Member Reviews

When I initially read the description for this book, I thought it was going to be about the wealth, glamour and power of Hollywood. This book was so much more. We have two POV’s, that of Elise and that of Kitty. I loved the historical aspects of this story; the Jim Crow south and the lengths it takes to get ahead. Thank you to NetGalley for the ARC.

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Who is Kitty Karr? That's what this book is all about. How Kitty Lane Karr came to be and how she lived with the decisions she made. There is a dual time-line in this book about this multi-generational family, starting in the segregated South and ending in Hollywood, Ca. I was enthralled by the story of Mary-turned-Kitty and I learned quite a lot about African Americans who used to turn: who did it, why they did it, and how this decision was affecting the rest of their lives. The contemporary side of the story is following the St John family right after superstar Kitty Karr's death. I couldn't care less about that part of the story. This is why I dropped one star to the original 5-star rate I was going to give the book.

Thank you to the publisher and Net Galley for offering me an e-ARC in exchange of my honest opinion.

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Believe me, you want to hear about Kitty Karr.

The story opens with Elise St. James, a Black Hollywood star, mourning the death of her White neighbor and close friend Kitty Karr. Kitty left her billion dollar estate to Elise and her sisters, and the media is relentless in the pursuit of why Kitty would leave everything to them. The story then jumps to South Carolina in the 1930s to Hazel, a Black girl who lost all her family in a boating accident and is fighting to survive on her own. As the timelines alternate, the truth behind Kitty's relationship to the St. James' plays out over the course of decades.

Crystal Smith Paul empathetically explores the challenges of being a woman, being a Black woman, being a mother, and being your own person. Both timelines reflect on the resilience necessary to survive as a minority, and the grit required to dare to thrive as one. And in a feminist fashion, Paul creates multiple vibrant, unique women who approach their survival with widely different tactics.

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The golden age of Hollywood is something I’ve always been fascinated by, so I knew I had to read this. Taylor Jenkins recommending it definitely pushed me in the direction as well.

I really enjoyed this book. Kitty’s story was the most compelling part of the book, so I’m glad she got the biggest one. Elise’s storyline just lacked a bit, but of course it needed to be in there.

Thanks as always to NetGalley for the ARC.

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An interesting read about a woman who hid behind a facade in order to get ahead and also be accepted.
I found the nuances of the story to be enlightening. It was both sad and compelling.
There’s plenty of lessons to be gleaned from reading this novel.

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If you loved Evelyn Hugo you will love this. As someone who could have been a passing mixed person in that era I'm always attracted to books on this perspective. People don't always understand the hardships or nuances we face being lighter. Kitty was a fabulous story - It was told in 2 parts; Kitty's and her family after she passes. I enjoyed Kitty's parts more, but appreciated the ending.

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What a debut by Crystal Smith Paul! I was drawn to the premise of this book immediately, and thrilled when I was gifted an ARC by Henry Holt and Co. and NetGalley.

I'm a big historical fiction fan, and especially enjoy books with multiple timelines - telling the past and how it impacts the present day. It isn't always easy to pull that off, let alone with the perspectives of multiple characters, but it is done SO well here as we learn all about Kitty Karr through the lenses of many women during different times.

The book opens with us learning that legendary film actress Kitty Karr recently passed away. Wha is drawing even more headlines is that Kitty, considered a white icon, left her estate to St. John sisters, three young, wealthy and fam ous in their own right, Black women. While they were neighbors, there are LOTS of questions - from the press, and from the St. James girls themselves.

Slowly but surely we dig into Kitty's past and her ascent through the words of and pespectives of the women who were impacted the most. The stoy twists and turns and digs into Jim Crow and the deeply imbedded racism and colorism in this country. It was so well done, and nuanced. A special story that was heartbraking and yet also a beautiful tale of women trying to do the best for themselves and their daughters.

I'll be posting this review on goodreads, my bookstagram @scottonreads and on retail sites

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this is a bit of a chaotic review but bear with me, i just had a lot of thoughts lol. because this isn’t necessarily a plot-driven story, it started off a little slow to me but picked up steam by about a quarter in. there was some inconsistent pacing but it held my interest despite this.

Paul handled the nuances of passing, why people chose to pass, and how those who did used (or didn’t use) their positions to advance Black causes very well. I found myself really analyzing and understanding different aspects of the how and why of Hazel, Emma, and Kitty’s decisions, even though they were often at odds. Their conversations around the topic were thought-provoking and insightful.

