Literacy and Longing in L.A.
By Lucia Nelson
Jun 20, 2007 - 4:51:41 PM

Whenever Dora gets upset or depressed, she withdraws with a stack of books. She inherited her love of reading from her mother, an alcoholic with serious emotional issues who loved literature so much that she named her two daughters, Virginia and Dora, after famous authors.

Dora nurses a serious crush on Fred, a clerk at her local independent bookstore, but she hasn’t been lucky in love. Her two marriages ended in divorce, although she is still friends with her second husband, Palmer, a charming movie producer who seems to be living the Los Angeles dream, including the fancy house, sports car, and trophy girlfriend. Dora’s friend Darlene encourages her to make a move, but Dora is afraid to do it.

When Fred asks Dora out on a date, everything seems to fall together. They share a lot of common interests, and she finds herself becoming more social and a little bit less neurotic. Then she meets Fred’s mother Bea and his niece Harper, who live outside of L.A. and care for each other—and for Fred’s sister, a troubled drug addict whose problems are too big for the family to bear. Bea and Harper become the close family that Dora never had.

LITERACY AND LONGING IN L.A. is about relationships between mothers and daughters, ex-husbands and ex-wives, friends, sisters, boyfriends and girlfriends, and everything in between. It’s about how the small events are sometimes just as challenging as the major crises, and how our connections to one another keep us safe and grounded.

Ms. Kaufman and Ms. Mack have written a delightful novel full of clever, quirky characters. Even though there are numerous side characters populating Dora’s world, all of them are individuals who are well-written and memorable. I particularly enjoyed Darlene, a former classified ad writer whose life hasn’t always been happy, but who attacks every situation (including her own marital problems) with humor and bravery. Avid readers will enjoy picking out all of the literary references throughout the book, including a chapter where Dora devours a stack of classic romance novels.

I highly recommend this book to any reader who enjoys women’s fiction with a little bit of humor and a lot of heart.

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