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September 23

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

by Ms. Bookish

From the back cover of Literacy and Longing in L.A.:

In a 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 for Eudora Welty, is an indiscriminate book junkie – from Tolstoy to Twin, from Flaubert to bodice rippers – whose life has fallen apart. She’s coping with a painful separation from her husband, scraping the bottom of a dwindling inheritance, and attracted to an aspiring playwright 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 assortment of memorable characters, including an elderly society hair-brusher, a heartbroken young girl, a hilarious off-the-wall female teamster, and Dora’s apologetic mother, an ex-alcoholic 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.”

Ms. Bookish’s Quick Take:

Shortly after I finished reading Literacy and Longing in L.A., as I was rummaging around in one of my to-be-read piles, I discovered another, pristine, copy of the book, which goes to show the idea behind it really appealed to me. My quick take? This is one of those books where I didn’t want the story to end – I wanted to follow Dora as she moved into a new era of her life. If you love books, feel like you’re in heaven the moment you step into a bookstore or a library, and you love funny, quirky and literate protagonists, this book is a Must Read, worth five stars here at Today I Read.

The Full Review of Literacy and Longing in L.A.

As the book begins, we don’t exactly catch Dora at her best; she’s immersed in depression and when she’s depressed, she embarks on a book-binge. She stays in her bathtub, reading book after book, and the rest of the world can just stay out there, where they belong.

But even in the depths of depression, Dora’s very engaging. And after all, what book lover hasn’t been enticed by the thought of going into seclusion with a huge pile of books?

We follow Dora as she embarks on a new relationship, a very sexy one that manages to pull her back into the world. We also learn about the shambles of her marriage with Palmer; it’s a relationship that she clearly hasn’t gotten over.

If there’s one flaw in the book it’s that from the moment we meet Palmer, who is one of those “one in a million” guys, with good lucks, prestigious job, and mega bucks, we can’t help wondering why the marriage broke up. Not that we don’t get the answer to this – we do, but it feels a little too neatly tied up.

On the other hand, it’s a good thing that Dora isn’t with Palmer throughout the book. As we follow along on her adventures, we see her grow and change; she effortlessly draws us into her world. It’s hard not to come to love her, and identify with her quest for meaning in her life. We’ve all been there, I imagine, wondering if the answers might come in the pages of the next great read.

The literary references sprinkled liberally throughout the book are great fun, too. It made me want to search through my bookshelves for some of my tried and true classics (although I don’t agree with Dora’s assessment of Jane Austen, despite what Mark Twain thought).

All in all, this is a book that goes down smoothly, in one beautiful glorious reading. I was sad when it ended, not because it has a sad ending (it doesn’t), but because I wanted to continue along with Dora and see how she experiences the next stage of her life. Literacy and Longing in L.A. is a Must Read. After reading this book, I’m definitely adding A Version of Truth, Jennifer Kaufman’s and Karen Mack’s latest joint effort, to my To Buy pile.

Ms. Bookish fell in love with book reviewing through her guest reviews here at Today I Read, and currently blogs about and reviews blogs at Ms Bookish Reviews.

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