Today is All Souls Day, and it seems a good day to pay tribute to the prolific and prodigious book reviewer, Harriet Klausner, who died last week. At the time of her death, Harriet held the record for most Amazon-posted reviews, a whopping 31,014. The Washington Post tells us, “Harriet Klausner never read a book she didn’t like”—and they make this seem like a bad thing! It’s true, most of her reviews didn’t offer much in the way of helpful or constructive criticism; and some definitely had that churned-out quality. However, I think in her own crazy way, she was a compassionate and outstandingly generous reviewer, seeking to give some encouragement and attention to many writers who might otherwise be overlooked or ignored. I think to not be acknowledged, or praised by Ms. Klausner would be worse than getting a bad review from, say….Kirkus?
And what good does a vitriolic, nasty review do anyway? Does it really benefit the reader—if a book is bad, it shouldn’t be reviewed or mentioned anywhere, period. But a heartless review can really destroy an evolving writer’s resolve and self-confidence. I’m not saying there should be no negative criticism ever, but it should focus on correctable faults and omissions made by the writer, not on the reviewer’s distaste for his/her style or some personal idiosyncrasy.
And so, to pay a final tribute to dear Ms. Klauser, I reprint here, in its entirety, my own gift from Harriet herself, her take on my first novel, Secret Vow:
In 1965, recently widowed Rose Connolly Keating meets Father Ellis Barlowe on a small barrier island off the coast of Maine. Though Rose is the one who should be suffering from her recent loss (the suicide of a mentally insane spouse), it is the priest who is actually tormented by his past and the doubts they raise in his mind. Still Rose and Ellis have a torrid summer affair. However, it quickly ends because of his inability to cope with his problems, especially his illicit relationship with her. Over the years, the duo exchanges letters until Ellis suddenly stops writing for no apparent reason. In 1995, Rose is emotionally shaken by another death. She decides to see if history will repeat itself by searching for Ellis to provide her comfort. She has trouble finding her only true love, but eventually they reunite. Will passion enflame them forever? Or will this be like the first time, a short explosive fuse with no future? On the surface, SECRET VOW appears to be a typical contemporary romance that explores the ability of love to redeem two lost souls. However, the novel is less about flaming passion, and more about living by the axiom “to thine own self be true”. Kathy Cecala spins an interesting adult story that fans of women’s fiction will fully enjoy. …..Harriet Klausner
And do note that Ellis Barlowe lives on my new book—he is indeed the Novice Master himself–coming out within the next few weeks. Sorry Ms. Klausner won’t be around to review and enjoy…