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. 14, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 2020

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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

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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 16, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2022

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