Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Review: The Late, Lamented Molly Marx

Summary: The circumstances of Molly Marx’s death may be suspicious, but she hasn’t lost her joie de vivre. Newly arrived in the hereafter, aka the Duration, Molly, thirty-five years old, is delighted to discover that she can still keep tabs on those she left behind: Annabel, her beloved four-year-old daughter; Lucy, her combustible twin sister; Kitty, her piece-of-work mother-in-law; Brie, her beautiful and steadfast best friend; and, of course, her husband, Barry, a plastic surgeon with more than a professional interest in many of his female patients. As a bonus, Molly quickly realizes that the afterlife comes with a finely tuned bullshit detector.

As Molly looks on, her loved ones try to discern whether her death was an accident, suicide, or murder. She was last seen alive leaving for a bike ride through New York City’s Riverside Park; her body was found lying on the bank of the Hudson River. Did a stranger lure Molly to danger? Did she plan to meet someone she thought she could trust? Could she have ended her own life for mysterious reasons, or did she simply lose control of her bike? As the police question her circle of intimates, Molly relives the years and days that led up to her sudden end: her marriage, troubled yet tender; her charmed work life as a magazine decorating editor; and the irresistible colleague to whom she was drawn.

More than anything, Molly finds herself watching over Annabel–and realizing how motherhood helped to bring out her very best self. As the investigation into her death proceeds, Molly will relive her most precious moments–and take responsibility for the choices in her life.

Exploring the bonds of fidelity, family, and friendship, and narrated by a memorable and endearing character, The Late, Lamented Molly Marx is a hilarious, deeply moving, and thought-provoking novel that is part mystery, part love story, and all heart. -- Ballantine

I absolutely loved the premise behind the new novel THE LATE, LAMENTED MOLLY MARX by Sally Koslow. The idea that an entire book was going to be told from a dead woman's point-of-view was just too tempting for me to resist. I had a feeling that I was going to really enjoy this story, but I was actually surprised by this novel. While my first impression of this book was that it was going to be a light, funny read; after just a few chapters, I realized that it this novel was going to be much deeper and more complex than I first thought (although it was still a very funny read!)

I thoroughly enjoyed THE LATE, LAMENTED MOLLY MARX for a variety of reasons, but I think one of the best things about this novel was how the author told the story. A dead Molly narrated the story, both in present and with flashbacks into her past. I enjoyed "seeing" Molly's life, and I think the back and forth between the chapters worked very well. I liked that I could see how Molly's family and friends were dealing with her death (through Molly's eyes), and I also thought it was very interesting what Molly was able to see and not see while she was in "The Duration." I thought the author's concept of death and an afterlife were very unique!

What I found special about this book was that I'm not sure that I really "liked" any of the characters; yet I still really enjoyed this novel. I know that sounds harsh and it's probably not entirely true -- I liked some of the characters, I just didn't really love any of them. Many of the characters in this book were often times shallow and focused on their own personal pleasures. Even Molly, whom I did somewhat like, was a very human and flawed character. I did like that all of the characters' flaws made their interactions very complicated and intriguing; and subsequently, the book did mange to keep my attention throughout.

Even though this novel was laugh out loud funny in some parts, I still was touched by parts of this story. The idea that a young mother and wife was dead at far too young an age naturally bothered me, but I was also affected by her how death affected her parents, her sister and especially her daughter. The scenes where Molly flashed back to her childhood and where she gave birth to her daughter were things that I could definitely relate to. I also appreciated that the author did make some "good" eventually come from the awful event of Molly's death.

One thing that I enjoyed about this novel was the mystery aspect to it. In fact, I actually wouldn't have minded having more details about Molly's death and a better understanding of what occurred. The novel begins with Molly describing her funeral and the reader knows right away that her death was not at all a natural one. I like that every once in awhile some little clue was given about the possibility of her death; and I especially liked that I kept wondering not only whether Molly was actually murdered, but who would have taken her life.

I think Ms. Koslow is a wonderful writer. I appreciated her storytelling, but I especially enjoyed how smart and witty her writing is. Ms. Koslow is the author of a previous novel LITTLE PINK SLIPS and has written essays for many major magazines. In addition, she was editor-in-chief of McCalls and Lifetime and was an editor at Mademoiselle and Women's Day. If you'd like to get an idea of her writing, you can read an excerpt from THE LATE, LAMENTED MOLLY MARX. There is also a very insightful interview with her about this novel.

THE LATE, LAMENTED MOLLY MARX would make a great book club discussion book, and I was happy to see that Ms. Koslow has a discussion guide on her website. I think my book club would enjoy this book on many levels. Not only is it a very entertaining read because the narrator is rather funny, but this book does go deeper and causes you to reflect on all sorts of relationships -- marriage, friendship, sisterhood, parenthood and even romantic love. In addition, I think this book allows you to examine your own life and how you'd be perceived if you died young and unexpectedly. I think this novel could make for a very interesting discussion between friends.

Thanks to the author and the folks at Ballantine Books for sending me an ARC of this novel!
Make sure you come back and visit tomorrow because Ms. Koslow will be stopping by with a terrific guest post.


Melanie said...

I really enjoyed this book, but I struggled with what it was that I liked about it. You did a great job in your review.

bermudaonion said...

I love the cover of that book, so I'm glad to see it's good. I know a lot of people don't like books when they don't like the characters, but that usually doesn't bother me.

Serena said...

I like the cover as well...I haven't read this book, but after reading your review...I've popped it onto the good reads list.

ANovelMenagerie said...

This sounds awesome!

thekoolaidmom said...

I'm with you, the premise of this book is very intriguing. And the husband with more than a professional interest in his patients while his dead wife watches with the BS detector running, that is a picture that alone is enough to make me want to run out and buy the book.

I'll be adding another book to my impossible-to-fulfill wishlist. :-)

Beth F said...

I've been really curious about this because, like you, I'm drawn to the premise. I'll have to give it a try, but I'm often put off when I don't like the characters.

Holly said...

Great review. This one looks fun.

Pam said...

Thanks for the great review! This sounds so interesting - I also would have assumed it would be a light, fluffy read but I have to say I'm even more intrigued to find out it's not...

melacan at hotmail dto com

S. Krishna said...

Great review! I have this one on my shelf to review and can't wait to read it.

Anonymous said...

I'm half way through this book and love it. I really like the character Molly. Flaws and all. She's believable!

Add this one to your must read list.

Alison said...

I was so afraid that this book was going to be too much like The Lovely Bones, which I loved. It was totally different, and I enjoyed it from start to finish.

If you would like to read my review: http://alisons-bookmarks.blogspot.com/2009/06/late-lamented-molly-marx-novel-by-sally.html

Anna said...

Glad to hear you enjoyed this one. I'll be reading it soon.

Diary of an Eccentric

Jess said...

My online book club will be discussing The Late, Lamented Molly Marx on July 27th and we would love it if you would join in the conversation. For more info, go to:

Thanks and hope to see you there!

nomadreader said...

I loved your review of this book. It was a hard book for me to review, but I loved it!