THE REVOLVING DOOR OF LIFE

As usual, it’s hard to tell from moment to moment which disturbances in Smith’s universe (Bertie’s Guide to Life and...

More comings and goings at 44 Scotland St. and in its charming Edinburgh environs.

The main going is ongoing: the continued absence of Bertie Pollock’s basilisk of a mother, Irene, who’s been detained indefinitely in a Persian Gulf harem, where she’s organized a book group while she waits for the diplomats to sort out her return. Stuart Pollock may be a dab hand at statistics, but he’s not up to the task of managing Bertie, who’s just turned 7, or his infant brother, Ulysses, on his own. So he calls his own mother, Nicola Tavares de Lumiares, who leaves her husband behind in Portugal and flies to her son’s side, to the deep gratification of everyone, especially Bertie. Outside town, gallery owner Matthew Harmony, his wife, Elspeth, and their triplets are still settling into an old farmhouse Matthew’s bought from the Duke of Johannesburg, who’s constantly afraid that his right to his title will be exposed by the self-appointed authorities of the peerage, when Matthew discovers a secret room hidden behind a bookcase. Matthew’s assistant and former girlfriend, Pat McGregor, is so worried that Anichka, the young Czech woman who’s engaged to her psychiatrist father, is a gold digger that she contemplates desperate measures: throwing her own ex-boyfriend, irresistibly handsome narcissist Bruce Anderson, into Anichka’s path to test her motives and perhaps derail her schemes. Only portrait painter Angus Lordie and his bride, anthropologist Domenica Macdonald, seem to be moving forward on an even keel—so there’s little to say about them until Angus has a touching epiphany and composes a poem whose heartfelt spirits are perhaps a bit loftier than the actual proceedings.

As usual, it’s hard to tell from moment to moment which disturbances in Smith’s universe (Bertie’s Guide to Life and Mothers, 2015, etc.) will pass after a momentary frisson and which will lead to serious ethical dilemmas. A bit like life, when you think about it.

Pub Date: Feb. 9, 2016

ISBN: 978-1-101-97191-8

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Anchor

Review Posted Online: Jan. 9, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2016

THEN SHE WAS GONE

Dark and unsettling, this novel’s end arrives abruptly even as readers are still moving at a breakneck speed.

Ten years after her teenage daughter went missing, a mother begins a new relationship only to discover she can't truly move on until she answers lingering questions about the past.

Laurel Mack’s life stopped in many ways the day her 15-year-old daughter, Ellie, left the house to study at the library and never returned. She drifted away from her other two children, Hanna and Jake, and eventually she and her husband, Paul, divorced. Ten years later, Ellie’s remains and her backpack are found, though the police are unable to determine the reasons for her disappearance and death. After Ellie’s funeral, Laurel begins a relationship with Floyd, a man she meets in a cafe. She's disarmed by Floyd’s charm, but when she meets his young daughter, Poppy, Laurel is startled by her resemblance to Ellie. As the novel progresses, Laurel becomes increasingly determined to learn what happened to Ellie, especially after discovering an odd connection between Poppy’s mother and her daughter even as her relationship with Floyd is becoming more serious. Jewell’s (I Found You, 2017, etc.) latest thriller moves at a brisk pace even as she plays with narrative structure: The book is split into three sections, including a first one which alternates chapters between the time of Ellie’s disappearance and the present and a second section that begins as Laurel and Floyd meet. Both of these sections primarily focus on Laurel. In the third section, Jewell alternates narrators and moments in time: The narrator switches to alternating first-person points of view (told by Poppy’s mother and Floyd) interspersed with third-person narration of Ellie’s experiences and Laurel’s discoveries in the present. All of these devices serve to build palpable tension, but the structure also contributes to how deeply disturbing the story becomes. At times, the characters and the emotional core of the events are almost obscured by such quick maneuvering through the weighty plot.

Dark and unsettling, this novel’s end arrives abruptly even as readers are still moving at a breakneck speed.

Pub Date: April 24, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-5011-5464-5

Page Count: 368

Publisher: Atria

Review Posted Online: Feb. 5, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2018

LOVE AND OTHER WORDS

With frank language and patient plotting, this gangly teen crush grows into a confident adult love affair.

Eleven years ago, he broke her heart. But he doesn’t know why she never forgave him.

Toggling between past and present, two love stories unfold simultaneously. In the first, Macy Sorensen meets and falls in love with the boy next door, Elliot Petropoulos, in the closet of her dad’s vacation home, where they hide out to discuss their favorite books. In the second, Macy is working as a doctor and engaged to a single father, and she hasn’t spoken to Elliot since their breakup. But a chance encounter forces her to confront the truth: what happened to make Macy stop speaking to Elliot? Ultimately, they’re separated not by time or physical remoteness but by emotional distance—Elliot and Macy always kept their relationship casual because they went to different schools. And as a teen, Macy has more to worry about than which girl Elliot is taking to the prom. After losing her mother at a young age, Macy is navigating her teenage years without a female role model, relying on the time-stamped notes her mother left in her father’s care for guidance. In the present day, Macy’s father is dead as well. She throws herself into her work and rarely comes up for air, not even to plan her upcoming wedding. Since Macy is still living with her fiance while grappling with her feelings for Elliot, the flashbacks offer steamy moments, tender revelations, and sweetly awkward confessions while Macy makes peace with her past and decides her future.

With frank language and patient plotting, this gangly teen crush grows into a confident adult love affair.

Pub Date: April 10, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-5011-2801-1

Page Count: 416

Publisher: Gallery Books/Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: Jan. 22, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2018

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