Jennifer Oko
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East meets West across time and tradition as three young American women and their Indian immigrant mothers take first steps toward true sisterhood, shattering secrets and sharing joy and tears in Jennifer Oko's

Buy *Gloss * by Jennifer Oko online

Jennifer Oko
336 pages
June 2007
rated 4 of 5 possible stars

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Gloss does not tell the story that the image on the front of the book jacket and the title may lead one to think in does. A look inside the fashion or beauty industries it is not. There is so much in this book that one review cannot begin to cover it all.

When Annabelle Kapner produces a segment for her station’s morning television news program “New Day,” she had no idea where it will take her. The piece on Cosmetic Relief is simple - a profile of Douglas Purnell, who set up beauty parlors and cosmetics laboratories in refugee camps at the southern edge of the former Soviet Union.

After the piece airs, Annabelle, affectionately called “Annie” by her colleagues, begins receiving strange calls, demanding that she and the caller speak privately, calling her names and degrading her work.

Her bosses want a follow-up, and this is where things start to get even stranger. She sets up an interview with Purnell in Washington, D.C., and that’s when things start to turn into “Glossgate.”

The trip to Washington, D.C., is a turning point. Annie meets Fida and Lida, two of the child models for this makeup line by Vanity Cosmetics, the parent company of her news station. She’s there in Washington when she receives the first e-mail, the first hint that something isn’t right with the cosmetics for Fardish women - an image of a 14-year-old girl, completely missing her lips and seemingly unaware of that fact. The image leads to testing on tubes of lip gloss taken from the meeting with Purnell, and a second interview, begun by Faith Heide, an inept, diva newscaster, ends with Purnell walking out the door.

Disturbed by the images she’s received and intrigued by strange things she's encountered in her research, Annie sneaks into Purnell’s office and swipes a folder marked “Classified CIA document.” That document lands her in jail, which is where the story begins, literally. Annie tells her story from her prison cell.

Determined to solve her mystery and save her hide, Annie uses her knowledge of the media to tell the rest of the story with the encouragement of her cellmate, Russian Galina. Her lawyer, Ron Ruby, goes on “New Day” and plays a pre-recorded tape of Annie telling the darker side of the story.

There are so many intense moments in this novel, so many notable incidents that it’s tough to narrow it down. Throughout, Annie considers her relationship with Mark, a White House aide who appeared on “New Day” before her life turned upside down. She interacts with Galina, whose no-nonsense attitude brings her back to reality and what she has to do to get out of her prison cell.

To lighten things up, Oko includes letters from viewers and even a little romance for Annie throughout the novel.

For fans of dramatic works, a suspense or romance novel, this one has a little bit of everything - check it out.

Originally published on Curled Up With A Good Book at © April Bamburg, 2007

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