Editorial note: I received a copy of Did You Hear About Kitty Karr? in exchange for a review. All opinions are my own.
Did You Hear About Kitty Karr? by Crystal Smith Paul is an engaging and moving read about the impact of racism on an American family. Fantastic novel.
I tend to read many of the celebrity book club picks. And I have to say I’m quite impressed with Reese’s Book Club selections as of late! I just finished her April selection, Romantic Comedy by Curtis Sittenfeld, when I saw she picked Did You Hear About Kitty Karr? for her May choice. I had recently received the ARC of it so I decided to read it next. And I’m so glad I did!
This is a very well done novel. An impressive debut that covers a wide range of topics from racism, family, fame, motherhood and more. I did not want to put this book down.
Prior to becoming a mom, I could spend hours reading books at night until the morning—knowing very well I could sleep in the next day. But I’m pretty picky on how late I’ll read a book now because I need my energy to keep with an active toddler!
However, Kitty Karr is that good that I stayed up late to read it. And no regrets—just more coffee the next day.
What’s the Story About
This is a grand, epic tale that spans multiple generations. Kitty Karr was a White actress and celebrity icon. When she passes away, the world is shocked to find out she left her massive multi-million dollar estate to her next door neighbors: the St. John sisters, three young, wealthy Black women. In fact, the entire St. John family are all famous in their own right.
So why would Kitty leave her fortune to them?
Actress Elise St. John would rather focus on sorting out Kitty’s affairs than deal with the press. But what she discovers in one of Kitty’s journals rocks her world harder than any other brewing scandal could―and between a cheating fiancé and the fallout from a controversial social media post, there are plenty.
The truth behind Kitty’s ascent to stardom from her beginnings in the segregated South threatens to expose a web of unexpected family ties, debts owed, and debatable crimes that could, with one pull, unravel the all-American fabric of the St. John sisters and those closest to them.
We mainly follow the story from the perspectives of Kitty in the past and Elise in the present. And the beginning also features Kitty’s mother, Hazel. Trigger warning of sexual assault early on in the novel.
As much as I ended up enjoying this story, I will say it was a bit of a slow start. There’s a ton of characters in the Elise storyline right at the beginning and it was a little hard to keep track of. For instance, at one point, it took me a beat too long to realize the character Sarah was Elise’s mother! So just keep that in mind that this novel puts you right in the middle of the action right away, at least for Elise’s storyline.
I actually thought Elise’s portion really picked up during the latter part of the story. It all does come together in a great way in the end.
I felt Kitty’s storyline overall was very strong and engaging. This is truly the heartbeat of the novel.
The story centers on many themes. And I think a significant one is about choices.
Kitty is born to a Black mother, however, she is light-skinned and many assume she is White. Kitty’s mother, Hazel, has been through hell and back and she wants a better life for her daughter. And to Hazel, that means Kitty should not only just ignore but erase a key part of her identity. And this has repercussions for generations to come.
For Kitty, she feels she’s left with no choice. In her opinion, events in her life happen to her and she has to figure out how to move forward. What’s interesting is a character says to Elise in the present that he doesn’t believe that—there’s always a choice to be made.
And I agree. I think while of course, there are things that happen to Kitty, she makes the choice to go along with it too.
So I’m curious to hear what are people’s overall impression of Kitty. Especially when she makes some crucial decisions in the novel.
Did You Hear About Kitty Karr? is such an interesting story that really makes you think. It shines a spotlight on a dark area of American history. I think it will foster much discussion and learning.
There is so much to talk about, debate and examine. An ideal book club book in every way. Check out my discussion questions here.