two-and-half-stars
Bookmarks Issue: 
10-May-June-2004
user_rating: 
0

A Modern Romance

A-MaggieDarlingMaggie Darling, the "goddess of hearth and home," knows how to wield a hot-glue gun, command a media empire, and enjoy a multimillion-dollar lifestyle. Then one day she catches her philandering husband in the act. Out he goes, and life's not so perfect anymore. Now her college-dropout son needs a place to crash, her gardener is dead, and her best friend is addicted to drugs. As her once-faultless professional facade flops like a bad souffle, Maggie tests the waters in the dating pool.
Atlantic Monthly Press. 336 pages. $23.

Washington Post 3 of 5 Stars
"In the midst of all the current trash-talk about Martha Stewart, here comes this basically generous, good-natured novel. ... If this happened to Martha (but, of course, something like it already has), the reader might be expected to react with sour glee, but author James Howard Kunstler has something else in mind here." Carolyn See

Hartford Courant 2.5 of 5 Stars
"Why then is Maggie Darling such a fun read?. ... It also happens to be a quick and entertaining confection, but one that ultimately leaves readers feeling a bit cheated and unfulfilled, like a showy creampuff made with Equal." Greg Morago

New York Times 2.5 of 5 Stars
"By the time Mr. Kunstler works a helicopter and a Hartford crack house into the book's finale, he has functionally spiraled into outer space. His book, like its heroine, fares best when staying close to home." Janet Maslin

Los Angeles Times 2 of 5 Stars
"It isn't often that we can pinpoint a specific sentence in which a promising novel goes wrong, but Maggie Darling affords us just such an opportunity about halfway through the book. ... Until that sentence, Kunstler exaggerates for effect but clings to a certain plausibility. With it, he crosses the line into rant." Michael Harris

Critical Summary

Kunstler has written several nonfiction treatises on urban decay (The City in Mind, The Geography of Nowhere), and he can't seem to keep that agenda out of his fiction. Most critics agree that Maggie Darling is a highly engaging comedy of manners up until the author uses his heroine's decline as a metaphor for the death of civilization. He pokes great fun at Maggie's designer-label world, but the subplots involving illiterate black rappers and drug dealers strain the novel's credibility. According to the Hartford Courant, this novel, "however amusing, isn't half as interesting as the real life tales of Martha [Stewart]." Readers turned on by a plethora of food similes will get their fill here.