A novel of family dysfunction that veers into startling and original territory.

Three sons of alcoholic parents return to an idyllic setting of long-ago trauma.

Fluidly translated from the Swedish by Willson-Broyles, this is Schulman’s first U.S. publication. In a frame story anchoring the narrative, three brothers have convened, after a long absence, at their family cabin on a lake to scatter their mother’s ashes. In the mind of protagonist Benjamin, the middle brother, events and memories spiral and circle in flashback upon flashback—it’s a take-no-prisoners kind of nonlinearity. During childhood summers at the lake, Benjamin, his aloof older brother, Nils, and irascible younger brother, Pierre, get into various scrapes. “Mom and Dad,” as they're always called, exercise minimal supervision between frequent “siestas” and extended cocktail hours, leaving the children to disappear for hours in the woods and nearly drown in the lake. Their parents’ volatility and inconsistent care have fostered an awkward semi-estrangement among the adult siblings, which, at the water’s edge, erupts into a brawl, with their mother’s urn weaponized. Shocks escalate, from the boys’ unthinking cruelty toward a fish to a disastrous family outing on Midsummer Eve to the heist of Mom’s ashes from a crematory. All this may seem over-the-top, but Benjamin’s meditative perspective lends gravitas to the proceedings. His memories hover over one incident he recoils from confronting, even questioning his own sanity to avoid it. A pivotal figure in the novel is the family dog, Molly, a bellwether of unease; she is anxious and seems to only trust Benjamin and Mom. The behavior of Mom in particular is portrayed as classic alcoholic personality disorder; but it slowly dawns on the reader that there is far more to it than that. A final truth emerges, forcing the reader to reevaluate all that has gone before.

A novel of family dysfunction that veers into startling and original territory.

Pub Date: Oct. 5, 2021

ISBN: 978-0-385-54756-7

Page Count: 240

Publisher: Doubleday

Review Posted Online: July 27, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2021



A flabby, fervid melodrama of a high-strung Southern family from Conroy (The Great Santini, The Lords of Discipline), whose penchant for overwriting once again obscures a genuine talent. Tom Wingo is an unemployed South Carolinian football coach whose internist wife is having an affair with a pompous cardiac man. When he hears that his fierce, beautiful twin sister Savannah, a well-known New York poet, has once again attempted suicide, he escapes his present emasculation by flying north to meet Savannah's comely psychiatrist, Susan Lowenstein. Savannah, it turns out, is catatonic, and before the suicide attempt had completely assumed the identity of a dead friend—the implication being that she couldn't stand being a Wingo anymore. Susan (a shrink with a lot of time on her hands) says to Tom, "Will you stay in New York and tell me all you know?" and he does, for nearly 600 mostly-bloated pages of flashbacks depicting The Family Wingo of swampy Colleton County: a beautiful mother, a brutal shrimper father (the Great Santini alive and kicking), and Tom and Savannah's much-admired older brother, Luke. There are enough traumas here to fall an average-sized mental ward, but the biggie centers around Luke, who uses the skills learned as a Navy SEAL in Vietnam to fight a guerrilla war against the installation of a nuclear power plant in Colleton and is killed by the authorities. It's his death that precipitates the nervous breakdown that costs Tom his job, and Savannah, almost, her life. There may be a barely-glimpsed smaller novel buried in all this succotash (Tom's marriage and life as a football coach), but it's sadly overwhelmed by the book's clumsy central narrative device (flashback ad infinitum) and Conroy's pretentious prose style: ""There are no verdicts to childhood, only consequences, and the bright freight of memory. I speak now of the sun-struck, deeply lived-in days of my past.

Pub Date: Oct. 21, 1986

ISBN: 0553381547

Page Count: 686

Publisher: Houghton Mifflin

Review Posted Online: Oct. 30, 2013

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 1986



A book begging to be read on the beach, with the sun warming the sand and salt in the air: pure escapism.

Three woman who join together to rent a large space along the beach in Los Angeles for their stores—a gift shop, a bakery, and a bookstore—become fast friends as they each experience the highs, and lows, of love.

Bree is a friendly but standoffish bookstore owner who keeps everyone she knows at arm’s length, from guys she meets in bars to her friends. Mikki is a settled-in-her-routines divorced mother of two, happily a mom, gift-shop owner, and co-parent with her ex-husband, Perry. And Ashley is a young, very-much-in-love bakery owner specializing in muffins who devotes herself to giving back to the community through a nonprofit that helps community members develop skills and find jobs. When the women meet drooling over a boardwalk storefront that none of them can afford on her own, a plan is hatched to divide the space in three, and a friendship—and business partnership—is born. An impromptu celebration on the beach at sunset with champagne becomes a weekly touchpoint to their lives as they learn more about each other and themselves. Their friendship blossoms as they help each other, offering support, hard truths, and loving backup. Author Mallery has created a delightful story of friendship between three women that also offers a variety of love stories as they fall in love, make mistakes, and figure out how to be the best—albeit still flawed—versions of themselves. The men are similarly flawed and human. While the story comes down clearly on the side of all-encompassing love, Mallery has struck a careful balance: There is just enough sex to be spicy, just enough swearing to be naughty, and just enough heartbreak to avoid being cloying.

A book begging to be read on the beach, with the sun warming the sand and salt in the air: pure escapism.

Pub Date: May 31, 2022

ISBN: 978-0-778-38608-7

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Harlequin MIRA

Review Posted Online: March 15, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2022