A stunning book which paints the portrait of a broken life with honesty and compassion.

THE ANTARCTICA OF LOVE

A young Swedish woman who has been brutally murdered spends her afterlife looking down on the Earth she has left behind.

Kristina is only 24 when she dies. She leaves behind her estranged parents, Raksha and Ivan, her dying husband, Shane, and her two children, Valle and Solveig, the elder taken by the state when he was 3 and the younger given up at birth to an adoptive family. Kristina also leaves behind the heroin addiction that gave her days immediate purpose and her murderer, an unnamed man who remembers her with more specific passion than anyone else in her abbreviated life. From her formless position in the afterlife, Kristina looks in on the people she left behind, both as their lives continue and as they existed in the significant moments she revisits as she drifts through a suddenly nonlinear experience of time. Yet, as cruel as the facts of Kristina’s life were—suffused with abandonment, abuse, sorrow, and death—the way she sees the world as it progresses without her is articulated with a kind of pragmatic hope. Nothing will change the facts of death or the bleakness that often precedes it, but what Kristina sees in Raksha as she struggles to live on as the mother of a murdered child; in Valle as he fights his own demons, so similar to his mother’s; in Solveig as she grows into the adult Kristina never had the chance to become are as real as the wasteland that spreads inside the mind of the murderer who chose Kristina to kill precisely because she seemed unafraid to die. In fragmented sections that echo with longing, loss, unutterable sorrow, and yet also a species of joy and light, Stridsberg explores the mind of a woman who gave up her life long before it was taken from her. There is a familiar tradition of dead-girl media in which “the only person of interest…is the murderer, and [the victim] is just a brief glimpse, a blur of green body, and then she is gone, out of the picture, disappearing into the depths of nothingness whence she came.” This book is the antidote to that kind of brutal anonymizing—a novel in which both the wicked and the sublime are scrutinized with the same care by the watchful eyes of the dead.

A stunning book which paints the portrait of a broken life with honesty and compassion.

Pub Date: Jan. 18, 2022

ISBN: 978-0-374-27269-2

Page Count: 272

Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux

Review Posted Online: Sept. 29, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 2021

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A warm and winning "When Harry Met Sally…" update that hits all the perfect notes.

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PEOPLE WE MEET ON VACATION

A travel writer has one last shot at reconnecting with the best friend she just might be in love with.

Poppy and Alex couldn't be more different. She loves wearing bright colors while he prefers khakis and a T-shirt. She likes just about everything while he’s a bit more discerning. And yet, their opposites-attract friendship works because they love each other…in a totally platonic way. Probably. Even though they have their own separate lives (Poppy lives in New York City and is a travel writer with a popular Instagram account; Alex is a high school teacher in their tiny Ohio hometown), they still manage to get together each summer for one fabulous vacation. They grow closer every year, but Poppy doesn’t let herself linger on her feelings for Alex—she doesn’t want to ruin their friendship or the way she can be fully herself with him. They continue to date other people, even bringing their serious partners on their summer vacations…but then, after a falling-out, they stop speaking. When Poppy finds herself facing a serious bout of ennui, unhappy with her glamorous job and the life she’s been dreaming of forever, she thinks back to the last time she was truly happy: her last vacation with Alex. And so, though they haven’t spoken in two years, she asks him to take another vacation with her. She’s determined to bridge the gap that’s formed between them and become best friends again, but to do that, she’ll have to be honest with Alex—and herself—about her true feelings. In chapters that jump around in time, Henry shows readers the progression (and dissolution) of Poppy and Alex’s friendship. Their slow-burn love story hits on beloved romance tropes (such as there unexpectedly being only one bed on the reconciliation trip Poppy plans) while still feeling entirely fresh. Henry’s biggest strength is in the sparkling, often laugh-out-loud-funny dialogue, particularly the banter-filled conversations between Poppy and Alex. But there’s depth to the story, too—Poppy’s feeling of dissatisfaction with a life that should be making her happy as well as her unresolved feelings toward the difficult parts of her childhood make her a sympathetic and relatable character. The end result is a story that pays homage to classic romantic comedies while having a point of view all its own.

A warm and winning "When Harry Met Sally…" update that hits all the perfect notes.

Pub Date: May 11, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-9848-0675-8

Page Count: 384

Publisher: Berkley

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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