Saturday, December 15, 2012

These Things Happen - TLC Book Review

These Things Happen by Richard Kramer
Unbridled Books, 2012

Format? Hardback

Source? The publisher via TLC Book Tours
**FTC Disclosure - The publisher provided me a complimentary copy of These Things Happen; however, my review and the opinions expressed therein are my own and offered without bias.

Why? it's's's contemporary fiction by an author whose been involved in two of my all-time favorite television series, "Thirtysomething" and "Once and Again"...there was no way I was passing up on this one...and boy, am I glad I didn't.

Title? These Things Happen is generally something a person says to dismiss an event that will soon be forgotten and for which there is no answer or explanation...that's not even close to what's happening within the covers of this book.

Cover? The Empire State Building...bc this book is as NYC as a book can get with its references to streets, the theatre district, landmarks, apartment buildings, shops, culture

What Now? this one's a the glass bookshelves it goes.  Wow.

Golden Lines

"So how was school?" George says.
"Thrilling," I say, "when it wasn't enriching.  Donald Rumsfeld came and read to us from The Red Pony.  And Micah Kinzer saw a black person, and even got pictures, with his phone." (24)

Once again I think maybe I'll just pop my head in at the kitchen door to see if Wesley wants me to make him a nice panino in the press his mom gave me Christmas last year; he must need something, as he's fifteen and its 2:42 and he's probably in there growing. (40)

Kenny's cell phone rings.
"I thought you turned it off," I say.
"I'm not totally sure how to do that.  Just let it ring."
So we do.  But we don't do anything else, either, as each of us knows it will ring again in a moment.  Which it does.  
"You should get that, Dad."
"That's what they invented voice mail for," says Kenny.
"It's also why they invented hammers," I say.  "Because I'm going to smash that thing.  Because this place is too small for you, me, and the entire gay and bi-curious population of the whole world, all of whom have your cell number." (73)

"I'm the mother," she says.  "And I want my son." (127)

"But I'm bigger," I say, "than whoever that person who'd think that is, or say it."
"Don't be bigger. Please. The size you are is fine. Even if you're a hypocritical, racist homophobe, as has been fully proven today." (160)

"It's awesome, you know," Wesley says, using the word his mother so dislikes.
"What is? The sky?" 
Wesley laughs.  "A day.  A lot can happen in a day, I mean.  If that makes any sense."
"It does." The thin, curved moon, like the wandering element of an emoticon, is clear again. "That's what days are for." (255)


Theo and Wesley are 10th graders enrolled in a posh NYC college prep private school.  Their lives are filled with activities and lessons designed to attract Ivy Leage colleges.  These are smart that keep you guessing what they'll say next and especially what kinds of questions they'll ask next.
Kenny is Wesley's father, a high profile lawyer who specializes in defending LGBT rights, who agrees that Wesley should live with him and his partner George for a couple of months "to get to know his father."
Kenny's partner George owns the restaurant that they live above and brings his colorful previous life as an actor into their partnership as a softening agent of sorts to Kenny's business sense and constant worklife.
Kenny's ex-wife and Wesley's mother Lola is an uptown editor and married to an opthamologist, Ben.

An act of violence brings them all to the table to figure out who they all are really and how best their lives should continue.
A touching, moving, serious and funny 24 hours in one family's life.

What I Liked

the sarcastic humor - don't try to drink your coffee while reading this book...these characters are funny and full of one liners that catch you off can almost hear the pretend accents they use as they zing the lines at one another -  this aspect reminded me of how Robin Williams always switches voices within just one character..."Mrs. Doubtfire," specifically, kept popping in my head :p

constant references to literature, movies, plays and Broadway shows

George is a cook and owns an Italian restaurant called there is magnificent food, food and more food throughout this story as well...but not just thrown in any way...a variety of foods, brief snippets of their origins and history, and some preparation offered purposefully as important parts of these characters' lives.

the hard questions, the unacceptable "I don't knows."
the reminders that we don't really know ourselves as well as we think we do

Every single one of these characters is flawed in some way...but there are no apologies...they are who they are.  We never know the bad a matter of fact, they are only given about 2 seconds worth of book time and are not even described (which is as it should be).  The focus is on these characters and their families and how they make sense of the world, their places in it, things they don't understand, and how truly naive they are for thinking they are in some way in control of the events in their lives.

What I Didn't Like

Lola - I don't blame Lola for anything, so don't get me wrong here.  Lola is very much the scapegoat character...her biggest "flaw" is one that even the most progressive minded people in the world have as well. I have this picture in my head of her swooping in and out of her family with the clicking heels and long trench coat...expecting everyone around her to jump.

Overall Recommendation

I want everybody to read this.  I don't know nor do I care if everyone likes it.   Just read it.  If you walk away with even just 5 minutes worth of questions or a  re-examination of who you are based on your pre-conceived notions and stereotypes, then it's been worth it.

The Author

Richard Kramer



Other Stops on the Tour

Tuesday, November 6th: What She Read …
Thursday, November 8th: The 3 R’s: Reading, ‘Riting, and Randomness
Friday, November 9th: A Patchwork of Books
Monday, November 12th: Wordsmithonia
Tuesday, November 13th: Kritters Ramblings
Wednesday, November 14th: Lectus
Monday, November 19th: Hopelessly Devoted Bibliophile
Monday, November 19th: Books, Thoughts, And a Few Adventures
Wednesday, November 21st: Sara’s Organized Chaos
Monday, November 26th: Veronica MD
Tuesday, November 27th: In the Next Room
Wednesday, November 28th: Chaotic Compendiums
Monday, December 3rd: Bewitched Bookworms
Tuesday, December 4th: A Reader of Fictions
Wednesday, December 5th: Dreaming in Books
Thursday, December 6th: Shooting Stars Mag
Thursday, December 13th: Beth Fish Reads (guest post)
Friday, December 14th: Peppermint PhD
TBD: Bonjour, Cass!
TBD: Books ‘n Crannies


  1. I LOVE LOVE LOVE your recommendation at the end of your review; it is amazing when a book like this comes along that can (and should) have such an impact on all readers.

    Thanks so much for being on the tour! I'm featuring your review on TLC's Facebook page today.

    1. Thanks, Heather...These Things Happen will be on my Top Ten for 2012's that good :)

  2. Agreed. I met the author at BEA without "knowing" who he was. I came at this book and ended up being blindsided, so good it was.

    1. When I first started the book, I honestly thought, "Oh no, here we go..." but that lasted for about a page. After that, I couldn't put it down. I'm still thinking about it...especially in light of the tragedies that keep happening around us. We seem to be good at talking the talk of tolerance but certainly not walking the walk.

  3. Driving characters into the most significant "I don't know"'s of their lives takes a highly skilled author; humans by nature want to know everything, so the author is really making his characters work against the grain of human nature. Kudos to Mr. Kramer!

  4. Dang girl you really sold this one. I'm going to have to get my hands on it.

  5. Ditto to Sandy's comment above. You've convinced me that this is a book with value with your ending lines: "If you walk away with even just 5 minutes worth of questions or a re-examination of who you are based on your pre-conceived notions and stereotypes...."

    1. It's true, Susan...he sneaks it up on you...but you can't help it. It's a keeper.

  6. Sold! Putting it on my wish list!