Review by: Elizabeth Blakesley Lindsay


Cranberry Queen
ISBN: 0786890371
By Kathleen DeMarco

The fact that the book sports blurbs from Glamour, People and Redbook might turn some away. The book cover which touts the included "reading group guide" might chase away a few more. The "talk Miramax books" label may also catch your eye (and perhaps turn your stomach). But Kathleen DeMarco’s Cranberry Queen is not as bad as the cover might make you think.

The novel opens with Diana Moore, 30-something, working for a dot-com, lamenting the rumors about her ex-boyfriend (introduced to us only as "Monster") and his new girlfriend. Her biggest concern is that she will probably have to see the new couple at the upcoming wedding of a mutual friend. Instead of attending that wedding, though, Diana ends up spending the weekend dealing with the immediate grief of a family tragedy: her parents and brother have been killed in a automobile accident.

The product of a close family, Diana does not deal well with the overpowering grief of the loss. She ends up withdrawing from life, quitting her job and drowning in grief. When her best friend and favorite aunt intervene to save her from the squalor of her apartment and her ineffective therapy, Diana hits the road. Rather than keeping the appointment with the new "depression management" therapist her uncle arranged for her, she takes off, driving south, with no specific plan.

Within the first few hours of her journey, she is involved in a minor traffic accident and finds herself stranded in a small town in the Pine Barrens area of New Jersey, with a cast of eccentric characters. The first two she meets - when she literally runs into them with her car - are Louisa and her spry grandmother Rosie. The story centers on Diana and these new friends, who become her replacement family. In the Pine Barrens, she finds new love, learns some hard truths about herself, and is able to finally deal with her grief and resume living.

Marco is fun to read, with quick and witty language. Diana is sarcastic and funny, and the dialogue is tight. The narration is in present tense, which gives the reader a sense of involvement. You’re right there as Diana thinks and sees and talks and does.

The plot develops into areas one may not be surprised by, but the characters provide enough fresh, interesting activity to make this worth a read and DeMarco does steer clear of melodrama. One final note: DeMarco is a film producer, and the book is already headed for a Hollywood treatment. So, if you don’t get a chance to read it, you can always catch it later onscreen.

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