THE BUTTERFLY LAMPSHADE

A novel with rewards for patient and sympathetic readers.

The author revisits themes she explored in The Particular Sadness of Lemon Cake (2010) in her latest novel.

When Francie is 8 years old, her mother, Elaine, suffers a psychotic break. Elaine's struggles with mental health are nothing new, but this episode is severe enough that Elaine is institutionalized and Francie is sent from Portland, Oregon, to Los Angeles to live with her Aunt Minn, her Uncle Stan, and their new baby, Vicky. Twenty years later, Francie is still living in LA. She’s managing a frame store, but she spends her free time scouring yard sales for odd treasures she can sell online. Her relationship with her adopted family is solid, if fraught—Minn and Vicky are always looking for signs of Elaine’s illness in Francie. Her relationship with her mother—maintained by phone and occasional visits—depends largely on how well Elaine’s medications are working. As she begins to revisit and work through what happened when she was 8, Francie withdraws from the world beyond this small circle. A reader’s capacity to appreciate this novel will depend on how much time they're willing to spend inside Francie’s head. Francie is smart and interesting. She is an engaging protagonist. And she notes—or it feels like she notes—every single detail of every encounter she has. Sentences like “At some point, Vicky got up to wipe down the table, and I watched all the last pieces of rice and blueberries connect to her sponge and gather together to fall into her hand” take up a whole lot of the first half of the novel. But the reader who sticks with this glacial pace will realize that Francie notices everything because her survival depended on noticing everything when she was a child. By the end, the book reveals itself as a meditation on memory, identity, and the sometimes-uncanny relationship between living beings and the inanimate world.

A novel with rewards for patient and sympathetic readers.  

Pub Date: July 28, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-385-53487-1

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Doubleday

Review Posted Online: May 17, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 2020

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THE WOMEN

A dramatic, vividly detailed reconstruction of a little-known aspect of the Vietnam War.

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A young woman’s experience as a nurse in Vietnam casts a deep shadow over her life.

When we learn that the farewell party in the opening scene is for Frances “Frankie” McGrath’s older brother—“a golden boy, a wild child who could make the hardest heart soften”—who is leaving to serve in Vietnam in 1966, we feel pretty certain that poor Finley McGrath is marked for death. Still, it’s a surprise when the fateful doorbell rings less than 20 pages later. His death inspires his sister to enlist as an Army nurse, and this turn of events is just the beginning of a roller coaster of a plot that’s impressive and engrossing if at times a bit formulaic. Hannah renders the experiences of the young women who served in Vietnam in all-encompassing detail. The first half of the book, set in gore-drenched hospital wards, mildewed dorm rooms, and boozy officers’ clubs, is an exciting read, tracking the transformation of virginal, uptight Frankie into a crack surgical nurse and woman of the world. Her tensely platonic romance with a married surgeon ends when his broken, unbreathing body is airlifted out by helicopter; she throws her pent-up passion into a wild affair with a soldier who happens to be her dead brother’s best friend. In the second part of the book, after the war, Frankie seems to experience every possible bad break. A drawback of the story is that none of the secondary characters in her life are fully three-dimensional: Her dismissive, chauvinistic father and tight-lipped, pill-popping mother, her fellow nurses, and her various love interests are more plot devices than people. You’ll wish you could have gone to Vegas and placed a bet on the ending—while it’s against all the odds, you’ll see it coming from a mile away.

A dramatic, vividly detailed reconstruction of a little-known aspect of the Vietnam War.

Pub Date: Feb. 6, 2024

ISBN: 9781250178633

Page Count: 480

Publisher: St. Martin's

Review Posted Online: Nov. 4, 2023

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2023

GIRL ABROAD

A spicy novel that’s a must-read for fans of a British accent.

A rock star’s daughter decides to study abroad in search of her own experiences, finding romance and intrigue along the way.

For 19-year-old Abbey Bly, having a rock star for a father isn’t as glamorous as it seems. For one thing, she shares her name with Abbey Road, and for another, the only version of the famous Gunner Bly she knows is the helicopter parent she lives with in Nashville. Hoping to find her way outside her father’s sphere of influence, Abbey decides to spend a semester in London studying European history at Pembridge University. Promising to keep her father updated on every aspect of life abroad, Abbey heads to her shared apartment expecting to find three female roommates…only to find that she’s actually living with three men. Afraid that Gunner will order her home, Abbey decides to keep Lee, Jack, and Jamie’s gender a secret (lucky their names sound androgynous!) and sets her sights on adventure. While working on a research project about a mysterious painting and adapting to Britain’s drinking culture, Abbey finds time to explore a little romance despite her housemates’ strict no-fraternizing rule. First there’s Jack, a commitment-phobic Australian hottie who can’t seem to stay away from Abbey; then there’s Nate, a sexy bassist who keeps forgetting he’s taken. Toying with nonexclusive relationships and exploring her sexuality, Abbey can’t help but feel excited about all the experience she’s gaining, but has she really, truly found herself? Kennedy’s novel is a page-turner—who wouldn’t want to travel to a foreign country and meet interested potential lovers down the hall? Abbey is a relatable character who yearns to stand outside her father’s shadow, and though the love triangle is a focal point, it never outshines the heroine’s growth.

A spicy novel that’s a must-read for fans of a British accent.

Pub Date: Feb. 13, 2024

ISBN: 9781728299792

Page Count: 432

Publisher: Bloom Books

Review Posted Online: Dec. 16, 2023

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2024

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