I wish we’d gotten more of this deep dive for Elise and Sarah. The POV switches between Kitty in the past and Elise now and I felt like the present chapters weren’t as fleshed out. Kitty’s chapters were much more intriguing to me.

The writing was overall really good but it was occasionally choppy—several of the Elise chapters felt like they ended mid-thought, like the author got distracted and never came back to finish them. This didn’t necessarily take away from the plot but it did feel jarring as a reader.

The ending felt a bit rushed too. There were some loose ends that weren’t addressed that I think could have been (like the FBI investigation). I would have loved to spend more time exploring the details of Elise’s decision and the consequences of it for her, her career, and her family and friends.

i still found this to be an interesting, character driven story! even when i wasn’t reading it, i was thinking about it and wanting to return to Kitty’s life.

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There were many things about this book that caused me to pause in ponder weather I wanted to continue reading it for one thing why would you make an affluent family the pot smokers I thought that was so odd and then when Hazel gave Mary all that money to go away and live as a white woman that’s the first time I really considered to stop reading the book for one thing Hazel didn’t know Mary would become a famous actress so she is essentially giving her daughter up to go live a life with strangers is it a life with no family but as a white person is much better than a life with family and being around those you love. Not to mention I think once kitty did become famous especially anytime after 1998 and the Internet people would’ve found out her real heritage people are writing reviews like this book is so profound but it really is stereo typical you have the African-American billionaire family yet they all smoke pot and then you got kitty car who was taught as a young child to pass as a white person and then essentially given up by her mom to do just that is it she couldn’t ever speak or see her mom again but I guess everyone loves this book I myself did not I usually love the books I get from Henry Holt and Company but this one not so much. If you suspend the leaf and common sense then you may love the book as many people do but what I thought of thinking about the whole premise and giving up your family or your family giving you up none of it sounded believable. I received this book from NetGalley and a publisher but I am leaving this review voluntarily please forgive any mistakes as I am blind and dictate my review.

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5 ⭐️

Did You Hear About Kitty Karr? by Crystal Smith Paul

Publication date: May 2, 2023

I loved this book so much 🥲 If you are a fan of The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo, you will not be disappointed. Run, don’t walk, to your local bookstore!

Did You Hear About Kitty Karr? is a beautiful, intoxicating debut novel from Crystal Smith Paul. The story begins in 2017 with the St. John sisters, Elise, Giovanni, and Noele, who have inherited a fortune of about 600 million dollars from the Hollywood icon Kitty Karr.  The question on everyone's minds: Why did a White Hollywood star bequeath her entire fortune to the three Black daughters of her former co-star?  To unravel the mystery, this book is told from multiple points in time from three different points of view: Kitty Karr; Elise St. John; and Hazel, a black single mother living in segregated North Carolina.

From the very first chapter, I was engrossed in the lives of the three women and their very different perspectives: from Hazel's life in the Jim Crow South in the 1930s and 40s, to Kitty's beginnings in Hollywood in the 1950s, to Elise's successful acting career in the 2010s.  This novel is an emotional, gripping tale about family, celebrity, racism, and colorism. 

Thank you to Henry Holt & Co. and NetGalley for the ARC in exchange for an honest review.

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I received this book from a Goodreads giveaway. I enjoyed Hazel and Kitty's storyline and Paul is a very good writer. The story goes back and forth between 2 timelines and I found that I enjoyed the storyline from the past much more than the 2017 storyline. The problem I had with this book was the number of minor characters and the number of details - too many of both. I ended up confused quite a bit about what was happening or which character was being referred to when the pronoun "she" was used. There are a lot of female characters and sometimes I wasn't sure which "she" was speaking. I found myself getting lost with the introduction of another minor character or in the many details and it took away from being able to connect with the characters/story. Also, in the Goodreads description of the book, it gives away something about the story that isn't even revealed until page 300-ish, so the "twist" is ruined.

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From the beginning of the story I'm fascinated by Elise St. John. She's a celebrity, living a life many only dream about. Her mother is an actress, and her father, a music producer. Her sisters, Noele and Giovanni, round out the successful, wealthy Black St. John family. There's Oscar buzz surrounding Elise's new movie, a much anticipated wedding between her and her co-star, and she and her sisters have just been named the beneficiaries of the multimillion dollar estate of screen icon, Kitty Karr. Now, everyone wants to know why.

