Harlots’ Sauce Radio Book Review ~ May 2009


How to Buy a Love of Reading by Tanya Egan Gibson


Review by Patricia Volonakis Davis

Gibson’s debut novel appealed to me on many levels – as a writer, as a teacher, as an observer of human minutiae, as a person who grew up on NY’s Long Island, and as a long time Gatsby fan. The plot revolves around a teenage girl, Carley Wells, whose very nouveau-riche indeed parents, in a ‘money can get us whatever we need’ scheme, hire a professional writer who agrees to allow Carley to make up her own story for the writer to write. They believe this act of literary prostitution is going to turn their disinterested daughter into a lover of books.

Apart from that unique plot twist, this is a standard teenage angst story of “poor little rich girl”, but the mechanics of the plot are made more intriguing by the means the writer executes to convey them. She makes no apologies for the fact, nor does she need to, that her model is F. Scott Fitzgerald. Instead, the orchestration is a clear tribute to him, via the section quotes, and the descriptions of Long Island that perhaps only a native of the area with a colorful eye and a sharp pen, as well as an impressive command of language could achieve. It takes sweat and skill to make the setting of a story as colorful as its characters, and Gibson achieves this, in my opinion, as well as her mentor in any of his celebrated books.

As a former high school English teacher myself, I spotted right off that the author, if not a teacher of that age group also, had either some very keen memories of being a teen, and was able to reflect and analyze herself and her classmates years later, or simply that she has a compassionate view of her former pupils. In an interview with her I learned it was the latter, and I then appreciated the writing on yet an additional level. This book would be an excellent choice for a high school class reading ─ the story appealing enough to keep the attention of its easily-distracted audience, while at the same time a perfect vehicle for a savvy teacher to teach not only vocabulary, but the structure of a good novel and the elements of style.

If I have one criticism it would be that the manuscript might have benefited from another once over by an editor who could be extremely objective and cull out some of the overly long bits. But I imagine it was difficult for even a good editor to be objective about this story, because Gibson is a “writer’s writer”, and her skill a force with which to be reckoned. I hope that this novel is only the beginning of her writing career. Harlots Sauce Radio will have the pleasure of airing a podcast interview with Tanya Egan Gibson later this summer.

How to Buy a Love of Reading (Dutton 2009) hardcover, ISBN: 978-0-525-95114-8, 352 pages, will be available on May 14, 2009 in all retail outlets and is now available for preorder online. Click the book cover below to see its page on amazon.com, more details, and to order the book.

To view the book’s interactive and fun website and add a story of your experiences with a book you loved, visit  How To Buy A Love of Reading.  Also enjoy the book trailer below:


Last 5 posts by Harlots Sauce Radio Book Reviewers

Last 5 posts by Harlots Sauce Radio Book Reviewers