Cover Image: Did You Hear About Kitty Karr?

Did You Hear About Kitty Karr?

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Member Reviews

Did You Hear About Kitty Karr is told through multiple perspectives and multiple timelines. Of the two most important perspectives, one follows the legendary movie star Kitty Karr’s rise to fame and her career as an actress. The other follows three black sisters who have inherited Kitty’s entire estate after her death. Everyone, including the sisters, wants to know why Kitty would leave her entire fortune to three women who were already very wealthy before inheriting Kitty’s fortune.

I’m going to make this review short: There’s a reason that every time I’ve seen this book mentioned the person discussing it has said something similar to “If you like Passing and The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo you’ll love Did You Hear About Kitty Karr!” Everyone says that. And I think they’re right because if you’ve read Passing and you’ve read The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo you’ve already read this. I really like both of those books so I think that it’s almost impossible to combine them and end up with a bad book as a result. But I don’t think I can give this book any credit at all for originality. I didn’t hate it but I could’ve gone without reading it without missing out on anything.

I recommend Did You Hear About Kitty Karr if you’ve never read either Passing or The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo. If you’ve read both of those books I don’t think you have a reason to read this.

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I liked this one a lot! This is not a genre that I read a lot, and at the beginning it felt a little slow to go for me. However, I'm really glad I stuck with it because in the end it was worth it.

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Thank you to Net Galley, the author, and the publisher for an ARC in exchange for an honest review!

Did You Hear About Kitty Karr? sort of immediately throws you into its larger plot, introducing you to a cast of characters that is initially somewhat difficult to keep track of. Kitty Karr, famed white actress, has died and left her entire estate to the St. Johns, the black family that lives next door. Given that Elise, one of the daughters, is currently in talks to win an Oscar for a recent performance, the media is buzzing with questions surrounding this decision.

However, it's not long before we're given the real meat of the novel -- Kitty's story. We're given insight into the actress' past, specifically her big secret. Unbeknownst to the general public -- and nearly everyone that knew her -- Kitty was half-black. However, like so many others (as the network of women she eventually aligns with would indicate), she has the ability to "pass" as Caucasian, opening up more opportunities, specifically within the entertainment industry. We see Kitty transition from being a naive, cautious woman to a true advocate and trailblazer within her field, attempting to open as many doors in her wake as possible.

I've read Nella Larsen's Passing, as well as Brit Bennett's modern take on the concept (The Vanishing Half). And while I don't think this book is as good as either of those, I do feel it deserves a similar respect in its ability to present crucial insight into a not-so-glamorous aspect of our nation's history. I think I would have enjoyed the book more were it not for the pacing. I also enjoyed the Mary/Kitty chapters significantly more than the Elise ones (though I understand the importance of bringing readers back to the present).

That said, if you're unfamiliar with a lot of concepts regarding race -- specifically, the practice of passing -- this book offers a thorough, entertaining, and informative view.

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A HUGE thank you to NetGalley and Henry Holt & Co for the opportunity to read and review this marvelous book.

The gist: Kitty Karr, a White Hollywood star, has died. She’s left her entire estate to the wealthy, Black St. John sisters, and it raises a lot of questions. Elise St. John digs deeper and deeper into Kitty’s past and discovers something that could potentially rock her - and her family’s - world.
This one is definitely worth it. It’s touted as a “multigenerational” story and this is a perfect way to describe it. It flips back and forth between Kitty’s life in the 1950s, and Elise’s in 2017. This book covers themes of old Hollywood, family, race, and gender. And it’s definitely worth the read. I loved reading about Kitty's life story, her transformation, her struggles... it was such an emotional and beautiful story and I love that she stayed connected to her family all throughout the story. Elise's story running parallel to Kitty's was a perfect way to tell this story. The majority of the book's chapters focus on Kitty, with Elise's POV sprinkled in throughout, as she's discovering more and more about Kitty's life. I'd recommend this for anyone who read and loved Evelyn Hugo.

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This is going to be a difficult review for me to write, because I wanted to love this book so much. I went into it with high expectations (especially after seeing comparisons to another book that I loved), but ultimately it was just not quite there for me.

