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Sex as a Second Language: A Novel [Paperback]

Alisa Kwitney

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Book Description

April 3 2007
A teacher of English as a second language, forty-year-old Katherine Miner is an expert on idiomatic phrases and subtle verbal cues. When it comes to the opposite sex, however, she's baffled enough to choose early retirement from the dating game. It's not that she hates men, it's just that she doesn't trust them. After all, her soon-to-be ex-husband has dropped all contact with their son, and her own father disappeared from her life thirty years ago. And then Kat meets Magnus Grimmson, a tall, good-looking, tongue-tied Icelander in the front row of her class. Magnus doesn't appear to pose any threat -- in fact, he seems to understand less about women than Kat does about men. But just when Kat considers risking a little intimacy, her father reappears in her life, causing unexpected complications. Emotionally torn, Kat is left to question whom she can trust -- and to realize that she still has a lot to learn about men and the kind of communication they don't teach in school.

Product Details

  • Paperback: 352 pages
  • Publisher: Washington Square Press; 1 edition (April 3 2007)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0743268946
  • ISBN-13: 978-0743268943
  • Product Dimensions: 2.4 x 13.4 x 20.6 cm
  • Shipping Weight: 318 g
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #1,797,524 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Product Description

From Publishers Weekly

Despite the appearance of stilettos and a martini within the first two pages, Kwitney's latest novel (after On the Couch) veers into less glamorous, but still humorous, territory than the initial chick lit trappings promise. Nearing 40 and in the midst of a nasty divorce from her philandering actor husband, former soap star Kat Miner takes to teaching English as a second language to support her nine-year-old son, Dashiell. In class, she meets taciturn Icelandic student Magnus Grimmson, who unbeknownst to her, is actually a secret agent sent to make contact with Kat and induce her to bring her long-estranged father—a reclusive, retired CIA agent who may have insider knowledge regarding recent political developments in Kyrgyzstan—out of hiding. Magnus, a bodice-ripper characterization compared to the refreshingly matter-of-fact heroine, falls for Kat and must navigate between his occupational duties and his romantic urges. Though Kwitney resorts to obvious plot revelation in the end, this is an engaging and intelligently written comedy—with a few genuinely titillating sex scenes. (Apr.)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Booklist

There is a history of betrayal in Kat's life. She's had no contact with her father since he left when she was 10, her ex wants all their cash but no contact with their son, and her friends aren't respectful of her needs. But she does have the support (and annoyance) of having her mother live across the hall, her job as an ESL teacher, and auditions that may give her entry back into her acting career. Although this should be sufficient complication and angst for a novel, Kwitney tosses in an attractive undercover CIA agent assigned to pose as an ESL student so he can locate Kat's father, who was also an agent. Kat needs a boarder, the agent needs a room, and the rest is the stuff that dreamy stories are made of. With the help of our love-smitten CIA agent, Kat learns a great deal about her son, her ex-husband, her friends, and herself and finds the romance that completes her life. If you are looking for a pleasant, undemanding read, this is it. Danise Hoover
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Customer Reviews

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
Amazon.com: 3.5 out of 5 stars  10 reviews
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Not your average Kwitney novel; but great nonetheless July 3 2006
By Tracy Vest - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover
On the verge of 40 and in the middle of a messy divorce from her philandering actor husband, Kat finds herself in need of additional income to provide for her son Dashiell. A teacher of English at a local institute, she still is running from one audition to another in hopes of landing that breakthrough role. With money tight, she decides to take in a border, and her two sexiest male students apply. When Icelander Magnus admits he is celibate, he immediately gets the room. But since they are attracted to each other, he is not celibate for long.

But Magnus is keeping a secret from Kat - he is actually a CIA agent assigned to find out if Kat's secret agent father has tried to contact her in hopes of bringing him out of hiding due to his knowledge of a former Russian republic. Meanwhile, she has a falling out with her two best pals, Zandra and Marcy. She also discovers that not only is her ex, Logan in New York, but he hasn't bothered to see their son in the last six months, and he cleaned out her checking account in hopes of forcing her to sell their apartment since it is the largest asset they own.