Through dual timelines and multiple POVs, we learn about the legendary Kitty Karr. From her humble beginnings in the Jim Crow south to a glittering life in the Hollywood Hills, Kitty's life is nothing less than inspiring and maybe a bit controversial.

My thoughts:
At first glance, Did You Hear About Kitty Karr? seems like a guilty pleasure read with modern celebritydom and the glamour of Hollywood from long ago. But the reader is soon drawn into the lives of those working for wealthy southerners long before the civil rights movement instigated change.

I loved the historical aspects of this story. I found myself in awe of the strength of women to persevere. Crystal Smith Paul did a wonderful job of weaving this multigenerational tale in a way that invites the reader into the life of Kitty Karr, encouraging thoughtful dialogue while also helping us understand Kitty's motivations. Did You Hear About Kitty Karr? illustrates the upsides and downfalls of power and privilege. What are you willing to do to balance the scales? And in the end, is it worth it?

Read this if you like:
• Family sagas
• Strong women
• Dual timelines
• Multiple POVs
• Black American fiction
• Diverse reads 

Review posted on Goodreads, Instagram, and will be posted to Amazon on pub day.

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This book was slow to start but once it picked up around the 3rd chapter I couldn't put it down! The story revolves around an underground community of Blacks passing for white working together with Blacks who can't pass, fighting in unison for equality for all Blacks during Jim Crow, and the civil rights movement in old Hollywood. The story o the secret family ties between Blacks and whites, those passing and those who profited off the backs of Blacks in the south was riveting! As the saying goes, "it all comes out in the wash".

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I made it through 14 chapters before I became so disinterested in the story and the wishy washy behaviors of the characters. I believe the author had the best of intentions in writing a detailed story but her writing quickly went from detailed to boring, The concept was interesting as you do not read many books about African American people passing but was done a disservice by the tedium of the story.

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I enjoyed "Did You Hear About Kitty Karr?" but I didn't love it. The past chapters, especially the ones from Kitty's perspective, were fantastic. There is a point where a ton of characters are introduced, and it gets confusing. Other than that, I was completely hooked and dying to know what happened next.

What kept me from loving the book were the present day/Elise chapters. For the most part, I found these chapters confusing. Everyone but Elise and a couple others seem terrified of letting Kitty's secret out, but it's not clearly explained why. It kind of dulls the impact of the final moments because their hesitation is just confusing. There are other parts that confused me, but I'll leave those out to avoid spoilers. The chapters aren't particularly strong compared to the past chapters. With the past, there's a strong, driving voice, and each moment is clear, emotional, and powerful. That same drive isn't there in the present chapters.

Overall, I liked the book, and I think it will be a great discussion book. I'd also be interested to read more from this author.

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When legendary star of the silver screen, Kitty Karr Tate dies, she leaves her entire fortune to actress Elise St. John and her two sisters, who were raised in a neighboring Bel Air mansion. Their mother Sarah, also a famous actress, is married to James, a well-known musician. Elise, who was very close to Kitty, is preparing for a Vogue photo shoot and is up for an Academy Award. And like everyone else, she is very curious as to why Kitty willed her entire fortune to Elise and her sisters. The fact that a famous white actress would leave millions to three Black sisters raised lots of questions. This intriguing story shifts to Jim Crow-era North Carolina in the 1930s, where we meet Hazel, a young Black woman who has lost her entire family. She works for a wealthy family whose promiscuous tobacco-heir son prays upon her and soon wants nothing to do with their daughter Mary, who is as light skinned as his legitimate daughter. This multi-generational story shifts to mid-century Hollywood as Kitty is getting her start while hiding her true identity as a Black woman trying to pass as white. The story circles back to the present when the truth about Kitty is uncovered.

Did You Hear About Kitty Karr? is an impressive debut by author Crystal Smith Paul. It is an engrossing look at racism and sexism over time. The main characters of Hazel, Kitty and Elise were well developed. However, there was a large cast of secondary characters that came in and out of the story and were oftentimes hard to keep track of. With that small point aside, this book tells an important story about injustice. I was fully immersed in this moving book and recommend it.

I would love to see this story brought to the screen.

Rated 4.25 stars.

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Did You Hear about Kitty Karr? is a great idea that suffers from a disorganized storytelling and a weak modern framing story. But its portrait of colorism, racism, and life lived in a segregated America is compelling.

