These interlinked narratives evoking Britain’s lockdown-altered reality are a triumph of economy and insight.

THE FELL

At the height of the pandemic lockdown, an experienced hill walker fails to return from an evening hike—then a prohibited activity—in her beloved Peak District in northern England. As her teenage son and elderly neighbor wait anxiously for bad news, a rescue party combs the treacherous moors.

As lockdown restrictions confine most people to their homes, Kate—a divorced 40-year-old single mother—wonders, “When did we become a species whose default state is shut up indoors?...We’re a living experiment, she thinks, in the intensive farming of humans, [though] it’s all in the name of safety, not profit.” This thought arises as she sets out for an illicit walk from her house up to the wild hills known as the fell. She leaves her 16-year-old son, Matt, and her phone behind, thinking that she won’t be gone long, but takes her well-equipped backpack, because even this somewhat distracted woman knows how unpredictable her native terrain and weather can be. Meanwhile, Alice, Kate’s elderly neighbor, is enduring not only lockdown isolation, but also the memory of a recent bout with cancer and the possibility that it's returning—and, what’s more, the vital but nonetheless irksome kindness of neighbors and family. “There’s a limit to how grateful you want to be, how helpless you want to feel, and she passed it a while ago. I was a whole person, she wants to say, I worked my way up, managed a team and a budget.” Matt, by contrast, is the voice of youth here, home alone and afraid for his mother’s safety. The fourth voice in this expertly woven narrative skein is that of Rob, the divorced father of a petulant teenage daughter and a patient man who—once Kate disappears—will search the hills all night as he and the other members of his rescue squad have done so many times before. In a familiar routine, they “clip on their radios, turn on the head torches, heft the rucksacks and set off up the track. Raindrops fall like sparks in the torchlight.” This portrait of humans and their neighboring wild creatures in their natural landscape and in their altered world is darkly humorous, arrestingly honest, and intensely lyrical.

These interlinked narratives evoking Britain’s lockdown-altered reality are a triumph of economy and insight.

Pub Date: March 1, 2022

ISBN: 978-0-3746-0604-6

Page Count: 192

Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux

Review Posted Online: Dec. 24, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2022

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A tasty, if not always tasteful, tale of supernatural mayhem that fans of King and Crichton alike will enjoy.

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DEVOLUTION

Are we not men? We are—well, ask Bigfoot, as Brooks does in this delightful yarn, following on his bestseller World War Z (2006).

A zombie apocalypse is one thing. A volcanic eruption is quite another, for, as the journalist who does a framing voice-over narration for Brooks’ latest puts it, when Mount Rainier popped its cork, “it was the psychological aspect, the hyperbole-fueled hysteria that had ended up killing the most people.” Maybe, but the sasquatches whom the volcano displaced contributed to the statistics, too, if only out of self-defense. Brooks places the epicenter of the Bigfoot war in a high-tech hideaway populated by the kind of people you might find in a Jurassic Park franchise: the schmo who doesn’t know how to do much of anything but tries anyway, the well-intentioned bleeding heart, the know-it-all intellectual who turns out to know the wrong things, the immigrant with a tough backstory and an instinct for survival. Indeed, the novel does double duty as a survival manual, packed full of good advice—for instance, try not to get wounded, for “injury turns you from a giver to a taker. Taking up our resources, our time to care for you.” Brooks presents a case for making room for Bigfoot in the world while peppering his narrative with timely social criticism about bad behavior on the human side of the conflict: The explosion of Rainier might have been better forecast had the president not slashed the budget of the U.S. Geological Survey, leading to “immediate suspension of the National Volcano Early Warning System,” and there’s always someone around looking to monetize the natural disaster and the sasquatch-y onslaught that follows. Brooks is a pro at building suspense even if it plays out in some rather spectacularly yucky episodes, one involving a short spear that takes its name from “the sucking sound of pulling it out of the dead man’s heart and lungs.” Grossness aside, it puts you right there on the scene.

A tasty, if not always tasteful, tale of supernatural mayhem that fans of King and Crichton alike will enjoy.

Pub Date: June 16, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-9848-2678-7

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Del Rey/Ballantine

Review Posted Online: Feb. 10, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2020

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An alternately farcical and poignant look at family bonds.

THE SUMMER PLACE

When a family convenes at their Cape Cod summer home for a wedding, old secrets threaten to ruin everything.

Sarah Danhauser is shocked when her beloved stepdaughter announces her engagement to her boyfriend, Gabe. After all, Ruby’s only 22, and Sarah suspects that their relationship was fast-tracked because of the time they spent together in quarantine during the early days of the pandemic. Sarah’s mother, Veronica, is thrilled, mostly because she longs to have the entire family together for one last celebration before she puts their Cape Cod summer house on the market. But getting to Ruby and Gabe’s wedding might prove more difficult than anyone thought. Sarah can’t figure out why her husband, Eli, has been so distant and distracted ever since Ruby moved home to Park Slope (bringing Gabe with her), and she's afraid he may be having an affair. Veronica is afraid that a long-ago dalliance might come back to bite her. Ruby isn’t sure how to process the conflicting feelings she’s having about her upcoming nuptials. And Sam, Sarah’s twin brother, is a recent widower who’s dealing with some pretty big romantic confusion. As the entire extended family, along with Gabe’s relatives, converges on the summer house, secrets become impossible to keep, and it quickly becomes clear that this might not be the perfect gathering Veronica was envisioning. If they make it to the wedding, will their family survive the aftermath? Weiner creates a story with all the misunderstandings and miscommunications of a screwball comedy or a Shakespeare play (think A Midsummer Night’s Dream). But the surprising, over-the-top actions of the characters are grounded by a realistic and moving look at grief and ambition (particularly for Sarah and Veronica, both of whom give up demanding creative careers early on). At times the flashbacks can slow down the story, but even when the characters are lying, cheating, and hiding from each other, they still seem like a real and loving family.

An alternately farcical and poignant look at family bonds.

Pub Date: May 10, 2022

ISBN: 978-1-5011-3357-2

Page Count: 432

Publisher: Atria

Review Posted Online: Feb. 9, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2022

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