three-stars
Bookmarks Issue: 
42-Sept-Oct-2009
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0

A-TroubleKate Christensen is the author of the novels In the Drink, Jeremy Thrane, The Epicure's Lament, and the 2008 PEN/Faulkner Award-winning The Great Man.

The Story: At a party one night, Josie, a somewhat haughty, 40-something Manhattan psychotherapist, rediscovers sexual passion. Unfortunately, it's not with her husband but with a random stranger. Josie and her husband amicably divorce, she leaves her adopted daughter despite the advice of her self-righteous friend Indrani, and she-along with her college friend Raquel, an ex-junkie and a disgraced Los Angeles rock star-flee to Mexico for Christmas. Once there, Josie and Raquel live it up as they party their way through the city. Soon, Josie experiences a newfound freedom as Raquel starts to spiral out of control.
Doubleday. 311 pages. $26. ISBN: 9780385527309

Oregonian 4 of 5 Stars
"This is Kate Christensen, which means crackling prose, sharp dialogue and a sly, fanged humor calculated to make Jane Austen sit up and grin. ... Christensen's characters are not evil but they are foolish in ways all too familiar to many of us." Katherine Dunn

San Francisco Chronicle 4 of 5 Stars
"Josie, with her troubles and her friends' troubles and her friends' troubles with each other, keeps us breathlessly hooked from Page One. ... Trouble is as much a portrait of the stresses and sensualities of a friendship between mature women who need each other as it is a profile of a woman in a juicier-than-average midlife crisis." Meredith Maran

New York Times 3 of 5 Stars
"Josie ... is an insufferably smug New York psychotherapist who high-handedly dissolves her marriage. ... She also goes through a wrenching ordeal with Raquel while achieving one of chick lit's favorite states: cozy physical closeness with a longtime female pal." Janet Maslin

Washington Post 3 of 5 Stars
"The tensions among Josie, Raquel and a third chum from college, the self-righteous and independently wealthy Indrani, will delight any reader familiar with the infighting among female friends. But Josie, who narrates the novel, isn't quite as fascinating or complex as Christensen's past heroines." Lisa Zeidner

Los Angeles Times 2 of 5 Stars
"From the prickly, uncomfortable excitement of the opening, it descends into an insulated and almost boring chronicle of her next few weeks. ... A novel should transcend travelogue." Diana Wagman

NY Times Book Review 2 of 5 Stars
"While I didn't expect a Ridley Scott adventure tale here, I suppose I didn't foresee such ease and emotional levelness, or such a profusion of sightseeing. ... Readers love trouble, too, and Trouble doesn't have enough of it." Kaui Hart Hemmings

Critical Summary

Although a few reviewers found Trouble quite compelling, many felt that it doesn't quite measure up to Christensen's previous novels. A sensitive story about friendship between middle-aged women, it contains the author's trademark wit, sharp dialogue, and local color. However, a few critics cited Josie as a relatively simple creature when compared with some of Christensen's past women-an unsympathetic narrator who, lacking insight into her own heart, is fascinating in only a voyeuristic way. Also, despite the title, the storyline had little sense of urgency-from Josie's split to her Mexican adventures. For those who fantasize about leaving everything (and everyone?) behind, the consequences seem muted. That's both wishful thinking ... and not as interesting.

Also by the Author

The Great Man (2008): Award Star PEN/Faulkner Award. When renowned painter Oscar Feldman dies, his wife, his sister, and his longtime mistress and twin daughters by her decide to bare all to two biographers in an attempt to set the record straight-with possibly devastating results.