Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Family Plots: Love, Death and Tax Evasion by Mary Patrick Kavanaugh

Family Plots: Love, Death and Tax Evasion by Mary Patrick Kavanaugh
300 pages
Published October 2008 by iUniverse Inc.
Source: Pump Up Your Book Promotion

Mary is in debt up to her eyes, has a 3-yr-old daughter and her boyfriend has just admitted to infidelity. When the 1989 San Francisco earthquake hits, it starts Mary on a new path to try to put her life in order. She gives up alcohol and cigarettes, begins to put her finanaces in order and begins a job search. She also makes contact with her old boss, Dan, and soon the two are in a relationship. Mary's daughter, Rachel, loves Dan and he offers Mary everything she's been looking for in a man. The problem is that Dan, a criminal attorney, seems to have a lot of legal problems of his own and a lot of shady associates. Despite all of this, Mary and Dan move in together and even get married (well, sort of). Dan also has an interesting family and a past that Mary can't help digging into, unearthing family secrets along the way. Family plots doesn't just refer to the cemetary plot that Dan's parents are so fond of.

You'll notice that on the front of this book, there's a gold medallion, the kind used to indicate an award has been given to the book. Ms. Kavanaugh herself, in a preview to the type of wit you will find in the book, has added this award. It says "Awarded Sixteen Rejections from Prominent NYC Publishers 2008." "Family Plots" is autobiographical and Ms. Kavanaugh pulls no punches, not even when that punch will land squarely on her own jaw. Periodically I would think to myself, "This is too much. No way does this much go wrong in one person's life." Then I'd remember that, in fact, it had. This book is equal parts love story and suspense novel.

Ms. Kavanaugh's own disjointed family life growing up convinced her that the most important thing she needed as an adult was a stable family home life. Apparently that meant she was willing to put up with someone that was clearly committing criminal acts, who lied to her repeatedly and who was adamant that things be done his way. I had a hard time believing that any woman would put up with Dan; clearly there was a side to him that made it all worth while, but I didn't see enough of it in this book to make me understand. I did get a kick out of the things that clearly showed the age difference between Mary and Dan. Dan, for example, still had a stereo system in the early 1990's that had an 8-track player and he loved Neil Diamond and ABBA.

Nevertheless, as I read on, I became fond of the characters and cheered for Mary as she became more and more the person that she had set out to become. And I could relate to much of what she went through (none of the stuff with Dan's financial life, thank heavens!). When she's still raising Rachel by herself and Rachel has a complete meltdown, I could completely empathize with Mary's frustration. Mary's relationships with her own family, and Dan's, are relationships that all of us can understand and relate to. Although, I'm very glad I didn't have these actual people as my relatives!

For another review, see Kay's review at Kay's Bookshelf. And to learn more about the book and what Mary's up to now, head over to her site at My Dream Is Dead, BUT I'M NOT. Thanks to Dorothy at Pump Up Your Book Promotion for including me in the book tour for "Family Plots."


  1. I love the idea of the gold medallion award she gave herself!

  2. Sounds interesting. but it's a novel or a memoir?
    (btw, THANKS! I received The Smart One and the Pretty One today!)

  3. A great review (and thank you for the link)!

    As for Dan, I have very much liked the fact that one had a bit of a difficulty when trying to label him. :)


    I mean sure, he did have lots and lots of financial issues, and he lied to Mary now and then when money were involved. But he wasn't a bad guy overall, and most times he treated Mary really nice, he seemed genuinely fond of her. There were many times when I expected him to act in a certain manner (be the villain of the piece) and he surprised me in a good way. Not to mention he seemed genuinely fond of Rachel.

    This is actually one of the reasons I liked the book so much (I think I mentioned it in my review too), the fact that the characters were hard to predict and hard to label (and none of them perfect, in a way that only real-world characters can be).

  4. I've never heard of this one...but it sounds good! I'm going to add it to my list!

  5. I love the tagline for the book. That's fantastic.

  6. I love to read about other people's lives - I guess it makes me feel better about mine.

  7. Yes! Great review. I had fun with this read and was so surprised when I opened that first page. I just wasnt expecting it to flow the way it did and I really enjoyed it.

  8. This is a great review Lisa! I know from your review that this is a book I'd enjoy and get a kick out of. I love that the author put a gold medallion resembling an award on the cover of her book. It's funny how some people have lives that run so smoothly and go so well it sounds like a fairytale and for other people, nothing seems to work out. I'm hoping things are going better for Mary and I think you just have to try and keep a sense of humor about things.
    Thanks for a great post!

  9. I personally can't understand how anyone would stay with someone like that either, but I know that people do. (And I'm not mentioning any names, but I have some relatives who have spouses with very colorful pasts.) It sounds like she was very brave to lay it all out there in the book.

  10. I ditto that it looks like a great read!