An aspirational fantasy in which the heroine not only survives, but flourishes through every crisis known to middle-age...

HOW HARD CAN IT BE?

Seven years have passed since London financial executive Kate Reddy found what seemed the perfect balance of family and work in Pearson’s popular I Don’t Know How She Does It (2002).

Those years have not been kind. Since Kate left her high-powered position to move to the countryside with her family, her formerly adorable kids have grown into bratty teens. Ben is a typically noncommunicative 14-year-old; more alarmingly, in trying to keep up with the popular mean-girl crowd, 16-year-old Emily recently took a “belfie”—selfie of her naked backside—which has gone viral. Kate’s husband, Richard, once appealing and supportive, has become a bicycle fanatic with no time for his family. Laid off from his architectural firm, he has been retraining to become a counselor, yammering about mindfulness while Kate supports them all with part-time financial consulting gigs (and also manages Richard’s ailing parents). Urgently short of money, the Reddys have recently relocated to an impractical fixer-upper in “Commuterland” as Kate begins searching for a job back in London. Meanwhile, her 50th birthday, complete with perimenopause, looms. Like the other job-seeking women in her "returners" support group, she quickly learns that age and experience are not assets in the marketplace. Ironically, she ends up back at her old firm, which has changed name and ownership; fortunately, there's no one left who remembers her, since she has to prove her competence in a temporary position while pretending to be an acceptably youthful 42 with help from “lunchtime lipo.” Kate proves herself indispensable, of course. She also reconnects with rich American dreamboat Jack, to whom she did not succumb years ago out of apparently misplaced loyalty to Richard. A caring mother, sister, daughter, and daughter-in-law, Kate thrives because she is smarter, wittier, prettier, and more competent than everyone else. She is also self-congratulatory, even when supposedly self-deprecating, and merciless to her enemies, even one encountered in the waiting room of a therapy center for self-harming teens.

An aspirational fantasy in which the heroine not only survives, but flourishes through every crisis known to middle-age women in the higher income brackets.

Pub Date: June 6, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-250-08608-2

Page Count: 352

Publisher: St. Martin's

Review Posted Online: March 20, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2018

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

THEN SHE WAS GONE

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. 6, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2018

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A deeply satisfying novel, both sensuously vivid and remarkably poignant.

THE UNSEEN

Norwegian novelist Jacobsen folds a quietly powerful coming-of-age story into a rendition of daily life on one of Norway’s rural islands a hundred years ago in a novel that was shortlisted for the 2017 Man Booker International Prize.

Ingrid Barrøy, her father, Hans, mother, Maria, grandfather Martin, and slightly addled aunt Barbro are the owners and sole inhabitants of Barrøy Island, one of numerous small family-owned islands in an area of Norway barely touched by the outside world. The novel follows Ingrid from age 3 through a carefree early childhood of endless small chores, simple pleasures, and unquestioned familial love into her more ambivalent adolescence attending school off the island and becoming aware of the outside world, then finally into young womanhood when she must make difficult choices. Readers will share Ingrid’s adoration of her father, whose sense of responsibility conflicts with his romantic nature. He adores Maria, despite what he calls her “la-di-da” ways, and is devoted to Ingrid. Twice he finds work on the mainland for his sister, Barbro, but, afraid she’ll be unhappy, he brings her home both times. Rooted to the land where he farms and tied to the sea where he fishes, Hans struggles to maintain his family’s hardscrabble existence on an island where every repair is a struggle against the elements. But his efforts are Sisyphean. Life as a Barrøy on Barrøy remains precarious. Changes do occur in men’s and women’s roles, reflected in part by who gets a literal chair to sit on at meals, while world crises—a war, Sweden’s financial troubles—have unexpected impact. Yet the drama here occurs in small increments, season by season, following nature’s rhythm through deaths and births, moments of joy and deep sorrow. The translator’s decision to use roughly translated phrases in conversation—i.e., “Tha’s goen’ nohvar” for "You’re going nowhere")—slows the reading down at first but ends up drawing readers more deeply into the world of Barrøy and its prickly, intensely alive inhabitants.

A deeply satisfying novel, both sensuously vivid and remarkably poignant.

Pub Date: April 7, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-77196-319-0

Page Count: 272

Publisher: Biblioasis

Review Posted Online: Jan. 13, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2020

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