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I Smile Back

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3.06  ·  Rating Details ·  426 Ratings  ·  73 Reviews
“Koppelman mostly writes from inside Laney's disillusioned mind, ricocheting between the quotidian details of wife and motherhood and big-picture musings, forming exquisite stand-alone tone poems." —Elle

"[Koppelman's] brave and challenging look beyond appearances of beauty to the ugly reality of a disturbed mind will remain with readers long after they've finished the book
...more
Paperback, 194 pages
Published December 1st 2008 by Two Dollar Radio (first published January 1st 2008)
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Two Dollar Radio
26th out of 47 books — 30 voters
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4th out of 28 books — 5 voters


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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 1,234)
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Taffy
Jul 21, 2009 Taffy rated it it was amazing
I started reading this book at take-off on a 4 hour flight. I did not put it down, not even for Delta drinks, not even for Delta snacks nor movies, not until I had finished reading all 188 pages upon landing. If I had not finished, I would have sat in the concourse until I had. It is a powerful account of a tortured, smart, cynical venomous, loving married mother of two beautiful children who seems to have it all, except in her psyche. That may sound like a book no one would ever want to read, b ...more
Chrissi Sepe
Jan 09, 2016 Chrissi Sepe rated it it was amazing
Amy Koppelman's “I Smile Back” is the story about what goes on inside the mind of Laney who lives in Short Hills, New Jersey, with her husband, Bruce, and their two small kids, Eli and Janey. Laney leads a privileged life but doesn't know what she should be doing with it. It's not how she imagined it would be – or actually, it is exactly how she imagined it would be – but she thought she would be happier. These thoughts cause her to reject living in the present and instead to dwell on the past. ...more
Yossi Gremillion
Sep 01, 2015 Yossi Gremillion rated it it was amazing
Shelves: adult-fiction
Very, very dark and very, very lovely writing. The reader is compelled to identify and sympathize with Laney, a depressed, alcoholic and drug-addicted housewife, who has it all but is unhappy. Heartbreakingly beautiful.
Adrianna
Mar 14, 2010 Adrianna rated it did not like it
Recommends it for: Mature Adults
Recommended to Adrianna by: Eureka, CA Library
Shelves: fiction
This is a rather cryptic and mysterious book. It reads like poetry and explores the "messed up" mind of Laney, a suburban housewife and the protagonist. I Smile Back has an air of Sylvia Plath and Kate Chopin but it is not as artistically or engagingly written.

The book is structured like a play in three sections:

* "Act One: North Jersey, Labor Day, 2002"
* "Intermission"
* "Act Two: North Jersey, Five Weeks Later"

The setting of New Jersey is average enough but extremely important. The suburban loc
...more
Lisa
Jan 26, 2009 Lisa rated it did not like it
I can't remember the last time I read a book I disliked as much as I disliked this one. After 188 pages, you haven't gotten any where. The language is vulgar, the sex graphic and neither of those things is necessarily needed in the context of the book. If it's necessary, then I don't have a problem with it, but I really felt it could have been toned down here. I didn't like the writing style. I felt like Koppelman couldn't decide if she was writing poetry or prose and a great deal of the writing ...more
Amy
Mar 01, 2015 Amy rated it it was amazing
This book is so different than anything else on my list--every sentence is perfect, yet many are, well, jarring. It's a shorter book, but instead of racing through, as I thought I would, I lingered, because although so much is on the page, there's even more that's left for us to put together. The movie just premiered at Sundance to rave reviews, and I wanted to read the book first.
Julia
Nov 29, 2015 Julia rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2015
I would say this is somewhere between a 3.5 and a 4. It's a compelling book, and finishes very strong. The prose is both difficult and beautifully fluid, at varying times, sometimes at the same time. The story and the characters are uncomfortable in so many ways.
Kimberly Jackson
Aug 11, 2011 Kimberly Jackson rated it really liked it
This is was a sad but interesting story. My heart went out to the character. It is a must read.
Jennifer
Jun 11, 2012 Jennifer rated it really liked it
If you want a read a happy book about the life of a happy suburban housewife and mother, this isn't it. However, if you want to be introduced to a screwed up woman who becomes a suburban housewife and mother, this is definitely it. As none of those things myself, and further with no aspirations to be either, I always tend to want to read the disgruntled versions of such lifestyles. It strikes more real to me than a modern version of "Leave It to Beaver." There's very few on the market and I was ...more
warmdesertwinds
Jan 01, 2016 warmdesertwinds rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: sociopaths
Shelves: fiction
God. Why did I even bother finishing this thing?

Almost 200 pages about a rich, bored, cheating, sociopathic housewife whom you learn to hate more and more with each turn of a page.
Koppelman writes as if she's trying to be Sylvia Plath, but you can't help but cringe when the subject matter is about coke, fake tits, and SUVs.

All I got out of this book was the urge to throw it at the main character.

Girl. You're married. You're rich. You've got a beautiful, healthy family. Yeah you're depressed an
...more
The Librarian
Feb 26, 2009 The Librarian rated it it was ok
Shelves: general-fiction
Several reviews cited this novel as having strong feminist overtones. Unfortunately, I found those statements to be untrue. The main character is hell-bent to destroy herself and her current life, but it's not because she's rebelling against suburbia, necessarily. She feels as if she needs something "other" even though this was the life she had chosen for herself. Her family is a loving, supportive one.

