I Smile Back
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I Smile Back

2.68 of 5 stars 2.68  ·  rating details  ·  134 ratings  ·  35 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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Mar 14, 2010 Adrianna rated it 1 of 5 stars
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
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
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
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
-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"
Kimberly Jackson
This is was a sad but interesting story. My heart went out to the character. It is a must read.
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
Laney Brooks is not a character most people are going to like, and even fewer will respect. When we meet Laney, she is spending her days drinking in her closet, cheating on her husband, and snorting coke before she goes to pick up her kids. The book follows Laney through her bottom and into rehab, and then back into her life again as she struggles to deal not only with her substance abuse, but with the reasons why, which she thinks goes back to when her father left the family. Frankly, Laney is...more
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
Audrey Glick
Laney seems to be living the good life. She is married to her high school sweetheart who is a successful insurance man and author, she has two beautiful and bright children, a home in the suburbs. Yet she suffers from self-loathing and cynicism and buries her pain in cocaine, alcohol and affairs. A month in rehab is not enough to turn her around. This dismal character never redeemed herself and I did not care about her or any of the other characters, either. I gave it an extra star because the...more
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
Apr 30, 2009 Maria added it
disappointing... the back cover summary got me excited, but its very prose-y. Extremely depressing at times and the protagonist is the only well-developed character, which perhaps the author intends. Although some of her sadness and self-hating at times can appear beautifully written by the author, she demands little sympathy and certainly little deserved sympathy. Overall, a not interesting or engaging read.
Laney Brooks has two children, a slightly overweight but loving husband, and the home of her dreams. Despite living the American Dream, she has found it to be a stifling nightmare that requires affairs, drugs, and faked happiness to survive. An engagingly realistic look at the life of suburbia, after the glory years have faded and one begins to question what there is left to live for in life.
Lori Wilson
Story about a woman who is frustrated within her roles as wife and mother, but has severe anxiety issues. She uses alcohol and sex outside of her marriage to make herself feel better. I consider myself to be a pretty non-judgmental person but I couldn't stop myself from thinking she needed to get over herself!! You have a nice house, a great hubby and two kids...that IS life!
Charmaine Sabas
There is not really any morals or even a story, in fact, behind this book. But, is written from a perspective of suburban wife. In my opinion, it is not worth reading. Some parts of the book are really difficult to understand and puzzle the pieces together. This would probably be a movie on the LMN movie network and probably not in your best interest to read.
A Sam-Mendes-like cautionary tale of suburbia: The story of an adult woman who lives in North Jersey and struggles with fidelity and drugs in her marriage; a consequence of a broken relationship with her father. There is an eerie sense that the book is auto-biographical keeps you engaged until the unforgettable ending.
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.

This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Eileen Granfors
Warning: This book is highly sexually explicit. The details fit the character, but this is not a book for the squeamish. For more about this book, see my review on amazon.com under the title and my reviewer's name, EGranfors.
Tom Hancock
A scary story of infidelity and addiction. Made me wonder if sometimes rehab makes things worse. I like the way Ms. Koppleman tells the story in a near minimalist style with insight as opposed to melodrama.
Kathryn Stern
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.
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.
I wish there were 3.5 stars because that's what this should get. The prose was at times amazing and at times confusing. Still definitely worth a read just for the modern Bell Jar concept.
Kathleen Dixon
My daughter found this book in the library, and it's totally not the kind of book she usually reads, nor that I do. It's weel-written, but rather depressing.
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.
This was just kind of a messed up story. The writing wasn't bad, but it's not a feel-good kind of book.
Pamela Nicks
Interesting. Disturbing at times. Graphic. Good view into a f'd up way of thinking of a trophy wife.
B-/C+ I'm not sure what to think of this book. The writing was good, but this plot…I don't know.
I saw no reason to finish this. The language was poetic, but the plot didn't hold me.
Suburban wife and mother living a facade but has self destructive behavior.
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