An engrossing and compassionate collection showing motherhood in its most unrelenting form.

QUEEN FOR A DAY

This debut novel in stories circles around Mimi Slavitt, mother to an autistic son, with arcs into the lives of other mothers raising children with developmental disabilities in New York City.

The book starts around the time of Mimi’s son Danny’s diagnosis at age 4, in the shifting period when New Yorkers still used subway tokens but Starbucks were starting to pop up around town. It ends when Danny is in his early teens. Little changes with him in the intervening years; he remains in his own world, fascinated by nature and facts, uncaring of other people or social conventions. But Mimi’s experiences range wildly. She is at once loving and proud, anxious and outspoken, indefatigable and desperate—traits that repeat throughout her life as well as the lives seen elsewhere in the collection. “Two Mothers” shows Aviva Brodner preparing her son, Howard, for his bar mitzvah. She hopes with that event to distance sweet, yearning Howard from his association with Danny as one of the two weird kids in class. In the title story, Mimi tells of Amy, a woman who “cured” her autistic son only to have him return to form, and how parenting robs Amy of her other passion—painting. These stories afford the reader different interpretations of Mimi and, more significantly, different views of women coping with children who don’t fit easily into the world. The mothers (and only the mothers) constantly battle an uncaring school district for insufficient resources while dreaming futilely of escape. When telling her own tales, Mimi sounds like a messy Nora Ephron—neurotic, talkative, and often funny in her sudden observations. When glimpsed, the children are distinct and wonderful.

An engrossing and compassionate collection showing motherhood in its most unrelenting form.

Pub Date: June 5, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-88-328575-3

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Delphinium

Review Posted Online: March 20, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 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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Beach reading with an unsettling edge.

THE MATCHMAKER

Hilderbrand’s latest Nantucket heroine has a very particular kind of clairvoyance: She can always tell whether a couple is compatible or not.

Dabney Kimball Beech, 49, who heads up Nantucket’s Chamber of Commerce, is known for her headband, pearls, penny loafers and other preppy accoutrements, as well as her fabulous menus for tailgates and picnics. Then there's her track record of spotting perfect matches: If a couple is suited, she sees pink around them; if not, green. So far, her unerring intuition, augmented by artful introductions, has resulted in more than 40 long-term Nantucket marriages. As the wife of John Boxmiller Beech, aka Box, a Harvard economics professor who's frequently summoned to the Oval Office and whose benchmark textbook nets about $3 million a year, Dabney’s domestic life is serene—except that she's never gotten over her high school sweetheart, Clendenin "Clen" Hughes, a Pulitzer-winning journalist whose beat has been, until recently, Southeast Asia. Due to a childhood trauma involving a runaway mother, Dabney has been too phobic to leave Nantucket (except for four years at Harvard). Nearly three decades before, unable to follow in Clen’s globe-trotting footsteps, Dabney banished him from her life and from the life of their daughter, Agnes, who's never met her father, though she knows who he is. Now Clen is back on Nantucket—minus an arm. Agnes is engaged to the uber-rich, controlling and decidedly unclassy sports agent CJ. (This couple is definitely swathed in a green cloud.) Since Box is teaching in Cambridge during the week, the opportunity to resume an affair with Clen proves irresistible to DabneyThe complications mount until, suddenly, Hilderbrand’s essentially sunny setup, bolstered by many summer parties and picnics (and lavishly described meals, particularly seafood), takes a sudden, somber turn. Hilderbrand has a way of transcending the formulaic and tapping directly into the emotional jugular. Class is often an undercurrent in her work, but in this comedy of manners–turned–cautionary tale, luck establishes its own dubious meritocracy.

Beach reading with an unsettling edge.

Pub Date: June 24, 2014

ISBN: 978-0-316-09975-2

Page Count: 416

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: May 7, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2014

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