Book review: Debut novel 'Good Karma' is witty, fast-paced

"Good Karma" by Christina Kelly, whose close ties to Lee brought her to The Bookstore & Get Lit Wine Bar last summer for a book signing, is a graduate of the Iowa Writers' Workshop and an occasional contributor to the New York Times crossword section.

Shortly after she arrived with her husband Bill Kelly, a Lee native, the store was flooded with Berkshire people very eager to get their copy of the book.

It is no wonder why. "Good Karma" is witty and original, demonstrating Kelly's novel-writing ability, representing major issues confronting older people who may be retiring, commencing new lives and, perhaps, even moving away. In her "A Note from the Author" section at the end of the book, Kelly writes, "Contrary to what I expected, retirement (at least for us) wasn't relaxing into an armchair of late middle age ..." In fact, this story takes flight with just how much more adventure there really is in the transition.

In this fast-paced debut novel, she has expertly strung it all together into chapters of sparkling character development and uncannily accurate and entertaining dialogue. These characters are quirky, lovable and also excellent representations of who we all may be or people we will meet in the unpredictable and eclectic world of retirement.

The main character, Catherine, has lived a successful life with her husband, Ralph, in New Jersey for 40 years, and when it comes time for retirement, they begin the odyssey of their lives by moving to a gated community off the coast of Savannah, Ga., called Seven Oaks. The exhaustive, and so wonderfully portrayed, search for just the right home at the beginning of the novel is hilarious. In fact, as we hone in on where the characters are headed, we meet all the colorful people who become part of Catherine and Ralph's "karma." In the later stages of retirement home searching, when Catherine's beloved Boston terrier, Karma, pees at the gate of Seven Oaks community, we get the picture. At that point, we are already hooked on the powerfully building drama around Ralph's inexplicable fascination with their real estate agent, Audrey Cunningham, whose diabolical character is exquisitely spun, and the otherworldly pop-up character Amity, who appears like a kooky footnote to this already heady life transition experience, when Catherine discovers her hiding in a closet of one of the houses they are considering. Amity "visits" houses for sale to "live other people's lives."

Another character Catherine becomes involved with is Ida Blue, the pet psychic, who creates mischief of her own. But the richest character in Catherine's story is Fred Wolfe, a study in grief and angst, who owns a Great Dane called Sequoia. The dogs are always a huge relief from the humans in this story as they seem to nonchalantly bring the right magic when needed.

In her author's note, Kelly describes karma as, "unexpected gifts the universe delivers when someone is good and ready." This novel brings retirement to a new level of excitement and fun where characters suddenly "get out of their life a bit," as Amity puts it. The action-packed finale will have you out of the chair and cheering.

Colin Harrington is the events manager at The Bookstore & Get Lit Wine Bar in Lenox. He welcomes reader comments at

Read it

""Good Karma"

By Christina Kelly

Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers

310 Pages


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