Disturbing, powerful, a deeply personal story that is also searingly political.

AN IMPOSSIBLE LOVE

The most recently translated autofiction by controversial French literary phenomenon Angot brings her unflinching intelligence to a terrible childhood trauma.

The novel starts with the love story of the narrator's parents. It's the 1950s in the small French town of Châteauroux when beautiful, impoverished Rachel meets Pierre, the cultured scion of a wealthy Parisian family. Rachel lives with her younger sister and works at the Social Security office. Pierre is a translator at the nearby American military base. Rachel's parents are not much present, her mother due to ill health, her father because, being Jewish, he spent the war out of the country; he appears only to criticize and reject his offspring. Rachel's love for Pierre is unanalyzed, naïve. He seems extraordinary and unconventional, unlike her small-town suitors. When he explains that he will never marry her, because he needs to feel free and because her family isn't wealthy, she understands, even though "When you went out with a man, and you weren't married, you know, in those years, you were like a piece of trash." Likewise when she gets pregnant and he refuses to come see her, choosing instead to vacation in Italy. She raises their daughter, Christine, on her own while working full time during a period when most mothers stayed home. She calls the girl "my little fawn," and Christine adores her. Then Pierre reappears, now married to a rich German with whom he has started a family. Rachel implores him to recognize Christine officially. They're moving to Reims for her new job, and no one there knows her history. At last, complaining, he agrees, and Christine takes his name, Angot. He begins to visit, taking her to restaurants and away on weekend trips, encouraging her studies. Starved for paternal affection, adolescent Christine is entranced by her father's style and money, his education. A chasm opens between her and her mother. And a terrible secret divides them. The slow, painful healing of their rift is deeply moving. (When, a grown woman and mother herself, Christine begins to call her mother Maman again, it's "like a little bell at last repaired.") Described without overstatement or sensationalism, raw and honest, their experience rings brutally true. What began as a love story ends as an indictment of generations of internalized misogyny, antisemitism, class warfare, and the abuse of power.

Disturbing, powerful, a deeply personal story that is also searingly political.

Pub Date: Nov. 16, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-953861-04-7

Page Count: 240

Publisher: Archipelago

Review Posted Online: Sept. 29, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 2021

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Fresh and upbeat, though not without flaws.

THE LOVE HYPOTHESIS

An earnest grad student and a faculty member with a bit of a jerkish reputation concoct a fake dating scheme in this nerdy, STEM-filled contemporary romance.

Olive Smith and professor Adam Carlsen first met in the bathroom of Adam's lab. Olive wore expired contact lenses, reducing her eyes to temporary tears, while Adam just needed to dispose of a solution. It's a memory that only one of them has held onto. Now, nearly three years later, Olive is fully committed to her research in pancreatic cancer at Stanford University's biology department. As a faculty member, Adam's reputation precedes him, since he's made many students cry or drop their programs entirely with his bluntness. When Olive needs her best friend, Anh, to think she's dating someone so Anh will feel more comfortable getting involved with Olive's barely-an-ex, Jeremy, she impulsively kisses Adam, who happens to be standing there when Anh walks by. But rumors start to spread, and the one-time kiss morphs into a fake relationship, especially as Adam sees there's a benefit for him. The university is withholding funds for Adam's research out of fear that he'll leave for a better position elsewhere. If he puts down more roots by getting involved with someone, his research funds could be released at the next budgeting meeting in about a month's time. After setting a few ground rules, Adam and Olive agree that come the end of September, they'll part ways, having gotten what they need from their arrangement. Hazelwood has a keen understanding of romance tropes and puts them to good use—in addition to fake dating, Olive and Adam are an opposites-attract pairing with their sunny and grumpy personalities—but there are a couple of weaknesses in this debut novel. Hazelwood manages to sidestep a lot of the complicated power dynamics of a student-faculty romance by putting Olive and Adam in different departments, but the impetus for their fake relationship has much higher stakes for Adam. Olive does reap the benefits of dating a faculty member, but in the end, she's still the one seemingly punished or taunted by her colleagues; readers may have been hoping for a more subversive twist. For a first novel, there's plenty of shine here, with clear signs that Hazelwood feels completely comfortable with happily-ever-afters.

Fresh and upbeat, though not without flaws.

Pub Date: Sept. 14, 2021

ISBN: 978-0-593-33682-3

Page Count: 384

Publisher: Berkley

Review Posted Online: July 28, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2021

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Terrifying, primal, and very, very tense. Read it with your heart in your throat—but read it.

ONE STEP TOO FAR

Frankie Elkin, a miraculous finder of missing persons, seeks a man who wandered into the wilderness and was never seen again.

Last seen rescuing a missing teenager from the gritty streets of Boston, Frankie embarks from a bus in Ramsey, Wyoming, drawn in by the story of hiker Timothy O’Day, who's been missing for five years, and the last-gasp efforts of his father, Martin, to search for his remains. Frankie has some regrets about leaving Boston, but she's called to find those others have given up on. She manages to finagle her way on to the search party, which in addition to Martin includes a local guide; a search-and-rescue dog and her handler; a Bigfoot expert; and Tim’s friends, who were in the woods with him when he went missing. In the years since, they’ve moved on with their lives, but they are carrying guilt and secrets about the night Tim disappeared. As they all head into the unforgiving wilderness, it quickly becomes apparent that someone is deeply threatened by this effort to find Tim’s body. As she endeavors to draw the truth from each member of the search party, Frankie can tell that she's in over her head, and not only because she’s an inexperienced outdoorswoman. Could Tim still be alive and looking for revenge, or is there a more dangerous secret that someone would kill to protect? Gardner is incredibly skilled at developing tension and suspense; she’s equally skilled at slowly revealing complex characters and their secrets. Both gifts reinforce each other in this novel. If Frankie is out of her element, so are we: It’s not often that a thriller so deeply casts us into the darkness of both nature and the human heart.

Terrifying, primal, and very, very tense. Read it with your heart in your throat—but read it.

Pub Date: Jan. 18, 2022

ISBN: 978-0-593-18541-4

Page Count: 416

Publisher: Dutton

Review Posted Online: Nov. 30, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2021

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