The book is told in alternating timelines. We have a present-day (2017) storyline and then a storyline in the past (1940s-1950s, mostly). I actually really loved the timeline set in the past. Those were the best parts of the book, and when the book stayed in the past for an extended amount of time, I became the most engaged and interested in it. The parts set in the past were so good that if the current day timeline had been as good, this could have been a 5-star read for me.

So obviously, the problem for me was with the 2017 timeline. That storyline didn't flow at all. It felt disjointed and confusing at several points throughout the book. The best way I can describe it is that it felt like an afterthought. Not just the overall storyline, but several separate aspects of the storyline. While I understand the purpose of the present-day timeline, it just could have been done so much better and elevated the entire book, rather than taking away from what was otherwise an excellent read. The present-day timeline was weak, disordered, and included several minor, unnecessary characters. In fact, I would often forget who people were in the later timeline because they were of such minor importance to the story.

That all being said, the older timeline was so very good. I felt like I learned a lot more about passing, which is something that I've read about in other books, but they didn't tackle it with the depth that this book did. It gave me a new perspective on the risks that people had to make, the things that they had to give up, and the difficult decisions that had to make as their lives progressed.

I think this book has a lot to teach people and I think the parts set in the past and the character of Kitty Karr are so interesting that even with my dislike of the secondary storyline, I'd still recommend this book. I think if you go into it knowing that the present-day timeline is not of great importance (and not very interesting), you can be less concerned about it and enjoy the rest of the book.

Thank you to Henry Holt & Company and NetGalley for the advanced copy of this book in exchange for my honest review.

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I'm going to be honest, I didn't love Elise's story. I couldn't connect with her as a character at all. I did absolutely love Mary/Kitty's storyline though. Overall, it was a good read and I would recommend it.

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This book is fantastic!! Crystal Smith Paul shares the mind blowing, powerful and historically significant story of black Americans who passed and used their privilege to influence America's view on race. The book was such a sweeping and emotional story, with attention to the small details and lots of character development. Easily one of the top books from 2023. Already hoping there’s a sequel to learn what happens next!

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3.5 stars

The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo meets The Vanishing Half in this debut novel about the life of a Hollywood starlet and the mystery she leaves behind for the three St. John sisters and the wider world.

When Kitty Karr, a moviestar from the golden age of Hollywood, passes, she leaves her immense fortune to the St. John sisters: Elise, Giovanni, and Noele. While Kitty was a grandmother figure who lived next door to the St. John family, the world is baffled as to why the white Hollywood legend left her fortune to three Black women of no relation to her. Of course, the media hides their racism by simply saying she should have left it to Charity, rather than three women who are already millionaires in their own right. But that doesn’t stop Elise from being under an immense amount of pressure, while she also delves into Kitty’s past to discover the answer to her own questions.

This review is difficult to write because half of this book shined and the other half flopped. The historical fiction portions, which followed Kitty in her childhood, her move to California, and her eventual rise to stardom, were completely captivating. Before we get to Kitty, we first follow the lives of Hazel and Mary, a Black mother and daughter pair living in North Carolina in the 1940s. I don’t want to spoil anything, but it becomes clear pretty quickly (I think, at least) how they are connected to Kitty. That portion of the novel also focuses on the love they have for each other, and the struggles of living under segregation.

I think the real strength of Did You Hear About Kitty Karr is that it portrays the wide variety of experiences and choices of Black women in America. It specifically shows different women in similar situations who make completely different choices, and really delves into their reasoning of why they made the choices they did without demonizing one or the other. One of the major themes of the novel is passing, and it explores the many different reasons someone would choose to pass or not. If you can’t tell, it is very hard to discuss the themes of the novel without giving any spoilers. But suffice it to say the novel presents many thought provoking conversations on race and the experiences of Black women in America, both past and present. From segregation, to passing, to the Black lives matter movement, the author really shined in the thematic elements of the novel.

