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Looking Back [Abridged, Audiobook] [Audio CD]

Belva Plain , Anne Twomey
2.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (27 customer reviews)

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Book Description

December 2001
Five CDs, 6 hrs.
Performance by Anne Twomey

The novel opens with a chance meeting between two old friends. One proposes to tell the other a story about his life years ago...

Cecile, Norma, and Amanda are three college friends with varied backgrounds, whose lives become intricately intertwined when Amanda, the girl from the wrong side of the tracks, marries Norma's brother, Larry, a real-estate broker who works for his father, Laurence. When Amanda becomes pregnant as a result of an affair with Laurence, her father-in-law, her life is thrown into turmoil. After little Stevie is born, she flees, and Norma and her new husband, Lester, take care of the depressed Larry and the new baby.

Meanwhile, Cecile's loving marriage to the talented architect Roger is faltering. Roger is torn between following his father-in-law Amos' wishes to develop a railroad yard project and his own desire to preserve historic land. Finally he succumbs, and produces an amazing plan to renovate the railroad yard. But things take an odd twist when Norma, known for her phenomenal photographic memory, memorizes the plans and gives them to Larry, her brother, to use as his own in an attempt to help him restore his life and his career. Amos and Alfred, Norma's father-in-law who has been assisting Larry, have a bitter confrontation over Norma's betrayal of Roger, and the two friends part ways until a meeting years later brings them together again, and they relive all the heartbreak and pain, triumphs and joys of their lives so many years ago.

A wife's infidelity, a husband's heartbreak, the complex and interwoven lives of family and friends...Belva Plain captures them all with her unerring gaze into the heart of human relationships. Belva Plain's unrivaled power as a storyteller guarantees that she will continue to win fans and acclaim for generations to come.

Product Details

Product Description

From Amazon

In her novel Looking Back, New York Times bestselling author Belva Plain poses the question, Can friendships forged during the idyllic years of college stand the test of time--and betrayal? Recent college graduates and former roommates, classy Cecile, brainy Norma, and ambitious Amanda find their lives intimately entwined when Amanda marries Norma's older brother, Larry, to escape the unrelenting poverty of her family and the total lack of opportunities in the small southern town where she grew up. But their lives will never be the same once Amanda begins a passionate affair with her father-in-law, the cold and commanding L.B. No one escapes unscathed after Amanda confesses all, including the identity of her son's father, at a party, and Norma attempts to boost her heartbroken brother's career at the expense of Cecile's architect husband. This is Belva Plain at her twisted best, providing a bird's-eye view of the sometimes murky lives of ordinary people. If you're looking for a happy ending tied up in a pretty bow, rather than the drama that average lives occasionally take on, Looking Back and Belva Plain in general may not be for you. Loyal fans, however, will thrill to wallow once again in a world only Plain could create. --Alison Trinkle --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

From Publishers Weekly

What begins as an engaging story about three college roommates brainy Norma, lovely Amanda, preppy Cecile and their differing futures takes a bewildering turn in Plain's latest domestic saga. When the three women graduate, Amanda, desperate to escape her lower-class background, marries Larry Balsan, Norma's brother, who is in the family real estate business. As Mrs. Balsan, she can shop to her heart's content, but she soon realizes she is not as happy as Cecile, who marries her college sweetheart, or even Norma, who is biding her time until she meets Mr. Right. So far so good, but the plot is thrown off kilter when Amanda and her aloof, widower father-in-law inexplicably tumble into an affair. The awkwardness of such a union bleeds into the prose, and Plain is unable to make the twist work there is no satisfying tension or electricity between Amanda and L.B., as he is known, so their passionate affair rings false. Plain (Fortune's Hand, etc.) compounds the problems with her plot by turning the steadfast Norma into a conniving schemer who, out of misguided loyalty to her brother, undermines Cecile's husband. The flowing story line, neatly resolved problems and intriguing exploration of family relationships that readers have come to expect from Plain are absent here.

Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information, Inc.

