An experimental, psychological debut about selfhood, fiction, and memory.

HER HERE

A former scholar searches for a missing woman in an unorthodox way.

In Dennis’ elusive debut novel, Elena—a young woman grieving her late mother—finds herself in the pages of a missing woman’s journal. Still traumatized by her mother’s death six years ago, Elena is plagued with memory loss and a slippery sense of self: “Forgetting is how the body keeps itself sane.” When Siobhán, her late mother’s friend, reaches out with an unconventional job offer, Elena moves to Paris, leaving behind her graduate program and long-term boyfriend. Siobhán wants Elena to find Ella, her biological daughter, who fled to Thailand when her adoptive parents told her the truth about her birth—and has been missing for the past six years. Craving closure, she asks Elena to rewrite Ella’s impressionistic journals "as an account of what happened" and use that narrative to unearth clues that may be hidden in plain sight. Physically and emotionally unmoored for years, Elena loses herself in the task almost immediately: “The difference now is purpose—one to string itself through my days, adding tautness, definition, orienting them on an axis of someone else.” If the journal rewriting is an interesting (if convoluted) premise, Dennis’ sensory prose leads to a fascinating exploration of identity, grief, and time. As Ella’s journals tip further toward madness, the two women’s lives become more intertwined; the physical, mental, and emotional boundaries between them become nearly nonexistent. Dennis’ abilities to blur fact and fiction—through structure and pronoun use—and wield language elevate the novel. Her prose is sensory and unsettling: “three days, ample and round, like peaches ripening in the summer markets”; “I was becoming other than myself, to my delight and terror.” With an unsurprising (though satisfying) ending, the women come to terms with their lives—the ones they currently inhabit and the one Elena has created.

An experimental, psychological debut about selfhood, fiction, and memory.

Pub Date: March 9, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-942658-76-4

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Bellevue Literary Press

Review Posted Online: Nov. 27, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2020

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A tasty, if not always tasteful, tale of supernatural mayhem that fans of King and Crichton alike will enjoy.

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DEVOLUTION

Are we not men? We are—well, ask Bigfoot, as Brooks does in this delightful yarn, following on his bestseller World War Z (2006).

A zombie apocalypse is one thing. A volcanic eruption is quite another, for, as the journalist who does a framing voice-over narration for Brooks’ latest puts it, when Mount Rainier popped its cork, “it was the psychological aspect, the hyperbole-fueled hysteria that had ended up killing the most people.” Maybe, but the sasquatches whom the volcano displaced contributed to the statistics, too, if only out of self-defense. Brooks places the epicenter of the Bigfoot war in a high-tech hideaway populated by the kind of people you might find in a Jurassic Park franchise: the schmo who doesn’t know how to do much of anything but tries anyway, the well-intentioned bleeding heart, the know-it-all intellectual who turns out to know the wrong things, the immigrant with a tough backstory and an instinct for survival. Indeed, the novel does double duty as a survival manual, packed full of good advice—for instance, try not to get wounded, for “injury turns you from a giver to a taker. Taking up our resources, our time to care for you.” Brooks presents a case for making room for Bigfoot in the world while peppering his narrative with timely social criticism about bad behavior on the human side of the conflict: The explosion of Rainier might have been better forecast had the president not slashed the budget of the U.S. Geological Survey, leading to “immediate suspension of the National Volcano Early Warning System,” and there’s always someone around looking to monetize the natural disaster and the sasquatch-y onslaught that follows. Brooks is a pro at building suspense even if it plays out in some rather spectacularly yucky episodes, one involving a short spear that takes its name from “the sucking sound of pulling it out of the dead man’s heart and lungs.” Grossness aside, it puts you right there on the scene.

A tasty, if not always tasteful, tale of supernatural mayhem that fans of King and Crichton alike will enjoy.

Pub Date: June 16, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-9848-2678-7

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Del Rey/Ballantine

Review Posted Online: Feb. 10, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2020

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An alternately farcical and poignant look at family bonds.

THE SUMMER PLACE

When a family convenes at their Cape Cod summer home for a wedding, old secrets threaten to ruin everything.

Sarah Danhauser is shocked when her beloved stepdaughter announces her engagement to her boyfriend, Gabe. After all, Ruby’s only 22, and Sarah suspects that their relationship was fast-tracked because of the time they spent together in quarantine during the early days of the pandemic. Sarah’s mother, Veronica, is thrilled, mostly because she longs to have the entire family together for one last celebration before she puts their Cape Cod summer house on the market. But getting to Ruby and Gabe’s wedding might prove more difficult than anyone thought. Sarah can’t figure out why her husband, Eli, has been so distant and distracted ever since Ruby moved home to Park Slope (bringing Gabe with her), and she's afraid he may be having an affair. Veronica is afraid that a long-ago dalliance might come back to bite her. Ruby isn’t sure how to process the conflicting feelings she’s having about her upcoming nuptials. And Sam, Sarah’s twin brother, is a recent widower who’s dealing with some pretty big romantic confusion. As the entire extended family, along with Gabe’s relatives, converges on the summer house, secrets become impossible to keep, and it quickly becomes clear that this might not be the perfect gathering Veronica was envisioning. If they make it to the wedding, will their family survive the aftermath? Weiner creates a story with all the misunderstandings and miscommunications of a screwball comedy or a Shakespeare play (think A Midsummer Night’s Dream). But the surprising, over-the-top actions of the characters are grounded by a realistic and moving look at grief and ambition (particularly for Sarah and Veronica, both of whom give up demanding creative careers early on). At times the flashbacks can slow down the story, but even when the characters are lying, cheating, and hiding from each other, they still seem like a real and loving family.

An alternately farcical and poignant look at family bonds.

Pub Date: May 10, 2022

ISBN: 978-1-5011-3357-2

Page Count: 432

Publisher: Atria

Review Posted Online: Feb. 9, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2022

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