The emotional honesty of this book -- in ways that will make your heart soar and stop it cold -- is startling. In a world of fiction inundated with two-dimensional women who are shopaholics, fashionistas or crime-fighting, ass-kicking FBI agents (or, God forbid, crime-fighting, ass-kicking FBI agents who wear haute couture and slink around the mall), R.J. Keller's Tess is rough-edged, whipsmart, beaten down and indomitable. She's real. You can get your arms around her.
I have two small -- very small -- nits with this book, and they're worth mentioning only in that they're what keeps me from clicking that fifth star. First, it's a bit overlong -- not in a way that makes it a lesser story, but in a way that suggests it could have benefitted from an editor as strong as the writer clearly is. Second, a good copy editor could have ironed out some of the niggling style and grammatical flaws. I sincerely doubt, however, that those held back readers. The story is powerful enough to carry the book past its blemishes.
Given what's happening in publishing these days, I suspect that eventually we'll look back on the first decade of this century as the last gasps of the "all self-publishing is crap" crowd. Books like this one are changing that perception. R.J. Keller has written something she should be very proud to call her own.