Tender, intelligent, and brilliant.

WHERE YOU COME FROM

A man displaced by war considers what it means when your home country ceases to exist.

Where do you come from? It seems like an easy enough question, but for the narrator of Stanišić’s novel, it’s anything but. When he’s asked the question, he equivocates: “First it depends on what your where is aiming at….However you look at it, your place of origin is just a construct! A kind of costume you have to wear forever once it’s been put on you. And so a curse!” The narrator—who shares his name and nationality with the author—has good reason for his vagueness. He lives in Germany, but his home country is harder to pin down: "The country where I was born no longer exists. For as long as the country still existed, I thought of myself as Yugoslavian. Like my parents, who were from Serbian (Father) and Bosnian-Muslim (Mother) families.” The novel alternates between stories of the narrator’s upbringing in Heidelberg, where his family fled after the breakout of the Yugoslav Wars, and memories of his grandmother, who’s slowly losing her memory to dementia. Stanišić has a deft hand at both the tragic and the comic: The narrator’s family “shattered along with Yugoslavia and have not yet been able to put ourselves back together again,” he writes in one passage, but later proclaims himself “the Puberty World Champion in Avoiding-Talking-to-Parents,” whose mother “probably wanted to strangle [him] with a scallion” after he became a vegetarian to impress a girl he liked. The novel ends with a Choose Your Own Adventure–style narrative that’s rendered perfectly and heartbreakingly; it’s affecting but not manipulative. Stanišić's book, ably translated by Searls, is full of tenderness and compassion and also a real intelligence—it’s a stunning novel that asks what it really means to be from somewhere, anywhere. “Words lurk over my head, they unnerve me, delight me, I need to find the right ones among them for this story,” Stanišić writes. He found them for sure.

Tender, intelligent, and brilliant.

Pub Date: today

ISBN: 978-1-951142-75-9

Page Count: -

Publisher: Tin House

Review Posted Online: Sept. 29, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 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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Funny, sad, astute, occasionally creepy, and slyly irresistible.

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APPLES NEVER FALL

Australian novelist Moriarty combines domestic realism and noirish mystery in this story about the events surrounding a 69-year-old Sydney woman’s disappearance.

Joy and Stan Delaney met as champion tennis players more than 50 years ago and ran a well-regarded tennis academy until their recent retirement. Their long, complicated marriage has been filled with perhaps as much passion for the game of tennis as for each other or their children. When Joy disappears on Feb. 14, 2020 (note the date), the last text she sends to her now-grown kids—bohemian Amy, passive Logan, flashy Troy, and migraine-suffering Brooke—is too garbled by autocorrect to decipher and stubborn Stan refuses to accept that there might be a problem. But days pass and Joy remains missing and uncharacteristically silent. As worrisome details come to light, the police become involved. The structure follows the pattern of Big Little Lies (2014) by setting up a mystery and then jumping months into the past to unravel it. Here, Moriarty returns to the day a stranger named Savannah turned up bleeding on the Delaneys’ doorstep and Joy welcomed her to stay for an extended visit. Who is Savannah? Whether she’s innocent, scamming, or something else remains unclear on many levels. Moriarty is a master of ambiguity and also of the small, telling detail like a tossed tennis racket or the repeated appearance of apple crumble. Starting with the abandoned bike that's found by a passing motorist on the first page, the evidence that accumulates around what happened to Joy constantly challenges the reader both to notice which minor details (and characters) matter and to distinguish between red herrings and buried clues. The ultimate reveal is satisfying, if troubling. But Moriarty’s main focus, which she approaches from countless familiar and unexpected angles, is the mystery of family and what it means to be a parent, child, or sibling in the Delaney family—or in any family, for that matter.

Funny, sad, astute, occasionally creepy, and slyly irresistible.

Pub Date: Sept. 14, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-250-22025-7

Page Count: 480

Publisher: Henry Holt

Review Posted Online: June 16, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2021

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