Monday, June 8, 2009

Review: Literacy and Longing in L.A. by Jennifer Kaufman and Karen Mack

Literacy and Longing in L.A. by Jennifer Kaufman and Karen Mack
General Fiction
Delta (May 29, 2007)
352 pages

From Amazon:

Some women shop. Some eat. Dora cures the blues by bingeing on books—reading one after another, from Flaubert to bodice rippers, for hours and days on end. In this wickedly funny and sexy literary debut, we meet the beguiling, beautiful Dora, whose unique voice combines a wry wit and vulnerability as she navigates the road between reality and fiction.Dora, named after Eudora Welty, is an indiscriminate book junkie whose life has fallen apart—her career, her marriage, and finally her self-esteem. All she has left is her love of literature, and the book benders she relied on as a child. Ever since her larger-than-life father wandered away and her book-loving, alcoholic mother was left with two young daughters, Dora and her sister, Virginia, have clung to each other, enduring a childhood filled with literary pilgrimages instead of summer vacations. Somewhere along the way Virginia made the leap into the real world. But Dora isn’t quite there yet. Now she’s coping with a painful separation from her husband, scraping the bottom of a dwindling inheritance, and attracted to a seductive book-seller who seems to embody all that literature has to offer—intelligent ideas, romance, and an escape from her problems.
Joining Dora in her odyssey is an elderly society hair-brusher, a heartbroken young girl, a hilarious off-the-wall female teamster, and Dora’s mother, now on the wagon, trying to make amends. Along the way Dora faces some powerful choices. Between two irresistible men. Between idleness and work. And most of all between the joy of well-chosen words and the untidiness of real people and real life.

I'll admit it - the cover is what drew me to this book. Something about that red lipstick and the books; what more could a girl want? Fortunately for me, there is more to this novel than its cute cover.

Despite the fact that Dora obviously has family and friends who love her, she's utterly lonely when the novel starts - and it's all her fault. She sequesters herself up with piles of books for long stretches of time, unsure about what she wants out of life yet unwilling to examine the issue any further. So she settles for a sort of half-life of her own making.

Kaufman and Mack do a great job of flushing out Dora and making her seem real. Being a book lover myself, it was easy to identify with her. In fact, I think I know all too well how easy it is to hide between pages when life gets rough.

Smart, witty and touching - this is chick lit with a brain and heart. With all of the literary quotes and elements in the story, one would think that reading this could easily turn into a serious undertaking. However, the authors wrote with an effortless flow that made Dora's journey enjoyable, heartfelt and even a touch educational.

Grade: A-