However, there was a significant downfall of the novel, and that was in the modern portions. There was a significant and obvious downgrade in the quality of the chapters focusing on Elise. They literally felt like they had been either inserted or entirely re-written much more recently, and thus did not feel fully developed. They read as quickly slapped together, which was evident in the lack of coherency and eloquence in the prose. Often, sentences barely made sense. But more than that, the plot itself felt poorly constructed, and I couldn’t understand much of the point beyond giving us the perspective after Kitty’s death. There was some drama between Elise and her fiance, and a romantic plot with Elise and another man, and that all distracted from what I was really interested in, which was Elise’s relationship with her sisters and her personal response to Kitty’s death. I can only hope that further revisions were made between the advanced copy I received and the final publication. It is truly a shame, because if the quality of the modern portion had been the same as the historical ones, it could have been a stellar book, rather than just a good one.

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Short synopsis: The famous actress Kitty Karr dies, and leaves all her assets to the St John sisters (three young black women). Many questions begin to arise about who Kitty was before stardom.

My thoughts: This book was completely unexpected to me. I assumed it was kitty’s life going through the ranks to her rise to stardom, but it was so much more.

We get a multigenerational story about Blacks in the early 1940s trying to find their way in a segregated world and create a better life for their kids. I learned a lot about the difficulties of trying to pass as whites and some of the risks involved.

Read if you love:
- Old Hollywood
- Multigenerational stories
- Debut stories
- Hidden secrets
- Creating a better life for yourself

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I was really excited to read this, it sounded like something RIGHT up my alley. Unfortunately I could not get into this. I did try to listen to it on audio but unfortunately that also didn't work for me. The narrator needed a lot of editing and it was just very distracting to try to get into a book I was already having an issue getting into.

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DNF at 24%. Was not a fan of the writing at all, and despite trying to keep going, I must quit. Very disappointed.

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Wonderful storytelling of the difficult and unfair dichotomy of white and black women living in the south during the 40s/50s.

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Oh I wanted to love this book. But the writing was really disjointed and confusing. I felt like there were way too many characters and I was confused most of the time. I liked the plot but I think the execution was just haphazard.

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"𝓟𝓮𝓸𝓹𝓵𝓮 𝓬𝓱𝓪𝓷𝓰𝓮; 𝓽𝓱𝓪𝓽'𝓼 𝓵𝓲𝓯𝓮. 𝓑𝓾𝓽 𝓫𝓮𝓲𝓷𝓰 𝔀𝓱𝓸 𝔀𝓮 𝓪𝓻𝓮 𝓬𝓱𝓪𝓷𝓰𝓮𝓼 𝔂𝓸𝓾 𝓲𝓷 𝔀𝓪𝔂𝓼 𝔂𝓸𝓾 𝓬𝓪𝓷'𝓽 𝓲𝓶𝓪𝓰𝓲𝓷𝓮. 𝓛𝓲𝓿𝓲𝓷𝓰 𝓪𝓼 𝓽𝔀𝓸 𝓼𝓸𝓾𝓵𝓼 𝔀𝓲𝓽𝓱𝓲𝓷 𝓸𝓷𝓮 𝓫𝓸𝓭𝔂 𝓲𝓼 𝓷𝓸𝓽 𝓸𝓷𝓵𝔂 𝓮𝔁𝓱𝓪𝓾𝓼𝓽𝓲𝓷𝓰 𝓫𝓾𝓽 𝓶𝓲𝓷𝓭-𝓪𝓵𝓽𝓮𝓻𝓲𝓷𝓰."

✂️ P L O T L I N E
When Kitty Karr, a famous white female icon leaves her multimillion dollar estate to the already wealthy black St. John sisters, lots of questions are raised by the public. This story follows a dual timeline of Kitty Karr’s past, and the present timeline of Elise St. John as she unties the missing pieces to discovering who the real Kitty is and her true connection to the St. John family. This multigenerational story explores the unfair choices and secrets that women had to make and keep due to the inequality and injustice that was forced upon them. An enlightening read that will keep you turning the pages.

This story kept me interested and intrigued the entire time. It was thought provoking and it had me thinking deeply about what I would do if I was in some of these women’s shoes. I loved all the characters and I was able to reflect a lot on the sad history and current status of our country. I love that this book discussed several important issues such as racism and sexism and that there is so much to learn from this book. I did wish that the book had more parts in the present timeline. There was so much time spent in the past that I didn’t fully get to embrace and get to know the St. John sisters as mush as I would have liked.