When storied actress Kitty Karr Tate passes away and wills her $60 million fortune to the St. John sisters, the world is confused. Kitty was just a trusted friend and neighbor of the family, a mentor to actress-model oldest sister Elise. The St. Johns have no idea why so much money has been given to them.

That is, until Elise finds herself in charge of managing Kitty’s last affairs. While cleaning out her house, she discovers a journal, and that journal reveals multiple shockers, first, that Kitty was a black woman who passed as a white one to get out of the segregated south. Even more shocking, Kitty is the St. John girl’s biological grandmother, which explains her long-held kindness toward them. While Elise tries to figure out how to handle the release of Kitty’s secrets to the public and the revelation that she’s related to the woman, she copes with a breakup, a disastrous social media mistake, and the re-entry of a very special man into her life who might ruin an upcoming Vogue Magazine shoot for her – or bring burning love back into her life.

Elise also learns of Hazel, who responded to a rape that left her pregnant by climbing into a job watching rich white people’s kids so that she could shelter her daughter, Mary, to a degree from the vagaries of life in Jim Crow-era North Carolina. Mary, after a sad fracturing of her relationship with Hazel, becomes Kitty and takes on the sexist, racist world of Hollywood. Her complicated relationship with her agent, Emma, and her multiple spouses decorate and complicate her life. Can Elise uncover Kitty’s secret past while ensuring a brighter future for herself?

Did You Hear About Kitty Karr? has a big problem – it’s a tri-generational, tri PoV novel that ought to have been told in chronological order from Hazel’s story all the way to Elise’s. And, at minimum, Elise’s story needed more forethought and attention; I found her a lot less interesting than iron-willed Kitty/Mary and Hazel. Why does Elise even have two sisters? We spend no time with them. The pacing is seriously off; we receive chapters of worldbuilding from Elise’s PoV, then shift into Kitty’s and Hazel’s for a chapter, then an incredibly important plot point is delivered in a brief letter instead of on-page in prose. I liked Elise well enough as a person, but I found her glittery life a distraction from Kitty’s rise to the top and Hazel’s grit and determination to survive. It’s bad enough that her mother, Sarah, gets little of the book’s narrative attention. We hear about how her life went through dialogue and brief flashbacks.

Also, I have no idea why the journal is established as a plot point, as we see all of the chapters from Hazel or Elise or Kitty’s points-of-view and not a whit of the book is epistolary except for Kitty’s single revelatory letter. And the doozy of a final scene, in which Elise chooses to ignore her mother’s wishes to make a point in a gambit for generational healing, feels abrupt.

But this is a powerful book that beautifully captures the horrors of racism, the tight bonds that tie us generationally, the nightmare that colorism causes in the Black community. Kitty is such a strong and loveable central heroine, Hazel is impossible not to sympathize with, Elise is a good person, and the history is immaculately delivered. The story is addictive, and it contains two sweet central romances that are somewhat beside the point. But Did You Hear about Kitty Karr? needs a little bit more seasoning to be a truly unforgettable read.

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When Hollywood legend Kitty Karr Tate dies at age 81, there’s one question the whole world wants answered: why did the iconic white actress leave her billion-dollar fortune to the Black daughters of her co-star in a sitcom that first aired nearly fifty years ago? This book is far from perfect, but the parts about Black women passing in 1930s and 40s North Carolina and 1950s Hollywood are RIVETING.

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This was a fascinating book, one that gripped me from start to finish. While it is about fame and family secrets, its purpose is much bigger than that. This book tackles huge questions about race and “passing” and privilege and the abuse and atrocity in many southern families, and the complicated implications of it that persist today. On a personal level, it was impossible for me to read this book without thinking of the “passing” (and abuse) in my own family, one I coincidentally uncovered through a DNA test a couple weeks after receiving this ARC. The author makes it a point to remind us that Kitty Karr’s story isn’t unique, and that’s exactly why it’s so important.

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Fascinating story! Kitty Carr is a famous white actress who dies and leaves her estate to three Black women, daughters of celebrities themselves. The perspective moves from 2017, just after Kitty's death, to mid 1900's as we follow a young Black girl named Mary growing up. How are these characters connected? You have to read to find out, but a major concept is the idea of passing. I really liked this...but sometimes I was a little confused. The beginning jumps right into the story and I was confused how the family knew Kitty. There are a lot of characters to keep straight. The ending fizzled a bit for me. I liked where the author was going, but it seemed to end without a bang. Maybe a little more editing would make this stronger, but it was a good read. I love reading about different perspectives and this was so interesting to me!

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