like to think the second because, as
Sylvia has come to learn in this coming-of-age novel, while it does hint at possibilities, life does not promise certainties.
And so it is with this fine first literary effort. One with which just about any adult reader could readily identify.
1© 2012 Julia Glassman. 215 pages, paperback. First Edition published by Dinah Press, Los
2 I understand from June that Julia is working on the second draft of her next novel—a
literary fantasy for young adults. I am looking forward to it.
J. McInerney, the host of this Literary Blog, is
an author, poet, and librettist. Her currenty published works include a novel, a book of spiritual inspirations,
volumes of poetry, stories
for children (of all ages) and
a variety of children's musicals. Her titles include:
Monster: A Novel of Phoenixville in 1978
The Prisoner's Portrait: A Novel of Phoenxville
during World War II
Rainbow in the Sky
Meditations for New Members
of Oreigh Ogglefont
The Basset Chronicles.
Cats of Nine Tales
Water: A Collection of Poems
Exodus Ending: A
Collection of More Spiritual Poems
We Three Kings
Beauty and the Beast
Peter, Wolf, and Red Riding
Originally from the New York metropolitan area, June currently lives near Valley Forge Park in Pennsylvania with her constant and loving companions, FrankieBernard and Sebastian Cat. She
is currently working on her fourth novel.