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Little Known Facts
By Christine Sneed
Reviewed by Travis Fortney
Evanston author Christine Sneed's debut novel Little Known Facts follows a year or so in the life of Hollywood megastar Renn Ivins and the people around him, including his son Will, his daughter Anna, his ex-wives Lucy and Melanie, a set assistant named Jim, his current lover Elise, and Will's girlfriend Danielle. Chapters of the novel are told in each of these characters' points of view, and Renn plays larger-than-life role in all of their lives. There's not a whole lot in the way of plot. They all sleep with someone, Renn with almost everyone, and they all work toward "finding themselves" in the way that the ultra-privileged do--living for awhile in Paris, creating a charitable foundation to help hurricane victims, going to medical school to help underprivileged children, etc., etc. This isn't the type of novel that I would usually choose to read, but reading outside of of your usual genre can sometimes lead to pleasant surprises. Little Known Facts could have taken the form of a gossipy tell-all or a familiar-sounding satire, but it manages to be much more than that. It's a touching story about a son attempting the impossible task of measuring up to his father, a daughter trying to live outside of his shadow and influence, two ex-wives trying to cope with his infidelity and abandonment, and a young starlet wondering if she can trust her feelings for him. Ms. Sneed proves herself a deft talent at managing all of these points of view, and seeing Renn through all of these different lenses makes the reader want to understand what makes him tick as much as all of the characters do. There's a real sense of fun on every page, Ms. Sneed never goes for the cheap or easy thrills, and the writing is clean and engaging.
This novel will especially appeal to those readers who've lived with a larger-than-life persona in their own life. One's relationship with such a person can often be complex, quickly vacillating between love, jealousy, a kind of wonder, something like hate, intellectual curiosity, and simple financial dependence. Ms. Sneed does a wonderful job of capturing all this. Little Known Facts is the rare book that manages to be a both a breezy summer read and a probing literary novel. I heartily recommend it to US Weekly devotees, dedicated literary snobs, and everyone in between.
Out of 10: 9