For those who prize fortune-cookie philosophy and sticky-sweet resolutions, this is just the ticket to ride.

THE NEXT PERSON YOU MEET IN HEAVEN

Albom (The Magic Strings of Frankie Pesto, 2015, etc.) returns to the scene of previous literary crime: heaven, that is, and the realm of departed folks who are only too glad to dispense advice.

"This is a story about a woman named Annie, and it begins at the end, with Annie falling from the sky.” In this sequel to The Five People You Meet in Heaven (2003), gruff Eddie the maintenance man gets to have a little chat with the aforementioned Annie, for whom he gave up his life in a freak roller-coaster accident in the first book, sparing her from death. So what’s she doing up in the afterlife? Well, it seems Annie has fallen in love, married, and then honored the event by going up in a hot air balloon. What is it with her and divergent modes of transportation? And now, thanks to high-tension wires, Annie has bitten the big one—or maybe not—and is wandering around in the clouds reliving past mistakes and holding self-discovery sessions with, yes, five of her predecessors in the dirt nap. You’d think Eddie would be a little ticked that he lost a decade to a woman who seemed destined for the express checkout lane in any case, especially because, Albom writes, “She never thought about heaven.” He adds, helpfully, “But heaven is always thinking about us.” Yep, and yuck. There’s more than a little of The Little Prince here (“A vast brown desert surrounded her. / And she was alone”) and more than a little too much wisdom (“We don’t realize who else we punish while we’re punishing ourselves"). A question: Isn’t it a cheat when one of the dead quintet is a dog? And further: If you avoid death proper but have met your allotted five people in the great fluffy cloud beyond during your near-death experience, do you have to meet five other people when your time actually does come? Isn’t that fudging the numbers?

For those who prize fortune-cookie philosophy and sticky-sweet resolutions, this is just the ticket to ride.

Pub Date: Oct. 16, 2018

ISBN: 978-0-06-229444-9

Page Count: 240

Publisher: Harper/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: July 2, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2018

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Finding positivity in negative pregnancy-test results, this depiction of a marriage in crisis is nearly perfect.

ALL YOUR PERFECTS

Named for an imperfectly worded fortune cookie, Hoover's (It Ends with Us, 2016, etc.) latest compares a woman’s relationship with her husband before and after she finds out she’s infertile.

Quinn meets her future husband, Graham, in front of her soon-to-be-ex-fiance’s apartment, where Graham is about to confront him for having an affair with his girlfriend. A few years later, they are happily married but struggling to conceive. The “then and now” format—with alternating chapters moving back and forth in time—allows a hopeful romance to blossom within a dark but relatable dilemma. Back then, Quinn’s bad breakup leads her to the love of her life. In the now, she’s exhausted a laundry list of fertility options, from IVF treatments to adoption, and the silver lining is harder to find. Quinn’s bad relationship with her wealthy mother also prevents her from asking for more money to throw at the problem. But just when Quinn’s narrative starts to sound like she’s writing a long Facebook rant about her struggles, she reveals the larger issue: Ever since she and Graham have been trying to have a baby, intimacy has become a chore, and she doesn’t know how to tell him. Instead, she hopes the contents of a mystery box she’s kept since their wedding day will help her decide their fate. With a few well-timed silences, Hoover turns the fairly common problem of infertility into the more universal problem of poor communication. Graham and Quinn may or may not become parents, but if they don’t talk about their feelings, they won’t remain a couple, either.

Finding positivity in negative pregnancy-test results, this depiction of a marriage in crisis is nearly perfect.

Pub Date: July 17, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-5011-7159-8

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Atria

Review Posted Online: May 1, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2018

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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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