The Joplin Globe, Joplin, MO

January 9, 2009

Book review: Books deal with living single, weighty issues

‘How to Be Single’

By Liz Tuccillo

Liz Tuccillo’s fiction debut follows the dating lives of five single women living in New York City.

Julie, the narrator, is a successful 38-year-old book publicist who quits her job to write a book about how women around the world are dealing with being single. Alice is a former legal-aid attorney who recently quit her job so that she could channel all her energy into dating.

Serena, a vegetarian chef for a wealthy New York family, has not been on a date in four years because of her efforts to become a “fully realized human being” first. Ruby is a self-employed executive recruiter who has severe bouts of depression after every breakup. And Georgia is a newly-single mother whose husband left her for a samba instructor.

All the women are friends with Julie, but are unknown to each other until Julia organizes a girl’s night out at Georgia’s insistence. Despite their unfamiliarity with each other and having few commonalities, the four women keep in contact after the girls’ night out and develop a bond while Julie is trotting around the globe interviewing bachelorettes.

Tuccillo, a former executive story editor of HBO’s “Sex and the City” and coauthor of “He’s Just Not That into You,” skillfully moves back and forth between Julie’s jet-setting to the four women in the city. The writing is funny and honest, and readers will relate to the diverse cast of characters and their quirky dating situations.

‘Change of Heart’

By Jodi Picoult

Eleven years ago, Shay Bourne was sentenced to death for murdering 7-year-old Elizabeth Nealon and her police-officer stepfather, Kurt Nealon. As his execution date looms, Shay is moved to a new tier at the state penitentiary and upon his arrival strange events begin to occur — wine flows from the faucets, an AIDS victim goes into remission and a baby bird is brought back to life.

It is also during this time that Shay makes a last request to donate his heart to Elizabeth’s sister, Claire.

Picoult deftly uses well-developed characters to broach the subjects of the death penalty, religious freedom and organ donation. Father Michael, Shay’s spiritual adviser, was on the jury that sentenced Shay to death; Maggie Bloom, an ACLU attorney, vehemently opposes the death penalty but must follow Shay’s wishes in campaigning for his heart donation; and June, Claire’s mother, struggles with the decision to accept the heart of a man who murdered her loved ones, or watch her daughter die.

The audio book uses full-cast narration, with Nicole Poole, Stafford Clark-Price, James Fragnione, Danielle Ferland and Jennifer Ikeda narrating the main characters, plus numerous other minor characters. The narrators are excellent, making it nearly impossible to stop listening. Picoult has written a mesmerizing, complex story.

Jeana Gockley is the children’s librarian at Joplin Public Library.