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Publisher: Wings-ePress  
Release Date: December 1, 2003
ISBN: 1-59088-791-3 
Format Reviewed: Softcover  
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Genre: Fiction and Literature - Romance - Contemporary - "Chick Lit" 
Reviewed: 2003
Reviewer: Kristin Johnson 

Reviewer Notes: Buy a copy at: Wings-ePress  

Kristin Johnson releases her second book, CHRISTMAS COOKIES ARE FOR GIVING, co-written with Mimi Cummins, in October 2003. Her next book, ORDINARY MIRACLES: My Incredible Spiritual, Artistic and Scientific Journey, co-written with Sir Rupert A.L. Perrin, M.D., is available now.

Beyond the Lies
By Carolyn Russell

     Imagine finding out that your quarreling father and mother aren't your real parents, and even more devastating, finding out from your Bill Clinton-wannabe cousin, who tries to rape you in your grandparents' barn on Mother's Day only days before you turn thirteen. This highly explosive inciting incident, certain to send shockwaves in anyone's life, especially a girl growing up in 1948, kicks the story of Gloria Hamilton Miles into a Lifetime TV Movie-style emotional roller coaster filled with the uncertainty of living and loving when you don't know who you are.

     Carolyn Russell pens a moving story of human frailty, of an indomitable woman who, disappointed by her parents and in love, marries a man who loves her more than she loves him and has the combined deceptions as well as the poor business decisions of her parents. Gloria's world is defined from the first by her mother's obsession with movies, which as we learn later has roots in Gloria's birth mother's reputed affair with a screen legend. You guessed it: Gloria may be the child born of that affair. However, there is no fairy-tale cop-out reunion between father and daughter in this story of people attempting to reconcile, to love, to hold together fractured dreams, and to make meaningful lives.

     Gloria unknowingly and blindly follows the logic we all indulge in as children: "I'm not going to be like my parents." She repeats her father's adulterous tendency, and attacks her birth mother Loraine Cartwright Ruhl after Loraine confesses to Gloria that Gloria's birth might have been the result of Loraine's rape at a liquor-blurred Hollywood party (those allegations against Ah-nold pale in comparison). Gloria inherits her parents' insensitivities, and disappointingly, doesn't reconcile with Loraine, either before or after Loraine's death. This reader would have liked to see Gloria grieve for Loraine and admit Gloria's mistake in rejecting Loraine's love and pain.

     More satisfying is Gloria's successful romance with university dean Kurt Weida, whose manipulative wife gets what she deserves in the end. Russell's characters are refreshingly, endearingly real in their inability to get away with being flawed and fallible.