Does She or Doesn't She?

The Dominant Blonde

On the Couch

Flirting in Cars
by Alisa Kwitney
(Washington Square Press, $11, PG-13) ISBN 978-0743268974
Zoe Goren is a city girl. She speaks several foreign languages, has traveled the world over as a foreign correspondent, orders takeout, and has never driven a car. She thinks of Ne York City as its own, perfect, universe.

When she finds herself plunked down in a small town in upstate New York, Zoe is lost. And depressed. And even more lost. Unfortunately, her research assures her that the school there is the best for children with learning disabilities, such as dyslexia. And, though Zoe doesn't think much of her daughter riding horseback every day or attending classes with no books present, she'll stay in BFE if that's what Maya needs.

In Arcadia, Zoe also finds John-Mackenna-call-me-Mack. Mack's a decade younger than Zoe, suffers a bit from Peter Pan syndrome, and suffers more from the PTSD he has courtesy of the ongoing war with Iraq. Mack downplays a lot of things - his years in the Army, his relationships with friends and girlfriends, and the necessity for a real job.

The two of them have little, if nothing, in common. Just in case her insistence that she's moving back to the city once Maya gets caught up with her reading skills isn't enough, Zoe is intellectual, mouthy, rebellious, and a little bohemian with a touch of snobbery. Mack is reserved, has to have her explain words to him and refuses to take a full-time job as a paramedic, volunteering part-time as an EMT in Arcadia instead.

Zoe thinks he'll make a good one-night stand; Mack's finally emerging from hibernation, and he's thinking Zoe looks a little more long-term than that.

Kwitney knows people; it's clear from the very beginning of Flirting in Cars. Her characters are vivid, not because they're superheroes or sirens or damsels in distress, but because they're so real. Zoe is an intellectually confident and informed woman who is self-conscious about her appearance; she also has a tendency to fly off the handle, despite her excessive knowledge and resources. Mack seems very typical (at least, through the eyes of a twentysomething with a friend himself not too far removed from the Iraq war), but the way he is seen by different characters throughout the book shows how very faceted "typical" actually is.

Though Flirting in Cars revolves around Zoe's relationships - with her daughter, Mack, her overbearing mother, her estranged father, her New York friends as well as the people she meets in Arcadia - Mack is also a very central and satisfying character. And, though there isn't a big, exciting, action-filled plot, Zoe and her quirks and the tangle of her life are fascinating enough reading to keep this reader, at least, engrossed. Flirting in Cars, like its characters, is a myriad of things: joyful, fun, funny, disheartening, even sad at times. It should appeal to readers - particularly women - of most ages and social backgrounds, and, I believe, will send many searching for other titles by Kwitney.

--Sarrah Knight

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