Savvy readers will see some later plot points coming a mile away. Kwitney's latest is a departure from her thirty something shoe-shopping, martini-swilling chick-lit heroines. Kat is a real woman with real problems (including a smothering mother), and draws the reader into her drama with hopes that she will get a happy ending.
4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Terrific June 9 2006
By LFL - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover
This book reminded me just how much I love Alisa Kwitney's writing. For me, her books are all about the characters, whose quirks and vulnerabilities she reveals with unusual candor. She's fearless when it comes to putting her protagonists in embarrassing situations and willing to risk having them appear foolish. And yet, Kwitney's characters never strike me as stupid, just as intelligent, insightful people whose insecurities sometimes get the better of them.

Kwitney's sly, dark humor almost always springs from human foibles and genuine fears, and so the laughs come from a place of sympathy. I never feel that she's laughing *at* her characters, or that she considers herself in any way better than they are. We are all, her books seem to say, vulnerable enough to be funny, but perceptive enough and warm enough to laugh at our own flaws.

There is something so very human and so real about the characters in Sex as a Second Language that reading it made me feel not only engaged and entertained, but also touched by the world's messy imperfections, if that makes any sense. For me this may be the best of Kwitney's chick lit novels. It's no coincidence, I think, that this is the first them not to end on a zany or farcical note. Although the humor is still very prominent, Kwitney stays with her main characters longer here, and goes deeper, I think. It feels like a more substantial book.

It is very much about the complexity of communication, the difficulty of navigating not just verbal but also nonverbal

language, about how people's unspoken signals aren't always clear to us, and our own fears get in the way, so that we don't always know what to say or do in relationship to others.

Almost everything in the book comes back to this -- Kat's job as a an ESL teacher, helping her foreign students to chart their way through Americans' values and mannerisms, her former life as an actress, in which she often felt less self-conscious (and therefore more confident) when taking on a role, Magnus's job, which requires him to get close to Kat and try to decipher her, Kat's father's letters that are written in code, the challenges Kat's son faces in the minefield of his interactions with other kids, and Magnus and Kat's relationship burnout and their past difficulties with that most intimate form of nonverbal communication -- sex.

Many romance and chick lit books are ultimately about the obstacles that stand the way of our connecting with other human beings, but few look at them with such honesty and insight. Great literature it may not be, but Sex as a Second Language is IMO a terrific book.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars not close to be good Jan. 16 2008
By Elizabeth - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover
is my first book i read from this author and to me that book was not worth the money.
the book feels almost as if you listen to one of your friends ordinary problem. the whole book through you wonder where the story is leading you to and leaves you off.
the only interesting part was when kat got in contact with her father you think as you read along that the story is picking up but to your dissapointment its slowing down quick after a few chapter.
to me its a story that has no point or purpose.
3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars A second language worth learning May 26 2006
By icefox - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover
I read four of this author's books in a row and for the most part I liked them all and probably would recommend them to other readers of chick-lit. Her stories are engaging and the writing intelligent. So why only three stars? Hard to explain. The first 3/4 of her books are wonderful but the endings tend to leave me wanting to strangle someone. Usually the friends and family of the main character. With people like that in your life, who needs enemies?! On the one hand that's great because that means I became emotionally involved in the story while I was reading it, but on the other hand it leaves me a bit frustrated once the story is finished that the less obvious "bad guys" don't quite get what I feel is their just rewards in the end.

In this particular book, I did have a small problem relating to the male lead (but that may have been a personal bias). The female lead is worthy of her story and her son realistically portrayed (although she does do one amazingly stupid thing that has me questioning her intelligence level). Her friends and family deserve to be shot (figuratively, of course...then again, in some cases maybe not so figuratively). And her ESL students are gems (flawed but beautiful).

Bottom line. Read it. It's good stuff. Whether you get it from the library for a day's entertainment or whether you buy if for your keeper collection is going to be up to the taste of the individual.
2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars "Sex " is far from trashy. June 7 2006
By Liza Hunter - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover
I had the pleasure of meeting Alisa Kwitney, and she actually gave me a advanced reading copy. Before she handed it to me, she asked if I like trashy romance novels, but I found the book far from trashy; it was real. I was sucked into the lives of the characters immediately, and by the end I did want more. The book is a fun read, and when I read it I felt like I was watching a movie. Fast, witty, and entertaining, I would definately recommend this book for anyone looking for a little fun in their library.

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