A riveting and tense examination of identity, violence, and female anger.

THE LIVES OF EDIE PRITCHARD

A smart, strong Montana woman struggles to define herself over decades as the men in her life try to control her.

Watson’s novel is set against the rugged landscape of Montana, the perfect backdrop for a story about a woman who spends her life running up against and away from mountains of male ego and desire. Smart and decisive but too often defined by her good looks, Edie appears at three different points in time: As Edie Linderman, a young wife to Dean, a man whose twin brother is drawn to and obsessed by her; as Edie Dunn, caught in a volatile marriage to a jealous second husband and mother to an unhappy teenage daughter; and as Edie Pritchard, a 60-something grandmother still trying to live on her terms but imposed upon by family and the past. As they do to all of us, outside forces buffet Edie’s peace of mind and forward momentum. In each segment, she faces conflict: an ugly random encounter with strangers and the inexplicable behavior of men; a tragic premature death; a threatening young man who underestimates who she truly is. Watson is insightful in his depiction of Edie and those who seek to control her, and his descriptions of small-town Montana life, where guns are frequently a menacing presence, reflect how the potential for violence is ever present beneath the surface of things. The novel crackles with tension, especially the second and third acts; Watson is a born storyteller, and it shows on every understated page. But Edie's story also rings with a hardscrabble poetry. “You might be out here alone someday with what you thought would be your life,” Watson writes. “And a gust of wind might blow your heart open like a screen door. And slam it just as fast.” What truly lies in Edie’s heart? That’s what she aims to find out.

A riveting and tense examination of identity, violence, and female anger.

Pub Date: July 7, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-61620-902-5

Page Count: 368

Publisher: Algonquin

Review Posted Online: April 13, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 2020

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Who tells your story? Williams illuminates why women needed to be in the room where, and when, it’s written.

THE DICTIONARY OF LOST WORDS

The Herculean efforts required to assemble the Oxford English Dictionary are retold, this time from a fictionalized, distaff point of view, in Williams’ debut novel.

Esme Nicoll, the motherless young daughter of a lexicographer working in the Scriptorium—in reality, a garden shed in Oxford where a team led by James Murray, one of the OED’s editors, toiled—accompanies her father to work frequently. The rigor and passion with which the project is managed is apparent to the sensitive and curious Esme, as is the fact that the editorial team of men labors under the influence of Victorian-era mores. Esme begins a clandestine operation to rescue words which have been overlooked or intentionally omitted from the epic dictionary. Her childhood undertaking becomes a lifelong endeavor, and her efforts to validate the words which flew under the (not yet invented) radar of the OED gatekeepers gain traction at the same time the women’s suffrage movement fructifies in England. The looming specter of World War I lends tension to Esme’s personal saga while a disparate cast of secondary characters adds pathos and depth. Underlying this panoramic account are lexicographical and philosophical interrogatives: Who owns language, does language reflect or affect, who chooses what is appropriate, why is one meaning worthier than another, what happens when a word mutates in meaning? (For example, the talismanic word first salvaged by Esme, bondmaid, pops up with capricious irregularity and amorphous meaning throughout the lengthy narrative.) Williams provides readers with detailed background and biographical information pointing to extensive research about the OED and its editors, many of whom appear as characters in Esme’s life. The result is a satisfying amalgam of truth and historical fiction.

Who tells your story? Williams illuminates why women needed to be in the room where, and when, it’s written.

Pub Date: April 6, 2021

ISBN: 978-0-593-16019-0

Page Count: 400

Publisher: Ballantine

Review Posted Online: March 3, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 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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