To me, this was a book about self-loathing not a "an unrestrained statement on the modern subu
...more
Kate
Mar 27, 2010 Kate rated it did not like it
I picked this up, because I was excited to find a brand new author, published by an independent press at the Queens library. They don't have much at our local branch, so it was nice to see something unexpected. This book was lame. The ending made me angry, I didn't like the main character at all, it used 9/11 in a cliched and annoying way that the author obviously thought was edgy. The only reason I'm not giving it zero stars is because the only book I've ever given zero stars to is 'The Secret, ...more
Vicki
Sep 12, 2016 Vicki rated it liked it
3 1/2 stars - The prose and the language was beautifully structured, but the story line was quite depressing and unresolved, making it hard to give this book a higher rating.
Julie
Jun 09, 2009 Julie rated it really liked it
Shelves: audiobooks
A dark look inside a woman who isn't happy with the standard suburban life. I really enjoyed the fact that Koppelman wasn't afraid to show the really dark side of the woman, and didn't have to force some false happy ending. I'm sure not many want to admit this, but I did relate to the protagonist in a lot of ways. Many may not be able to understand why she acts or reacts the way she does (some may call it "lashing out"), but it seemed very real to me. Not everyone gets a happy ending, and not ev ...more
Stephanie Marshall Ward
Laney Brooks is a privileged suburban wife and mom, surrounded by all the elements of a charmed life. A husband who, while flawed, is tenaciously devoted to her. Two small children. Abundant financial comfort. A nanny for her four-year-old (although she doesn’t work for pay). It’s an embarrassment of riches. Yet she’s hanging on by her fingernails. She self-medicates her anxiety and depression — and probable bipolar disorder — with alcohol, Xanax, and cocaine. Drinking. Drugging. F**king men she ...more
Bridgette
Feb 11, 2016 Bridgette rated it liked it
I read this after finding out about the movie, which comes out in a few weeks. The previews looked pretty intense and yes, the book is intense. (Ok the fact that Josh Charles is in the movie really is what caught my eye! He's a great-looking man.)

This book is a story of the mental illness and addiction of a woman who is trying to simultaneously love her family and destroy everything around her, including herself. (Childhood trauma lasts a lifetime, people. If you have kids you better clean up yo
...more
Hosho
Feb 19, 2015 Hosho added it
I Smile Back is, by any measure, a difficult book. In terms of subject matter it pushes boundaries, pushes against preconceived (and long celebrated) notions of motherhood. At the core, it's a kind of revenge story...maybe against motherhood, maybe against the American Dream, or maybe just against that juvenile concept we all indulged when younger about what we wanted, and who we thought we would be. The subject matter will put some readers off. Which I don't mind. I don't think every book shoul ...more
Sarah Phelan
Dec 29, 2015 Sarah Phelan rated it really liked it
It's a good, well-written piece about a modern woman struggling with depression, addiction, and dissatisfaction. The language is lovely, but any joy is hard to find in the story, which makes it tough to experience, and yet, very real.
Kay
Jan 12, 2016 Kay rated it really liked it
Fascinating. Couldn't put it down.
Stefanie
Dec 27, 2011 Stefanie rated it liked it
-at points not at all engaging
-at points too engaging
-definitely not at all as obscene as people are making it out to be! some... questionable parts, but not enough for a lot of people to be offended by. but then again, i dont think anything can be as crude as chad kultgens "the lie"
Joshua
Jan 06, 2009 Joshua rated it really liked it
This was my favorite title from 2008. Sordid and lean and devastating. Koppelman has the wonderful talent to include the story's necessities, yet always leaves space for inference and extrapolation on the reader's part.

Sarah
Nov 21, 2010 Sarah rated it it was ok
Shelves: adult-fiction
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Kathryn Stern
May 27, 2009 Kathryn Stern rated it it was amazing
This book was written by a friend of mine. Harrowing and desolate, in razor sharp prose, the story of one woman's desperate attempts to find meaning in her life. Amy is a gorgeous writer of spare poetic prose.
Mattie
Dec 18, 2009 Mattie rated it liked it
Not a bad book by any means, but an unsettling one. Laney Brooks isn't a character anyone should like. A fast-paced read, but one that will leave you with a bad taste in your mouth.
Amy Scissors
Jul 04, 2016 Amy Scissors rated it it was ok
This book is basically the lovechild of Betty Friedan and Sylvia Plath. I pulled it off the shelf at the library because I recognized the title from a movie in Netflix starring Sarah Silverman. I enjoy reading books and then comparing them to the film adaptations, but I honestly don't think I could stomach the film made from this novel. The novel is unsettling, I'll give it that. Many of the thoughts, feelings, and actions of the main character serve as an interesting but somewhat tired commenta ...more
Tammy
Nov 11, 2013 Tammy rated it it was amazing
Heartbreaking and sad, this story stays with you long after you've finished it. One of those rare books that I will go back and read again.
M Robert
Nov 21, 2015 M Robert rated it really liked it
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Bryan
Jan 10, 2016 Bryan rated it liked it
I say this movie (starring Sarah Silverman). It only played at one theater in the area so many people might not even know it was a movie. It was good, but lacked that emotional factor that I thought could have put it over the edge. I read the book, thinking that it would give more insight to Laney, the film's protagonist. It did in a way, but not nearly enough. I remembered almost nothing from the book even a few months later. However, if you like fictional movies about people dealing with menta ...more
Noel
Nov 20, 2015 Noel rated it it was amazing
Dark look into an unhappy soul. Not a Hollywood ending.
Joan
Jun 05, 2009 Joan rated it really liked it
Very different A little off the wall but I enjoyed it.
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my reiew on this novel 1 1 Sep 06, 2016 10:01AM  
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Amy Koppelman is the author of two critically acclaimed novels, A Mouthful of Air and I Smile Back. She received her undergraduate degree from University of Pennsylvania, and an MFA in fiction from Columbia University. Koppelman and her screenwriting partner adapted I Smile Back for the screen. The film, starring Sarah Silverman, premiered at the 2015 Sundance, Toronoto and Deauville Film Festival ...more
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