Sebold may have her finger on the pulse of a certain middle-aged zeitgeist here, but her navel-gazing central character is...


Sebold (The Lovely Bones, 2002, etc.) once again navigates dark territory, this time the inner landscape of a middle-aged woman who impulsively kills her aged mother.

Since her divorce years earlier, 49-year-old Helen, the mother of two grown daughters, has lived in the Pennsylvania town where she grew up. She works as an artist’s model at the local college but mostly takes care of her mother Claire. One evening, undone by frustration at 88-year-old Claire’s increasing incapacitation and dementia, Helen suffers a momentary lapse of reason and suffocates the old woman in the house Claire has not left for years. Helen has been equally trapped, both hating and loving her mother to the detriment of everything else in her life. Now Helen hides Claire’s body in the basement freezer and calls her ex-husband Jake. Although they have not seen each other in years, he immediately hops a plane from California to help her through the crisis. Meanwhile, for reasons that never quite wash, Helen has sex with the 30-year-old son of her best friend. Soon after Jake arrives, he acknowledges that he never wanted their divorce. Then the police find Claire’s body and begin asking questions. The novel follows Helen’s inner turmoil as she confronts what she has done and relives her past—particularly her terrible childhood: As a mother, Claire could be charming but was increasingly mentally ill, and Helen’s gentle, loving father made Claire largely Helen’s responsibility from an early age while he escaped to his secret haven. Helen now plans her own escape. She steals a gun to commit suicide, as her father did. But realizing that she has enjoyed the love of good men and wonderful children, Helen has a change of heart and waits to face her fate.

Sebold may have her finger on the pulse of a certain middle-aged zeitgeist here, but her navel-gazing central character is more tedious than tragic.

Pub Date: Oct. 16, 2007

ISBN: 978-0-316-67746-2

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2007

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Finding positivity in negative pregnancy-test results, this depiction of a marriage in crisis is nearly perfect.


Named for an imperfectly worded fortune cookie, Hoover's (It Ends with Us, 2016, etc.) latest compares a woman’s relationship with her husband before and after she finds out she’s infertile.

Quinn meets her future husband, Graham, in front of her soon-to-be-ex-fiance’s apartment, where Graham is about to confront him for having an affair with his girlfriend. A few years later, they are happily married but struggling to conceive. The “then and now” format—with alternating chapters moving back and forth in time—allows a hopeful romance to blossom within a dark but relatable dilemma. Back then, Quinn’s bad breakup leads her to the love of her life. In the now, she’s exhausted a laundry list of fertility options, from IVF treatments to adoption, and the silver lining is harder to find. Quinn’s bad relationship with her wealthy mother also prevents her from asking for more money to throw at the problem. But just when Quinn’s narrative starts to sound like she’s writing a long Facebook rant about her struggles, she reveals the larger issue: Ever since she and Graham have been trying to have a baby, intimacy has become a chore, and she doesn’t know how to tell him. Instead, she hopes the contents of a mystery box she’s kept since their wedding day will help her decide their fate. With a few well-timed silences, Hoover turns the fairly common problem of infertility into the more universal problem of poor communication. Graham and Quinn may or may not become parents, but if they don’t talk about their feelings, they won’t remain a couple, either.

Finding positivity in negative pregnancy-test results, this depiction of a marriage in crisis is nearly perfect.

Pub Date: July 17, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-5011-7159-8

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Atria

Review Posted Online: May 1, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2018

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Still, a respectful and absorbing page-turner.


Hannah’s new novel is an homage to the extraordinary courage and endurance of Frenchwomen during World War II.

In 1995, an elderly unnamed widow is moving into an Oregon nursing home on the urging of her controlling son, Julien, a surgeon. This trajectory is interrupted when she receives an invitation to return to France to attend a ceremony honoring passeurs: people who aided the escape of others during the war. Cut to spring, 1940: Viann has said goodbye to husband Antoine, who's off to hold the Maginot line against invading Germans. She returns to tending her small farm, Le Jardin, in the Loire Valley, teaching at the local school and coping with daughter Sophie’s adolescent rebellion. Soon, that world is upended: The Germans march into Paris and refugees flee south, overrunning Viann’s land. Her long-estranged younger sister, Isabelle, who has been kicked out of multiple convent schools, is sent to Le Jardin by Julien, their father in Paris, a drunken, decidedly unpaternal Great War veteran. As the depredations increase in the occupied zone—food rationing, systematic looting, and the billeting of a German officer, Capt. Beck, at Le Jardin—Isabelle’s outspokenness is a liability. She joins the Resistance, volunteering for dangerous duty: shepherding downed Allied airmen across the Pyrenees to Spain. Code-named the Nightingale, Isabelle will rescue many before she's captured. Meanwhile, Viann’s journey from passive to active resistance is less dramatic but no less wrenching. Hannah vividly demonstrates how the Nazis, through starvation, intimidation and barbarity both casual and calculated, demoralized the French, engineering a community collapse that enabled the deportations and deaths of more than 70,000 Jews. Hannah’s proven storytelling skills are ideally suited to depicting such cataclysmic events, but her tendency to sentimentalize undermines the gravitas of this tale.

Still, a respectful and absorbing page-turner.

Pub Date: Feb. 3, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-312-57722-3

Page Count: 448

Publisher: St. Martin's

Review Posted Online: Nov. 20, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2014

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