Contrary to expectations raised by the title of Ann Beattie's new novel, the protagonist of My Life Starring Dara Falcon is named Jean, not Dara. This is just the first of many ironies Beattie seeds throughout this, her sixth novel. We learn of Dara Falcon's death on the first page of the novel and discover by the end of the third that in life she was manipulative, self-centered, dishonest, and amoral. But it was not Dara's bad qualities that first attracted Jean Warner to her 20 years before; in those days, Jean was a 20-year-old bride immersed in her dull but respectable husband's family and with only the vaguest sense that life was passing her by. When Dara Falcon with her mysterious past, her ebullient personality, and extravagant dreams blew into town, she becomes something of an obsession for Jean.
Befriending Dara leads to some major repercussions on Jean's life; as she says of their friendship near the end of the book: "I was interested; I was in some odd way validated: I was sometimes titillated, I admired some of the things she did and was repelled by others. Ultimately, I was had, and things spun out of control as they do when you're dealing with any volatile substance..." If at first Jean does give Dara the starring role in her own life, by the end she has come into her own and gives credit where credit is due. Socrates said the unexamined life is not worth living. Thanks to Dara Falcon, Jean Warner has plenty of reasons to live.
In her latest novel, the author of Another You combines intensely realistic description and an effortless command of mood to examine the treacherous difference between love and fascination--between what we know about other people and what we think we know. Dara Falcon is someone other people think they know. Charismatic and theatrical, she has no sooner arrived in a New England town than she is wreaking havoc in the lives of her new friend Jean and her family. As Ann Beattie follows Dara's antics, she braids subplots and vibrant characters into a work that is compassionate, tartly funny, and teeming with life.
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