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"A Likely Story" | Reviewed by Chris Stuckenschneider

Author Leigh Abramson captivates in her new book “A Likely Story” laying bare the double-edged sword of notoriety, at once a blessing and a curse.

Being famous is important to Ward Manning. He’s a household word—an esteemed writer, rich and successful, 19 books to his name, a “New York Times” bestselling author many times over. Now in his 70s, Ward is concerned he’s a wash-up, his book sales decreasing with each new Manning title that’s released. As the deadline for his new manuscript looms, writer’s block does a number on Ward’s psyche.

Further stymying Ward’s creativity is grief over the sudden death of his lovely wife Claire, the glue that held the family together. Ward turns to the bottle for solace, instead of reaching out to his daughter, Isabella, an aspiring author in her own right.

Work has always been more important to Ward than family, and Claire accepted this, put on a brave face and played the dutiful, supportive wife, but inside she’s churned with regret and resentment. Ward’s ego needs constant stroking and he turns to fans and positive reviews for flattery, his hunger for praise intensifying in his literary wasteland.

Isabella has always had her father on a pedestal, something her mother clearly sees and inwardly reputes, but Claire won’t burst her daughter’s bubble. Claire understands Ward’s foibles, sees him for what he is, yet chooses to keep his secret, a deception that would end his career.

Moving back and forward in time, we get to know the Mannings as a couple, Claire ever the classy half of the marriage, supporting her egotistical husband at every turn until a near-tragic accident. After Claire’s death, Isabella tries her best to get published, but receives no help or encouragement from her father, who is driven to write a bestseller and win back the accolades he once enjoyed. For support, Isabella depends on her longtime friend Brian, a puppy dog of a guy who’d like to be more than a friend to Isabella.

“A Likely Story” is the beautifully written story of a family in crisis—Ward, Claire and Isabella complex, but entirely human, riddled with frailties and desires that lead them to make unwise, unethical choices. Entirely readable and profound, this moving, insightful book is not to be missed. Abramson is a writer to watch.

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