Have You Heart About Kitty Karr?
Grade : B-

Did You Hear about Kitty Karr? is a great idea that suffers from a disorganized storytelling and a weak modern framing story. But its portrait of colorism, racism, and life lived in a segregated America is compelling.

When storied actress Kitty Karr Tate passes away and wills her $60 million fortune to the St. John sisters, the world is confused. Kitty was just a trusted friend and neighbor of the family, a mentor to actress-model oldest sister Elise. The St. Johns have no idea why so much money has been given to them.

That is, until Elise finds herself in charge of managing Kitty’s last affairs. While cleaning out her house, she discovers a journal, and that journal reveals multiple shockers, first, that Kitty was a black woman who passed as a white one to get out of the segregated south. Even more shocking, Kitty is the St. John girl’s biological grandmother, which explains her long-held kindness toward them. While Elise tries to figure out how to handle the release of Kitty’s secrets to the public and the revelation that she’s related to the woman, she copes with a breakup, a disastrous social media mistake, and the re-entry of a very special man into her life who might ruin an upcoming Vogue Magazine shoot for her – or bring burning love back into her life.

Elise also learns of Hazel, who responded to a rape that left her pregnant by climbing into a job watching rich white people’s kids so that she could shelter her daughter, Mary, to a degree from the vagaries of life in Jim Crow-era North Carolina. Mary, after a sad fracturing of her relationship with Hazel, becomes Kitty and takes on the sexist, racist world of Hollywood. Her complicated relationship with her agent, Emma, and her multiple spouses decorate and complicate her life. Can Elise uncover Kitty’s secret past while ensuring a brighter future for herself?

Did You Hear About Kitty Karr? has a big problem – it’s a tri-generational, tri PoV novel that ought to have been told in chronological order from Hazel’s story all the way to Elise’s. And, at minimum, Elise’s story needed more forethought and attention; I found her a lot less interesting than iron-willed Kitty/Mary and Hazel. Why does Elise even have two sisters? We spend no time with them. The pacing is seriously off; we receive chapters of worldbuilding from Elise’s PoV, then shift into Kitty’s and Hazel’s for a chapter, then an incredibly important plot point is delivered in a brief letter instead of on-page in prose. I liked Elise well enough as a person, but I found her glittery life a distraction from Kitty’s rise to the top and Hazel’s grit and determination to survive. It’s bad enough that her mother, Sarah, gets little of the book’s narrative attention. We hear about how her life went through dialogue and brief flashbacks.

Also, I have no idea why the journal is established as a plot point, as we see all of the chapters from Hazel or Elise or Kitty’s points-of-view and not a whit of the book is epistolary except for Kitty’s single revelatory letter. And the doozy of a final scene, in which Elise chooses to ignore her mother’s wishes to make a point in a gambit for generational healing, feels abrupt.

But this is a powerful book that beautifully captures the horrors of racism, the tight bonds that tie us generationally, the nightmare that colorism causes in the Black community. Kitty is such a strong and loveable central heroine, Hazel is impossible not to sympathize with, Elise is a good person, and the history is immaculately delivered. The story is addictive, and it contains two sweet central romances that are somewhat beside the point. But Did You Hear about Kitty Karr? needs a little bit more seasoning to be a truly unforgettable read.

Reviewed by Lisa Fernandes

Grade: B-

Sensuality: Warm

Review Date : May 5, 2023

Publication Date: 05\2023

Review Tags: AoC PoC

Recent Comments …

  1. I’ve not read The Burnout, but I’ve read other Sophie Kinsella’s books and they are usually hilarious rather than angsty…

Lisa Fernandes

Lisa Fernandes is a writer, reviewer and recapper who lives somewhere on the East Coast. Formerly employed by Firefox.org and Next Projection, she also currently contributes to Women Write About Comics. Read her blog at http://thatbouviergirl.blogspot.com/, follow her on Twitter at http://twitter.com/thatbouviergirl or contribute to her Patreon at https://www.patreon.com/MissyvsEvilDead or her Ko-Fi at ko-fi.com/missmelbouvier
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