--This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

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Customer Reviews

Most helpful customer reviews
2.0 out of 5 stars well written but depressing--great foreshadowing April 27 2004
By A Customer
Format:Audio CD
After Cecile's miscarriage, Norma profoundly thought about Peter, "..to lose yourself into another human being...to have that kind of love opens your heart for grief, but if I could feel it just once I would willingly take the risk." That about sums up the fate of all these characters. This book was a little depressing. Belva Plain takes you on an emotional roller coaster. The characters are not fleshed out well in the end, but she shows emotions and human affairs never follow logic.
Amanda was a true heroine. She loved until it hurt, then pieced her big broken heart together to start a new life without the son she loved. She out grew her hometown in Mississippi and was strong-armed into life in Michigan via marriage with the successful but boring Larry who happened to be Norma's brother. Norma thought with her beauty and Larry's love that Amanda was lucky and should want for nothing else. Amanda and Norma both wanted real love and fulfilling careers like Cecile and her husband Peter. Larry wanted the beautiful trophy wife and kids like his friends. Fearful of disappointing his father LB, he didn't use his own potential. This is why he misunderstood Amanda's need to reach her own.
LB saw Amanda for who she really was and confronted her when he could no longer put his "head over heart". They shared an intense love. In fact, their first time was so good she passed out! Unfortunately LB encouraged his son's wife to live a double life and even pass off his baby as Larry's. Too bad he was only strong on the surface. He was correct in telling Amanda she was the strong one. After the truth came out about them, he suffered the fatal stroke while she endured everyone's scrutiny.
The real shocker was Norma. The loyalty and devotion she had for her brother was blinding.
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4.0 out of 5 stars What is friendship, anyway? July 17 2002
By sskwert
Format:Mass Market Paperback
You know how some people start at the back of a magazine and thumb their way toward the beginning? Well, I am starting at the end of "Looking Back" by saying I didn't like the ending.
There were unanswered questions left in my mind regarding the various situations presented in the book. Leaving some of the characters hanging in the text doesn't suit my wants in ending an otherwise great story.
What is friendship, anyway? Belva Plain explores the friendship, which started in college, of three young women and continues into their adulthood. Differences in backgrounds provide interesting exchanges in regard to how each friend deals with similar situations. The friendship continues after college, however, as time passes each becomes more interested in things relevant to themselves. This friendship eventually reaches a point of change, rather than one of growth.
Like most of Belva Plain's other books, "Looking Back" is a book I didn't want to put down once I started reading. Some of the events in the story were anticipated, and then I had to struggle with potential outcomes. For example, even though I kept hoping a particular circumstance would or would not happen, the author generated enough uncertainty to keep me from knowing whether it would occur or not.
In spite of the ending, I liked the book. Whether you are a Belva Plain follower, or not, you will want to read "Looking Back".
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2.0 out of 5 stars I wish I had not bothered... July 1 2002
Format:Mass Market Paperback
I must say, I was very disappointed with "Looking Back". The predictable and amoral story, which follows the friendship between three women, beginning with their college graduation, left me wondering why they were even friends. While the character development was fairly good, the development of the various relationships, particularly the friendship between the girls, was shallow at best. The characters hardly seemed to know each other, both when they were roommates in college, and especially after graduating and proceeding on with their lives.
Speaking of shallow, that is a perfect word to describe most of the characters in this story. With the exception of Cecile and her husband, Peter, the characters can be grouped into one of two categories: ridiculous or spiteful...I do not know which was less appealing. Yet, the reader must endure their inane comments and thoughts. In general, the characters are neither likable nor interesting and you are left not necessarily caring about what happens to them.
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By A Customer
Format:Mass Market Paperback
What can I say? Never read a book of hers, picked it up
as a book on tape at the library, and found it to be rather
entertaining, though it's a moralizing, sermonizing, simplistic piece of work. Another reviewer said it when she pointed out that the characters seem to come from the
forties - it's real "gee whiz" and "oh gosh" kind of stuff.
Hand-wringing, gaping, gasping, wheezing...now and then
a cell phone to remind you that it's contemporary. Hello.
If you're looking for a little diversion, but don't want to have to
think very much (unless you can call her periodic sermonizing or philosophizing...."no one ever really knows another person"...thought) take this book to the beach with you. What's sad is that you know someone (the author?) worked very hard to produce this book, but it's kind of empty and charmless. The characters are all rather boring, plodding, prosaic. The visualizations are so lacking that it's hard to get a fix on them. I recommend that the author re-read her Dickens, for a lesson in descriptive characterization.
It does have a rather odd ending. So much unbelievable convolution...in a way, it was fun following the author around as she tried desperately to bring it to some sort of conclusion. I have a feeling she didn't have a clue how it would end when she began it, which can make things difficult for a writer. Though a book takes its own strange twists and turns, it helps to have a sound denoument in mind. This had an implausible ending, but hey - you won't lose much sleep worrying over it.
I suppose she needed a new swimming pool, or aluminum siding for her country house, and the advance from such a book brought in the money...had to be that, cause what else is the point?
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Most recent customer reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Looking back at the past can be very astonishing.....
This book was excellent. It touched on some very sad issues. But some of these things may very well hurt close friends and family. Read more
Published on July 18 2004 by Lorraine Brown
4.0 out of 5 stars An unusual ending to a novel
The story is kind of original, the ending is not a happy ending, therefore , we could say that it is kind of original for a novel. Read more
Published on July 2 2004
5.0 out of 5 stars A Wonderful Story
I was skeptical when I started this that I would like it at all, I figured it wouldn't be as engaging, however I wound up being drawn into the story and ended up loving it a lot! Read more
Published on May 15 2004 by Camille Davenport
4.0 out of 5 stars Well Written But Depressing
This is a great book with a great story line but it is a bit depressing. I would recommend it to anyone looking for a good read.
Published on Aug. 24 2002 by "kittycat159512"
4.0 out of 5 stars A well written novel about friends and betrayal.
A definate page turner, I did not guess the ending correctly at all! The author skillfully weaves the stories of these three friends and thier marriages. Read more
Published on Aug. 18 2002 by "oceanmarina"
1.0 out of 5 stars Not Up To Par
The author must be using a ghost writer these days. The book was not anywhere near the quality of past books. Characters were shallow and scenes were redundant. Read more
Published on July 17 2002 by Alison R. Lee
5.0 out of 5 stars Belva Plain Brought A Real Situation to Light!
I personally thought that the book was great once I got past the first couple of chapters. I was able to see the events in my mind as Belva Plain described the scenes behind the... Read more
Published on July 7 2002 by J. Kirkman
2.0 out of 5 stars I liked the beginning, but...
hated the end. The final 50 pages or so were just awful in my opinion. I was following the story, although I didn't really strongly like or identify with any individual... Read more
Published on June 26 2002
1.0 out of 5 stars Looking Bleak
I have read other Belva Plain novels, so I was so surprised at this one. It was so disappointing!! The characters were not in the least sympathetic. Read more
Published on June 17 2002
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