A moving portrayal of intense female friendship, identity, and loss.

INSEPARABLE

This previously unpublished novel by towering French existentialist intellectual and feminist icon Beauvoir, written in 1954, is based on her deeply formative relationship with a classmate.

"When I was nine, I was a very good girl." So begins the story of Sylvie Lepage's friendship with vivacious Andrée Gallard. They meet at school, vie for top honors, and become inseparable. Sylvie adores Andrée, the second of seven siblings in a family old, distinguished, and militantly Catholic. Her father chairs the League of Fathers of Large Families. As the girls grow older, the expectations and obligations heaped on Andrée become increasingly onerous, crushing her spirit and threatening her health. Sylvie loses her faith, whereas pious Andrée despairs of pleasing God and comes to fear her own capacity for passion. Bright, sensitive, musical, and artistic, Andrée struggles to be the dutiful daughter her family, church, and society demand. "Behind her, she had this past; around her, this large house, this enormous family: a prison, whose exits were carefully guarded." Sylvie, meeting her friend for coffee, thinks: "All around me, women wearing perfume ate cakes and talked about the cost of living. Since the day she was born, Andrée was destined to be like them: but she wasn’t." A lively introduction by Margaret Atwood gives the history of Beauvoir's friendship with Zaza Lacoin, the Andrée of the story, describing it as "a wellspring" for everything Beauvoir subsequently wrote. The book's dedication to Zaza asks: If I have tears in my eyes tonight, is it because you have died, or rather because I’m the one who is still alive? In a letter to Simone, included in the afterword, Zaza wrote: "There is nothing sweeter in the world than feeling there is someone who can completely understand you." The tragedy of Zaza's death at 21 haunted Beauvoir, yet when she showed the manuscript of this novel to Jean-Paul Sartre, he dismissed it as trivial. It is, after all, only about two young women. As Atwood says, "Mr. 'Hell is other people' Sartre was wrong." It is heartbreaking to think of the author, with her brilliant, incisive mind, absorbing Sartre's casual misogyny the way the tragic heroine of this book absorbs the narrow-minded values that destroy her.

A moving portrayal of intense female friendship, identity, and loss.

Pub Date: Sept. 7, 2021

ISBN: 978-0-06-307504-7

Page Count: 176

Publisher: Ecco/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: July 28, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2021

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An alternately farcical and poignant look at family bonds.

THE SUMMER PLACE

When a family convenes at their Cape Cod summer home for a wedding, old secrets threaten to ruin everything.

Sarah Danhauser is shocked when her beloved stepdaughter announces her engagement to her boyfriend, Gabe. After all, Ruby’s only 22, and Sarah suspects that their relationship was fast-tracked because of the time they spent together in quarantine during the early days of the pandemic. Sarah’s mother, Veronica, is thrilled, mostly because she longs to have the entire family together for one last celebration before she puts their Cape Cod summer house on the market. But getting to Ruby and Gabe’s wedding might prove more difficult than anyone thought. Sarah can’t figure out why her husband, Eli, has been so distant and distracted ever since Ruby moved home to Park Slope (bringing Gabe with her), and she's afraid he may be having an affair. Veronica is afraid that a long-ago dalliance might come back to bite her. Ruby isn’t sure how to process the conflicting feelings she’s having about her upcoming nuptials. And Sam, Sarah’s twin brother, is a recent widower who’s dealing with some pretty big romantic confusion. As the entire extended family, along with Gabe’s relatives, converges on the summer house, secrets become impossible to keep, and it quickly becomes clear that this might not be the perfect gathering Veronica was envisioning. If they make it to the wedding, will their family survive the aftermath? Weiner creates a story with all the misunderstandings and miscommunications of a screwball comedy or a Shakespeare play (think A Midsummer Night’s Dream). But the surprising, over-the-top actions of the characters are grounded by a realistic and moving look at grief and ambition (particularly for Sarah and Veronica, both of whom give up demanding creative careers early on). At times the flashbacks can slow down the story, but even when the characters are lying, cheating, and hiding from each other, they still seem like a real and loving family.

An alternately farcical and poignant look at family bonds.

Pub Date: May 10, 2022

ISBN: 978-1-5011-3357-2

Page Count: 432

Publisher: Atria

Review Posted Online: Feb. 9, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2022

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A curious fetishization of outsiders, outlaws, and the down-and-out.

THE RAVAGED

This debut novel from Walking Dead actor Reedus follows three thematically connected yet narratively unrelated people as they journey to find themselves.

Hunter, a heavily tatted Iraq War vet and self-proclaimed gearhead, attacks his boss at the bike shop after catching him kicking a dog. “Hunter was old school,” the narrator says, rough-hewn but with strong moral fiber and a heart of gold. After learning his father died in a “mysterious house fire” in California, Hunter hops on his Buell S1 motorcycle alongside his buddies Nugget and Itch for a cross-country haul to execute the will. Meanwhile, a wealthy 65-year-old executive named Jack is mugged while traveling aimlessly through South America, neither the first nor the last of his hardships. Jack abandoned his cushy, bloodless office lifestyle after his dying mother told him to “run and never look back,” words he continuously labors to unpack. Finally, Anne, an abused teenage girl in Tennessee, steals her father’s savings and .38 revolver and runs away from home, clobbering her brother upside the head with a cast-iron skillet when he tries to stop her. She connects with her friend Trot, and they join a community of train-hoppers. Co-written by Bill, the story reads like a pastiche of Robert Pirsig’s Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance and Jack Kerouac’s On the Road, the latter of which is name-dropped as “great” by multiple characters. Though occasionally hitting some beautiful imagery of the American heartland, Reedus falls victim to implausible dialogue—“Fabiola, you are reading me like a stock report,” Jack says—and overcooked language: “flesh the color of a high-dollar medium-roast coffee bean.” Frequently wordy summaries do little to develop the thinly sketched characters; we know nearly as much about them on Page 25 as on Page 250.

A curious fetishization of outsiders, outlaws, and the down-and-out.

Pub Date: May 10, 2022

ISBN: 978-1-09-416680-3

Page Count: 292

Publisher: Blackstone

Review Posted Online: March 16, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2022

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