Evison writes humanely and with good humor of his characters, who, like the rest of us, muddle through, too often without...

THIS IS YOUR LIFE, HARRIET CHANCE!

Insightful, richly entertaining look at a woman who, very late in the game, finds that life remains full of surprises.

It’s not often that a male writer gets inside the head of a female character without botching it somehow; Jim Harrison pulled it off in Dalva and maybe Daniel Defoe in Moll Flanders. Evison joins that short list with a yarn that, like his Revised Fundamentals of Caregiving (2012), seems a bit of a comic detour from his more serious earlier work (West of Here, 2011, etc.). The eponymous lead is wrestling with the fact that her husband of many decades has passed away, though she keeps seeing him; as the book opens, she’s working hard to convince her priest that “Bernard still lingered somehow in the earthly realm,” and certainly Bernard, “five decades of familiarity imprinted on her memory like a phantom limb,” continues to exercise some influence over his wife when she learns that he’s booked an Alaskan cruise for her, seemingly from beyond the grave. Naturally, Bernard haunts the halls of the cruise ship—but then, other unexpected persons turn up there, too, players in a seriocomic series of turns in which she discovers that her life with Bernard had plenty of corners that she never knew about. Harriet’s no patsy, but she has a way of blundering into mishaps, including a memorable run-in with security (“Do I look like a terrorist to you? For heaven’s sake, I’m Episcopalian!”). Evison allows his story to unfold at leisure, darting back and forth across the span of Harriet’s life and sometimes telegraphing what lies ahead: writing of (and to) her at the age of 30, for instance, he says of one to-be-revealed matter, “it will be 48 years before you will confide the information to anyone.” So Harriet, it seems, has secrets of her own.

Evison writes humanely and with good humor of his characters, who, like the rest of us, muddle through, too often without giving ourselves much of a break. A lovely, forgiving character study that’s a pleasure to read.

Pub Date: Sept. 8, 2015

ISBN: 978-1-61620-261-3

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Algonquin

Review Posted Online: May 7, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2015

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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

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THE GREAT ALONE

In 1974, a troubled Vietnam vet inherits a house from a fallen comrade and moves his family to Alaska.

After years as a prisoner of war, Ernt Allbright returned home to his wife, Cora, and daughter, Leni, a violent, difficult, restless man. The family moved so frequently that 13-year-old Leni went to five schools in four years. But when they move to Alaska, still very wild and sparsely populated, Ernt finds a landscape as raw as he is. As Leni soon realizes, “Everyone up here had two stories: the life before and the life now. If you wanted to pray to a weirdo god or live in a school bus or marry a goose, no one in Alaska was going to say crap to you.” There are many great things about this book—one of them is its constant stream of memorably formulated insights about Alaska. Another key example is delivered by Large Marge, a former prosecutor in Washington, D.C., who now runs the general store for the community of around 30 brave souls who live in Kaneq year-round. As she cautions the Allbrights, “Alaska herself can be Sleeping Beauty one minute and a bitch with a sawed-off shotgun the next. There’s a saying: Up here you can make one mistake. The second one will kill you.” Hannah’s (The Nightingale, 2015, etc.) follow-up to her series of blockbuster bestsellers will thrill her fans with its combination of Greek tragedy, Romeo and Juliet–like coming-of-age story, and domestic potboiler. She re-creates in magical detail the lives of Alaska's homesteaders in both of the state's seasons (they really only have two) and is just as specific and authentic in her depiction of the spiritual wounds of post-Vietnam America.

A tour de force.

Pub Date: Feb. 6, 2018

ISBN: 978-0-312-57723-0

Page Count: 448

Publisher: St. Martin's

Review Posted Online: Oct. 31, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15, 2017

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