Thursday, September 11, 2008

House Lights

by Leah Hager Cohen, published by Norton, 2007. 302 pages

A beautiful character-driven novel about Beatrice, a teenage girl who decides to be an actor. Her grandmother is a famous actress, but has been estranged from her family for as long as Beatrice can remember. Beatrice reaches out to her grandmother for advice, and in doing so begins the long process of defining herself separately from her parents. At the same time, her parents become embroiled in a scandal stemming from accusations on her father for sexual harassment. Both internal and external pressures help Beatrice leave her home and restrictive parents.

This is a rich book. The author has a gift for language, making descriptive passages that seem so right. The book emphasizes the need for language to have real meaning, not just sound important. (Beatrice's father is a professor who often launches into lectures that sound important but aren't necessarily meaningful.) The emphasis on truth and meaning is a refreshing change from Beatrice's childhood filled with words that cloak feeling and establish boundaries.

People who like character driven books and coming of age stories would like this book.

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