First Friday (Hardcover)

How Virginity Almost Killed Me

By Tory Hartmann

Sand Hill Review Press, 9781937818067, 334pp.

Publication Date: June 8, 2017

Other Editions of This Title:
Paperback (1/19/2017)

List Price: 32.00*
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  1. Review: A comic examination of a large Irish family's struggle to maintain their old-fashioned religious and cultural traditions in modern-day California. With her lingering stutter and utter lack of fashion sense, everyone expects 28-year-old Agnes Anne O'Neil to remain under her parents' roof forever. But she has other plans: after years of inertia, she's decided to obtain her real estate license so that she can get out of the back office at her father's real estate firm. She decides to apply her increased earnings toward getting cosmetic surgery on her nose and chin. She also declares that, going forward, she'd prefer to be called "Anne." In short order, the formerly timid Anne bleaches her hair blonde, makes two successful real estate sales, and meets a new guy. Meanwhile, her parents grow apoplectic because she's no longer the rigid Irish Catholic isolationist that they thought she was. They call her cosmetic surgery self-mutilation, and they can't stand that she has a Jewish boyfriend, Sheldon Goldberg; they also lament that Anne isn't cultivating a life more like her sister Katie's. Unbeknownst to them, however, Katie's husband, Bruno, has been harassing Anne with sexual come-ons and innuendos. As Anne attempts to resist his advances, he begins devising schemes to make her life very, very difficult. In this debut novel, Hartmann takes what appears at first to be a romantic comedy and turns it, unexpectedly, into a thriller. As a result, there are many slapstick and laugh-out-loud funny moments throughout the tale, such as an elaborate prank in a church, but there's also a darker undercurrent--a constant dread that Anne's misgivings about Bruno might actually be right on the money. Still, the novel is filled with hilarious misunderstandings and moments of family strife, including a disastrous dinner in which Sheldon first meets Anne's family. Overall, this fast-paced, plot-heavy tale is as riveting as it is cheeky. A witty, sensitive story that will satisfy discerning fans of family dramas. Reviews

Hartmann masterfully spins a murderous tale while engaging us with the inner-workings of a zany Irish-American family. Well done -Suzanne Tyrpak, author of Vestal Virgin: Suspense in Ancient Rome

While laughing out loud at Agnes Anne's efforts to grow beyond the low expectations of her family, I began to realize that a great mystery was developing. The seriousness of the protagonist's dilemma becomes more and more apparent as the story unfolds. As her quest for independence from her family and her truly villainous brother-in-law become more and more desperate, Agnes Anne grows in self-confidence and determination. However, Hartmann has created a three-dimensional character, who never loses a shade of her vulnerability. Anyone who has ever spent an hour, a year or a lifetime trying to get away from the clutches of controlling family will appreciate her dilemma. And in today's world, the portrayal of faith/religion gone from sustaining to abusive, here in one particularly bizarre family, will strike an eerie note. Hartmann knows how to handle it all with a deft touch that keeps us nervous, reading eagerly, and occasionally giggling, beginning to end. -Elise Frances Miller, author of A Time to Cast Away Stones; The Berkeley Girl: In Paris, 1968