Next book

THE SMASH-UP

Enjoyable and well plotted, if slightly contrived.

A hypertopical, semisatirical, Ethan Frome–inspired portrait of a family on the edge.

Sixteen years ago, Ethan and Zo Frome (short for Zenobia) fled Brooklyn for life in the “quiet nowhere” that is Starkfield, Massachusetts, and now, as they settle into middle age, it's becoming clear to both of them that their lives have not worked out as they planned. When we meet them, in 2018, against the backdrop of the Brett Kavanaugh hearings, Zo is consumed with her women’s group, All Them Witches, which, since Trump’s election—though neither political event is named explicitly—has met in the Fromes' living room “to make posters and write postcards and process the dumpster fire that is the news these days.” And though Ethan is, in his own estimation “one of the good guys,” who respects women, of course he does, he cannot help but find this off-putting, the way it is both sexless and distinctly middle-aged. When they met, Zo was a promising documentary filmmaker, and the guerrilla marketing startup he co-founded was on the cutting edge, and now she's rage-buying furniture online, and he's living off checks from a company he hasn’t worked for in years. Meanwhile, their 11-year-old daughter has severe ADHD neither she nor they can cope with, which is part of why they’ve hired 20-something Maddy, who, rather than solutions, brings troubles of her own. (Also, predictable romantic intrigue for Ethan.) Nothing about the characters is idiosyncratic or surprising or especially nuanced—not Zo’s anger, not Ethan’s wistful nostalgia—and the novel can’t seem to decide exactly how heightened it wants to be. And yet the plot is cleverly constructed, and lost-youth longing is intoxicating, and just because the characters seem sent from central casting doesn’t mean they can’t pack an emotional punch.

Enjoyable and well plotted, if slightly contrived.

Pub Date: Feb. 2, 2021

ISBN: 978-0-593-22965-1

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Random House

Review Posted Online: Oct. 13, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 2020

Awards & Accolades

Likes

  • Readers Vote
  • 116


Our Verdict

  • Our Verdict
  • GET IT


  • New York Times Bestseller

Next book

THE WOMEN

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

Awards & Accolades

Likes

  • Readers Vote
  • 116


Our Verdict

  • Our Verdict
  • GET IT


  • New York Times Bestseller

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

Awards & Accolades

Likes

  • Readers Vote
  • 27


Our Verdict

  • Our Verdict
  • GET IT


  • New York Times Bestseller

Next book

HOME IS WHERE THE BODIES ARE

Answers are hard to come by in this twisting tale designed to trick and delight.

Awards & Accolades

Likes

  • Readers Vote
  • 27


Our Verdict

  • Our Verdict
  • GET IT


  • New York Times Bestseller

Three siblings on very different paths learn that their family home may be haunted by secrets.

Eldest daughter Beth is alone with her fading mother as she takes her final breath and says something about Beth’s long-departed brother and sister, who may not have disappeared forever. Beth is still reeling from the loss of her mother when her estranged siblings show up. Michael, the youngest, hasn’t been home since their father’s disappearance seven years ago. In the meantime, he’s outgrown his siblings, trading his share of the family troubles for a high-paying job in San Jose. Nicole, the middle child, has been overpowered by addiction and prioritized tuning out reality over any sense of responsibility, much to Beth’s disgust. Though their mother’s death marks an ending for the family, it’s also a beginning, as the three siblings realize when they find a disturbing videotape among their parents’ belongings. The video, from 1999, sheds suspicion on their father’s disappearance, linking it to a long-unsolved neighborhood mystery. Was it just a series of unfortunate circumstances that broke the family apart, or does something more sinister underlie the sadness they’ve all found in life? In chapters that rotate among the family’s first-person narratives, the siblings take turns digging up stories and secrets in their search for solace.

Answers are hard to come by in this twisting tale designed to trick and delight.

Pub Date: April 30, 2024

ISBN: 9798212182843

Page Count: 270

Publisher: Blackstone

Review Posted Online: Feb. 3, 2024

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2024

Close Quickview