Maynard’s (After Her, 2013, etc.) expert narration and plotting plant the seeds for the explosive events at the end of her...


With friends like these….

“I had never been inside a house like the Havillands’.…There was so much evidence of life in the place—life and warmth. All of it seeming to emanate directly from Ava, as clearly as if the house were a body and she its heart.” Helen, a struggling divorcée who's lost custody of her son after a drunken driving arrest, is befriended by a wealthy couple at an art opening where she's working for the caterer. Ava Havilland, who's in a wheelchair due to some mysterious event in the past, takes up Helen with a passion, buying her gifts, bringing her to restaurants, lending her clothes, thoroughly involving her in the elegant social life she shares with her investor husband, Swift. The Havillands begin to fill the miserable vacancy in Helen’s days and nights left by the absence of her son, Ollie, and of her old friend Mr. Wine Bottle (she has not had a drink since the night of her arrest). Then, luckily, Ollie’s dad begins to allow the boy to spend more time with her. Ollie, too, falls in love with the Havillands and their largesse, particularly with Swift, who gives him hearty doses of the masculine attention he hasn’t been getting much of from his own father. “ ‘Is that guy a superhero or something?’ he asked me. ‘You could say that,’ I said.” But the Havillands’ glow is soon to dim. As they undercut Helen’s new romance with an accountant they deem a bore, as that very accountant begins to pore through the public records of their dog rescue foundation, as they continually harp on the amazingness of their sex life (to the point that Helen feels compelled to google "paraplegic sex"), it's clear that a very big reversal lies in wait.

Maynard’s (After Her, 2013, etc.) expert narration and plotting plant the seeds for the explosive events at the end of her tale.

Pub Date: Feb. 23, 2016

ISBN: 978-0-06-225764-2

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Morrow/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Dec. 7, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2015

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


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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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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