Moody, polished, and indelible.

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THE ISLAND

AND OTHER STORIES

Ayer’s (Dead Drunk, 2014, etc.) short story collection centers on Margaret Wollaston and her prolonged struggle with her alcoholic husband, George.

Each story unfolds like a chapter in Margaret’s life, starting with her pre-marriage relationship to George in “Finding the Body.” She meets a widow whose loss leads Margaret to consider leaving George, a recurring theme due to the man’s rampant alcoholism. She is supportive when cops have trouble believing George’s claim of a burglar’s assault (“Navigator’s Wife”) but later recognizes a problem when he drives home drunk (“Walking in a Ditch”). Margaret is a sincere, empathetic character; a palpable love for George makes her hesitancy to separate or divorce plausible even after tumultuous decades as a couple. She likewise affords him opportunity to change time and time again; in “Broken Axle,” she utters her oft-repeated sentiment: “If you stop drinking I’ll come back.” “Buster,” set at a club both Margaret and George frequent, is the book’s sole deviation. It’s an amusing tale in which the titular character finds his new manager gig less than ideal. But even the collection’s longest story, the title novella, with George as protagonist, keeps the spotlight on Margaret. In it, George escapes his loveless marriage by isolating himself on an island. From his exile, however, he can still see his house and remains shackled by insecurities, like suspecting that Margaret is having an affair with his friend MacDougall. In other engrossing stories, Margaret endures a volatility between her father and brother-in-law and another husband, Ike, who may be no better than George. Ayer’s prose coats her tales in emotion and atmosphere. In “Button Cottage,” for example, Margaret’s aunt’s maid, Kate, recalls an early romantic experience: “Blackberry canes arched across the low doorway, sunlight slanted through the dusty window, and the old shed smelled of fertilizer.” The book is furthermore a companion piece to the author’s preceding novel, a murder mystery featuring Margaret and George.

Moody, polished, and indelible.

Pub Date: N/A

ISBN: N/A

Page Count: 236

Publisher: Dog Ear Publisher

Review Posted Online: Feb. 22, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2018

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The emotions run high, the conversations run deep, and the relationships ebb and flow with grace.

REGRETTING YOU

When tragedy strikes, a mother and daughter forge a new life.

Morgan felt obligated to marry her high school sweetheart, Chris, when she got pregnant with their daughter, Clara. But she secretly got along much better with Chris’ thoughtful best friend, Jonah, who was dating her sister, Jenny. Now her life as a stay-at-home parent has left her feeling empty but not ungrateful for what she has. Jonah and Jenny eventually broke up, but years later they had a one-night stand and Jenny got pregnant with their son, Elijah. Now Jonah is back in town, engaged to Jenny, and working at the local high school as Clara’s teacher. Clara dreams of being an actress and has a crush on Miller, who plans to go to film school, but her father doesn't approve. It doesn’t help that Miller already has a jealous girlfriend who stalks him via text from college. But Clara and Morgan’s home life changes radically when Chris and Jenny are killed in an accident, revealing long-buried secrets and forcing Morgan to reevaluate the life she chose when early motherhood forced her hand. Feeling betrayed by the adults in her life, Clara marches forward, acting both responsible and rebellious as she navigates her teenage years without her father and her aunt, while Jonah and Morgan's relationship evolves in the wake of the accident. Front-loaded with drama, the story leaves plenty of room for the mother and daughter to unpack their feelings and decide what’s next.

The emotions run high, the conversations run deep, and the relationships ebb and flow with grace.

Pub Date: Dec. 10, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-5420-1642-1

Page Count: 400

Publisher: Montlake Romance

Review Posted Online: Oct. 14, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 2019

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Nothing original, but in Hilderbrand’s hands it’s easy to get lost in the story.

BAREFOOT

Privileged 30-somethings hide from their woes in Nantucket.

Hilderbrand’s saga follows the lives of Melanie, Brenda and Vicki. Vicki, alpha mom and perfect wife, is battling late-stage lung cancer and, in an uncharacteristically flaky moment, opts for chemotherapy at the beach. Vicki shares ownership of a tiny Nantucket cottage with her younger sister Brenda. Brenda, a literature professor, tags along for the summer, partly out of familial duty, partly because she’s fleeing the fallout from her illicit affair with a student. As for Melanie, she gets a last minute invite from Vicki, after Melanie confides that Melanie’s husband is having an affair. Between Melanie and Brenda, Vicki feels her two young boys should have adequate supervision, but a disastrous first day on the island forces the trio to source some outside help. Enter Josh, the adorable and affable local who is hired to tend to the boys. On break from college, Josh learns about the pitfalls of mature love as he falls for the beauties in the snug abode. Josh likes beer, analysis-free relationships and hot older women. In a word, he’s believable. In addition to a healthy dose of testosterone, the novel is balanced by powerful descriptions of Vicki’s bond with her two boys. Emotions run high as she prepares for death.

Nothing original, but in Hilderbrand’s hands it’s easy to get lost in the story.

Pub Date: July 2, 2007

ISBN: 978-0-316-01858-6

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: June 24, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2007

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