📚 𝚁𝚎𝚊𝚍 𝚝𝚑𝚒𝚜 𝚋𝚘𝚘𝚔 𝚒𝚏 𝚢𝚘𝚞 𝚕𝚒𝚔𝚎:
💫Eye opening reads about family, race, and gender 👀
💫 Old Hollywood glamor 🎥
💫Dual POV ✌🏽
💫Evelyn Hugo meets The Vanishing Half 📖
💫Family drama 🏡


💕Q U O T E: "𝒫𝑒𝑜𝓅𝓁𝑒 𝒿𝓊𝓈𝓉 𝓌𝒶𝓃𝓉 𝒶 𝒸𝒽𝒶𝓃𝒸𝑒. 𝐼'𝓂 𝓌𝒾𝓁𝓁𝒾𝓃𝑔 𝓉𝑜 𝒽𝑒𝓁𝓅 𝒶𝓃𝓎𝑜𝓃𝑒 𝒷𝑜𝓁𝒹 𝑒𝓃𝑜𝓊𝑔𝒽 𝓉𝑜 𝑔𝑜 𝒶𝒻𝓉𝑒𝓇 𝓌𝒽𝒶𝓉 𝓉𝒽𝑒𝓎 𝓌𝒶𝓃𝓉.”

🙏 Thank you NetGalley, Henry Holt and Co., and Crystal Smith Paul for this ARC in exchange for my honest thoughts 💕

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This book really just took me for a ride. I loved the build up, the character development, and the writing. I would definitely read more from this author!

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𝚁𝚊𝚝𝚒𝚗𝚐: 4.25⭐️
𝙶𝚎𝚗𝚛𝚎: Historical Fiction📚

𝙼𝚢 𝚃𝚑𝚘𝚞𝚐𝚑𝚝𝚜:
I thought it was an interesting read; it gave me Evelyn Hugo and The Vanishing Half vibes.

𝚁𝚎𝚊𝚍 𝚒𝚏 𝚢𝚘𝚞 𝚕𝚒𝚔𝚎:
Books the cover alot of heavy topics
Thought-provoking reads
Lots of characters with multiple POVs (this did get confusing at times)
Slow burn plots
Dual timelines
Captivating stories

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I loved the premise and the storytelling. Duel POVs are my jam and these were done so well!

A surefire hit!

Thank you to netgalley and the publisher for allowing me to read this book in exchange for an honest review!

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A completely engrossing read, told from two different timelines - that of Kitty Karr as a young woman and that of Elise, the recipient of Kitty’s estate upon her death in 2017. I definitely enjoyed the Kitty Karr portions mostly (history major in me, I’m sure) because it was fascinating to read and to understand what was happening during her rise to fame before and during the Civil Rights movement. I cannot and will not go into what intrigued me about this novel too much because I don’t want to give anything away. All I will say is this is absolutely worth the read!

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I really enjoyed reading this book! I thought it was such an interesting look into Hollywood in the olden times and the pressure and prejudice Black women experienced and the experience of 'passing.' I also really liked the kind of look behind the scenes of movies that the book gave.

I liked the alternating timelines, but at times I found myself not really caring about Elise's storyline. Kitty's was the clear favorite for me, and I feel like hers was way more interesting, which made Elise's storyline seem so much more boring and slow moving than the rest of the book. I feel like either more had to happen or there shouldn't have been her storyline.

I also found the pacing of this book to be a little strange. We spent a LOT of time on Kitty's childhood, which I was happy about, but I feel like some bigger moments in her adult life were skimmed over or happened off-screen, which made it kind of feel like there wasn't really a lot of payoff.

Overall, I really enjoyed this book!

3.5 stars rounded down

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First, thank you to Net Galley and Henry Holt publishing for the opportunity to read this book in exchange for an honest review. I have to admit this wasn’t one of my favorites and I struggled to finish. Kitty Karr was an excellent character and her portion of the narrative was very good. It was written in a back and forth style of present day and historical timeline (Kitty being in the historical sections) and I found the transitions difficult and the present day narrative a bit confusing in terms of its point. The discussions surrounding the FBI needed some work to make them fit better in the narrative. I had high hopes for the book since several authors whose work I read regularly lauded it.

I just couldn't get into it...and the mere fact that I finished it was the best I could do.

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