A heartwarming novel with a small-town vibe that sparkles like wine sipped with friends under backyard fairy lights.

EARLY MORNING RISER

The author of Single, Carefree, Mellow (2015) and Standard Deviation (2017) brings us new characters to fall in love with in this novel about love, family, and community.

It’s easy to adore the characters Heiny conjures in her novels and short stories. They tend to be quirky and smart, caring and passionate. Jane, the protagonist of Heiny’s gentle, funny new novel, is no exception. When we first meet her, the year is 2002, and she's 26. She has just moved to small-town Boyne City, Michigan, from Grand Rapids by way of Battle Creek, to teach second grade at the local elementary school. Almost immediately—in the first month she's in town and the first sentence of the novel—she meets and falls for Duncan, a handsome, divorced woodworker in his early 40s who moonlights as a locksmith (they meet when she locks herself out of her new house), looks to Jane “like the Brawny paper towel man,” and, she later learns, not entirely to her surprise, has slept with pretty much every woman in the area. Both Jane, ever hopeful, and Duncan, ever appreciative, are pure charm (as are the book’s secondary characters: their Northern Michigan neighbors, friends, and family members). She is a creative teacher and all-around blithe spirit who enthusiastically procures all her clothes and household items at the local thrift store. (“Some of her thrift-store outfits were more successful than others,” we’re told.) He’s the kind of generous, easygoing guy who still shovels out the snowy driveway of his ex-wife, Aggie, as well as that of Jane; Jane’s best friend, Freida; and, eventually, Jane’s flinty mother. Duncan’s sole employee is a sweet young man named Jimmy who was initially “described to Jane by more than one person as ‘slow learning.’ ” After an accident for which Jane feels culpable, Jimmy becomes Jane’s responsibility, too. Eventually, Jimmy will bring Jane and Duncan together in a new way. Told episodically in chapters titled by year and covering a span of 17 years, Heiny’s book finds beauty and humor in connection and community, family and friendship, and the way love can develop and deepen over time.

A heartwarming novel with a small-town vibe that sparkles like wine sipped with friends under backyard fairy lights.

Pub Date: April 13, 2021

ISBN: 978-0-525-65934-1

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Knopf

Review Posted Online: Nov. 27, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2020

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If novelists are auditioning to play God, Hilderbrand gets the part.

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  • New York Times Bestseller

GOLDEN GIRL

From the greenroom of the afterlife—make that Benjamin Moore "Parsley Snips" green—a newly dead Nantucket novelist watches life unfold without her.

In her 27th novel, Hilderbrand gives herself an alter ego—beloved beach-novel author Vivian Howe—sends her out for a morning jog, and immediately kills her off. A hit-and-run driver leaves Vivi dead by the side of the road, where her son's best friend discovers her body—or was he responsible for the accident? Vivi doesn't know, nor does she know yet that her daughter Willa is pregnant, or that her daughter Carson is having a terribly ill-advised affair, or that her son, Leo, has a gnawing secret, or that her ex is getting tired of the girl he dumped her for. She will discover all this and more as she watches one last summer on Nantucket play out under the tutelage of Martha, her "Person," who receives her in the boho-chic waiting room of the Beyond. Hermès-scarved Martha explains that Vivi will have three nudges—three chances to change the course of events on Earth and prevent her bereaved loved ones from making life-altering mistakes. She will also get to watch the publication of what will be her last novel, titled Golden Girl, natch, and learn the answers to two questions: Will the secret about her own life she buried in this novel come to light (who cares, really—she's dead now), and will it hit No. 1 on the New York Times bestseller list (now there's an interesting question). She'll also get to see that one of her biggest wrongs is posthumously righted and that her kids have learned her most important lesson. As Willa says to Carson, "You know how she treats the characters in her books? She gives them flaws, she portrays them doing horrible things—but the reader loves them anyway. Because Mom loves them. Because they’re human.”

If novelists are auditioning to play God, Hilderbrand gets the part.

Pub Date: June 1, 2021

ISBN: 978-0-31642008-2

Page Count: 384

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: May 5, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2021

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Light on suspense but still a solid page-turner.

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THE LAST THING HE TOLD ME

When a devoted husband and father disappears, his wife and daughter set out to find him.

Hannah Hall is deeply in love with her husband of one year, Owen Michaels. She’s also determined to win over his 16-year-old daughter, Bailey, who has made it very clear that she’s not thrilled with her new stepmother. Despite the drama, the family is mostly a happy one. They live in a lovely houseboat in Sausalito; Hannah is a woodturner whose handmade furniture brings in high-dollar clientele; and Owen works for The Shop, a successful tech firm. Their lives are shattered, however, when Hannah receives a note saying “Protect her” and can’t reach Owen by phone. Then there’s the bag full of cash Bailey finds in her school locker and the shocking news that The Shop’s CEO has been taken into custody. Hannah learns that the FBI has been investigating the firm for about a year regarding some hot new software they took to market before it was fully functional, falsifying their financial statements. Hannah refuses to believe her husband is involved in the fraud, and a U.S. marshal assigned to the case claims Owen isn’t a suspect. Hannah doesn’t know whom to trust, though, and she and Bailey resolve to root out the clues that might lead to Owen. They must also learn to trust one another. Hannah’s narrative alternates past and present, detailing her early days with Owen alongside her current hunt for him, and author Dave throws in a touch of danger and a few surprises. But what really drives the story is the evolving nature of Hannah and Bailey’s relationship, which is by turns poignant and frustrating but always realistic.

Light on suspense but still a solid page-turner.

Pub Date: May 4, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-5011-7134-5

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: Feb. 10, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2021

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