From Publishers Weekly
It takes guts for a debut novelist to mix such disparate subjects as abstruse science, philosophy, movies and the single life in New York City, but McPhee takes the risk with brio and acquits herself with lan. Her neurotic but appealing heroine, Marie Brown, is, at 39, still finding herself, in chronically self-deprecating fashion. She's "too tall, too plain," yearning to be married, fascinated by physics and ambivalent about her job as a tabloid journalist. It is at a science library in Manhattan that she meets fellow reader Marco Trentadue, self-described "freelance intellectual," who engages her in the sort of brainy banter that she once enjoyed with her estranged brother, Michael. Meanwhile, Marie is assigned to write the obituary of Nora Mars, legendary and scandalous film star, and finds herself fascinated by Nora's third husband, sexy and alcoholic singer Rex. The reasons for Marie's stalled career, muddled romantic opportunities and family troubles gradually become clear in a quixotically quirky story line that calls into play several different secret betrayals and reconciliations. McPhee's style is lean and frisky, and her novel is teasing, funny and intriguing. While the regular interpolation of scientific theory may not be to everyone's taste, and the cliffhanging chapter endings sometimes seem contrived, readers should enjoy McPhee's ability to integrate scientific speculation with the stuff of daily life. Indeed, as Marie begins to get insights into the directions her future will take, one starts to read with a smile, appreciating the skill with which McPhee creates a satisfying romantic glow. (July)Forecast: One of the daughters of writer John McPhee, Jenny McPhee has previously published short stories, translated books from the Italian and collaborated with her sisters Martha and Laura on Girls. While the McPhee name may be the initial drawing card here, the novel's offbeat charm will distinguish Jenny McPhee as an accomplished writer with her own distinctive style.
Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information, Inc.
From Library Journal
McPhee is a talented, graceful, and often sardonic writer who frequently reviews for the New York Times Book Review and has now written her first novel. Her protagonist is certainly winning: Marie's first love is the history and philosophy of science, but she writes for a tabloid newspaper and has from childhood been entranced by noir film stars. A perfect blend of the three would have been irresistible (consider how Tom Stoppard combined science, literature, and romance in Arcadia), but there was a bit too much quantum mechanics for this reader (although the scientifically sophisticated may find this attractive). Marie's particular obsession is Nora Mars, a five-times-married and now-dying diva. Liberally sprinkled throughout are quotes from her fictitious films (e.g., "Try everything once, then live to regret it." Nora Mars, Dark Blue, 1965). Nora's complicated family relations with sister, son, and all those husbands are a major, often moving, part of the plot. Marie, with her thwarted lusts, many anxieties, and estranged brother, comes alive on the page. To a lesser extent, so does Marco, a self-described "freelance intellectual" and eccentric whom Marie repeatedly encounters at the Science, Industry and Business Library of NYPL. John McPhee should be proud of his daughter. For all fiction collections with intelligent readers.- Judith Kicinski, Sarah Lawrence Coll. Lib., Bronxville, NY
Copyright 2001 Reed Business Information, Inc.