The Mutual Admiration Society
By: Lesley Kagen
Publisher: Lake Union
Publication Date: 2/1/2017
My Rating: 3 Stars From the New York Times bestselling author of Whistling in the Dark comes an unforgettable novel that illuminates the sweet and brittle bonds of family, the tenderness of growing up, the heartbreak of longing for what we’ve lost, and the poignancy of finding love. FACT: Unbeknownst to eleven-year-old Theresa “Tessie” Finley, she’s in over her head.
PROOF: After hearing a scream and catching a glimpse of a mysterious man carrying a body beneath the flickering streetlights in the cemetery behind her house, Tessie adds solving a murder case to her already quite full to-do list.
Tessie has elected herself president of the crime-stopping Mutual Admiration Society—as if dealing with her “sad madness” over the tragic drowning of her beloved father; showering tender loving care on her “sweet but weird” younger sister, Birdie; and staying on the good side of their hard-edged mother weren’t enough. With partner in crime Charlie “Cue Ball” Garfield, Tessie and Birdie will need to dodge the gossips in their 1950s blue-collar neighborhood—particularly their evil next-door neighbor, Gert Klement, who’d like nothing better than to send the sisters to “homes.” And, of course, there’s the problem of steering clear of the kidnapping murderer if they have any hope of solving the mystery of all mysteries: the mystery of life.
A rich and charming tour de force, The Mutual Admiration Society showcases Lesley Kagen’s marvelous storytelling talents. Laced with heartwarming humor and heartbreaking grief, this novel is nothing short of magical.
“Lesley Kagen’s latest gem takes readers on a fabulous adventure to discover whether or not a murder has been committed in the local cemetery. With the hilarious Finley sisters at the helm, nothing can go wrong—or can it? Spunky, fun, and entirely charming. Both a mystery and a coming-of-age story that’s sure to delight!” —Mary Kubica, New York Times bestselling author of Don't You Cry
“A captivating tale that is woven together with sharp wit and heartbreaking honesty.” —Heather Gudenkauf, New York Times bestselling author of Missing Pieces
“With its gloriously quirky kid’s eye view of grief, mental illness, and strange happenings in a nineteen fifties neighborhood, this heart-warming story is sure to delight fans of The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time.” —Barbara Claypole White, bestselling author of The Perfect Son
“Fact: You will fall in love with eleven-year-old Tessie Finley and her sister Birdie. Proof: Lesley Kagen’s novel The Mutual Admiration Society, where Tessie Finley sets out to solve a mystery in true Nancy Drew fashion. Except Nancy Drew was never this funny, and never pulled at your heartstrings like Lesley Kagen’s characters do. This is a novel you will not want to put down, and Kagen is a master storyteller who will keep you hovering between laughing and crying the whole way.” —Cassie Selleck, bestselling author of The Pecan Man
About the Author
I was born and raised in Milwaukee in a couple of blue-collar neighborhoods much like the ones where Whistling in the Dark, Good Graces, and The Mutual Admiration Society are set.
After attending four different high schools—a story unto itself—I enrolled in Marquette University, majored in my boyfriend, and the summer after my freshman year, I followed him to New York City. Of course, I'd pictured a grand adventure, but I was so intimidated by it all that I spent most of my time running from the apartment to the grocery store and back to the apartment which was situated above a 24 hour soul record store. (To this day, I can sing the chorus to every James Brown tune ever recorded.) After the boyfriend and I called it quits, I returned home to attend the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee to major in radio and television, which, for some reason I can no longer recall, I'd decided was my true calling.
Soon after, and quite by luck, I fell into a job as a morning drive DJ at one of the country's first "underground" radio stations—WZMF. Along with my gig at the station, I MC'd concerts, meet countless talented musicians, and had the chance to interview the likes of Frank Zappa, Jimi Hendrix, and John Lennon.
Whistling in the Dark.
In 1976, I moved to Los Angeles and began a twelve-year stint writing, producing, and voicing thousands of commercials for one of the largest, and absolutely the coolest, record chains in Southern California. Considering that you could not turn on your radio in those days without hearing me say, "Hi, it's Lesley from Licorice Pizza," I pretty easily secured a commercial acting agent. A ton of other radio and television spots ensued, including a couple of small parts in movies-of-the-week, sit-coms, and a guest spot on Laverne and Shirley.
Funnily, I met my husband Peter a.k.a. Sushi Man, also a Milwaukee native, in Malibu, and although we both loved living in California, after we had our kids, the exceptional and brilliant Casey and Riley, we wanted to move back to our Midwestern roost. We opened up one of the first Japanese restaurants in the city, and along with mothering the two best children ever created, I continued to do commercials out of Chicago.
Although I've been writing from a very early age—copious usage of the Almighty's name insured an easy win in St. Sebastian's all-school poetry contest—it wasn't until my children flew the coop that I found the time to take a run at my first novel—Whistling in the Dark—again, a story unto itself. Hard to believe that here I am almost ten years later with the release of my eighth book, The Mutual Admiration Society, looming on the horizon.
When I'm not writing, there's nothing I love more than spending time with the loves of my life, my daughter, Casey, my son-in-law, John-Michael, and my magical g-babies, Charlie and Hadley. Also enjoy hiking in the woods and on Lake Michigan beaches with my pup, The Amazin' Gracie, riding my bike around my adorable town, reading, of course, committing random acts of kindness—fun!—advocating for better and more available mental health care, meditating, going to the movies, birding—red-tail hawks make me weep—and eating out with pals—I am an absolutely horrendous cook, but a darn good baker.
Like you, I've been handed breathtaking highs, and been dealt devastating lows that I thought I'd never be able to survive, but with the love of my family, stellar therapists, and abundant help from on high, I give thanks most mornings for the chance to stand in front of my kitchen window, sip tea, and watch the sun come up over the barn. Read More