Picks and Pans Review: What to Keep

UPDATED 05/10/2004 at 01:00 AM EDT Originally published 05/10/2004 at 01:00 AM EDT

by Rachel Cline

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This first novel visits the delightful Denny Roman at three points in her life. At 12, she is a precocious Ohio kid with absentee parents who does a surprise star turn in the school play. Fourteen years later, Denny, now an aspiring Hollywood actress, returns to Ohio to help her distant mother and young stepfather clear out her childhood bedroom. Finally, a decade after that, she is an intense New York playwright with a burgeoning career but a lackluster love life.

Cline, a former screenwriter, delves into familial and romantic minefields with compassion and humor. Denny worries that she might be "too weird or sensitive or selfish to thrive in the world," but her twisted wit and insightful dissections of everything from Hollywood culture to self-defense classes help her muddle through life's heartbreaks and finally, if messily, grow up.

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