A luminous collection that mines the mundane as cannily as the fantastic and extraterrestrial.

THE MOMENT OF TENDERNESS

From the author of A Wrinkle in Time, 18 gemlike stories ranging from the small heartbreaks of childhood to the discovery of life on a new planet

In these stories, some previously published and others appearing for the first time in this collection, L’Engle explores family dynamics, loneliness, and the pains of growing up. In “Summer Camp,” children show a stunning capacity for cruelty, as when one writes an imploring letter to a lost friend only to witness that friend mocking the letter in front of their bunkmates; in “Madame, Or...” a brother finds his sister at a finishing school with a sordid underbelly and is unable to convince her to leave. L’Engle employs rhythm and repetition to great effect in multiple stories—the same gray cat seems to appear in “Gilberte Must Play Bach” and “Madame, Or...”—and sometimes even in the language of a single sentence: “The piano stood in the lamplight, lamplight shining through burnt shades, red candles in the silver candlesticks...red wax drippings on the base of the candlesticks.” Occasionally, emotional undertones flow over, as in the protagonist’s somewhat saccharine goodbye to her Southern home in “White in the Moon the Long Road Lies.” Overall, though, the stories seem to peer at strong emotions from the corner of the eye, and humor dances in and out of the tales. “A Foreign Agent” sees a mother and daughter in battle over the daughter’s glasses, which have come to represent the bridge between childhood and adulthood when the mother’s literary agent begins to pursue the daughter. On another planet, a higher life form makes a joke via code: The visitors will be “quartered—housed, that is, of course, not drawn and quartered.” While there is levity, many of these stories end with characters undecided, straddling a nostalgic past and an unsettled future. Although written largely throughout the 1940s and '50s, L’Engle’s lucid explorations of relationships make her writing equally accessible today.

A luminous collection that mines the mundane as cannily as the fantastic and extraterrestrial.

Pub Date: April 21, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-5387-1782-0

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Grand Central Publishing

Review Posted Online: Jan. 27, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2020

Did you like this book?

Finding positivity in negative pregnancy-test results, this depiction of a marriage in crisis is nearly perfect.

ALL YOUR PERFECTS

Named for an imperfectly worded fortune cookie, Hoover's (It Ends with Us, 2016, etc.) latest compares a woman’s relationship with her husband before and after she finds out she’s infertile.

Quinn meets her future husband, Graham, in front of her soon-to-be-ex-fiance’s apartment, where Graham is about to confront him for having an affair with his girlfriend. A few years later, they are happily married but struggling to conceive. The “then and now” format—with alternating chapters moving back and forth in time—allows a hopeful romance to blossom within a dark but relatable dilemma. Back then, Quinn’s bad breakup leads her to the love of her life. In the now, she’s exhausted a laundry list of fertility options, from IVF treatments to adoption, and the silver lining is harder to find. Quinn’s bad relationship with her wealthy mother also prevents her from asking for more money to throw at the problem. But just when Quinn’s narrative starts to sound like she’s writing a long Facebook rant about her struggles, she reveals the larger issue: Ever since she and Graham have been trying to have a baby, intimacy has become a chore, and she doesn’t know how to tell him. Instead, she hopes the contents of a mystery box she’s kept since their wedding day will help her decide their fate. With a few well-timed silences, Hoover turns the fairly common problem of infertility into the more universal problem of poor communication. Graham and Quinn may or may not become parents, but if they don’t talk about their feelings, they won’t remain a couple, either.

Finding positivity in negative pregnancy-test results, this depiction of a marriage in crisis is nearly perfect.

Pub Date: July 17, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-5011-7159-8

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Atria

Review Posted Online: May 1, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2018

Did you like this book?

Dark and unsettling, this novel’s end arrives abruptly even as readers are still moving at a breakneck speed.

THEN SHE WAS GONE

Ten years after her teenage daughter went missing, a mother begins a new relationship only to discover she can't truly move on until she answers lingering questions about the past.

Laurel Mack’s life stopped in many ways the day her 15-year-old daughter, Ellie, left the house to study at the library and never returned. She drifted away from her other two children, Hanna and Jake, and eventually she and her husband, Paul, divorced. Ten years later, Ellie’s remains and her backpack are found, though the police are unable to determine the reasons for her disappearance and death. After Ellie’s funeral, Laurel begins a relationship with Floyd, a man she meets in a cafe. She's disarmed by Floyd’s charm, but when she meets his young daughter, Poppy, Laurel is startled by her resemblance to Ellie. As the novel progresses, Laurel becomes increasingly determined to learn what happened to Ellie, especially after discovering an odd connection between Poppy’s mother and her daughter even as her relationship with Floyd is becoming more serious. Jewell’s (I Found You, 2017, etc.) latest thriller moves at a brisk pace even as she plays with narrative structure: The book is split into three sections, including a first one which alternates chapters between the time of Ellie’s disappearance and the present and a second section that begins as Laurel and Floyd meet. Both of these sections primarily focus on Laurel. In the third section, Jewell alternates narrators and moments in time: The narrator switches to alternating first-person points of view (told by Poppy’s mother and Floyd) interspersed with third-person narration of Ellie’s experiences and Laurel’s discoveries in the present. All of these devices serve to build palpable tension, but the structure also contributes to how deeply disturbing the story becomes. At times, the characters and the emotional core of the events are almost obscured by such quick maneuvering through the weighty plot.

Dark and unsettling, this novel’s end arrives abruptly even as readers are still moving at a breakneck speed.

Pub Date: April 24, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-5011-5464-5

Page Count: 368

Publisher: Atria

Review Posted Online: Feb. 6, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2018

Did you like this book?

more