England's wunderkind novelist who broke on the scene with the satiric WHITE TEETH, has established herself with this third novel about a blended family living in small town New England. Dad is a progressive professor who made the predictable middle-aged man's mistake and had an affair with a colleague. Mom is a luscious African American whose kindness keeps her weary family together. The three siblings position themselves for approval from a variety of sources. What Smith does most convincingly is write dialogue. Zora and Levi and Kiki leap off the page.
ON BEAUTY won the Orange Prize for fiction. The title is stolen from a poem by Smith's equally ambitious literary spouse, Nick Laird.