A vivid evocation of the conflict between reason and spirituality.



A skeptical lawyer wrestles with a crisis of faith—gaining it, not losing it—as he discovers his own possibly supernatural powers in this debut novel of ideas.

Will Alexander is leading a mediocre, hollow life as an attorney for a Manhattan law firm when he meets Erica Wells, a social worker who incorporates New Age mysticism into her practice. He’s smitten by her green eyes; she’s smitten by his green aura, which only she can sense. Will takes Erica’s disparagement of Western evidence-based medicine in favor of “universal healing and energy”—featuring detoxification, herbal supplements, and regression therapy—for so much nonsense. But he puts up with her eccentric enthusiasms for the sake of her passion and vibrancy. But then, during a chance encounter, Will, with no effort or intention, apparently cures a legal client of an anxiety disorder. Others seek him out: He dispels a tech mogul’s fatal neurological ailment with a few minutes of meditation and sends an old man’s cancer into remission during a night of drinking. Will is nonplussed by all this: He doesn’t feel like he’s doing anything to cure people and thinks his successes might be a placebo effect or pure coincidence. Still, word of mouth creates demand for his services, so he sets up shop as the world’s most diffident healer, warning patients that he claims no special powers and makes no promises and telling them not to pay him unless they feel like it. Will’s self-disparagement perversely inspires trust, and his practice thrives—and makes him a target of a cynical investigative journalist intent on proving him a fraud. Himmel’s entertaining novel is on one level a fine comedy of ideological manners. Much of it unfolds in funny, awkward dinner-table conversations as Erica floats her ardent mystical beliefs and dares her dubious companions to mock them while they search for ways to steer the conversation to safer waters. The author’s sharply etched characters and smart, observant prose shrewdly capture the ways people think and talk about religious and philosophical issues. “I was always struck by how he managed to marshal an articulate discourse in defense of shallow insights,” Will muses of one blowhard, and he calls the earnest, didactic New Age tomes Erica presses on him “Soviet propaganda without the charm.” But the tale takes Will’s hangdog spiritual quest seriously while avoiding the clichés of New Age fiction. There are no revealed certitudes, no channeling of omniscient beings from the astral plane. Will remains a flawed, neurotic man torn between his lawyerly devotion to evidence and logic and the haunting, ambiguous glimpses of supernatural forces that intrude on him. He is perpetually in doubt about whether his abilities are real or just luck and hopeful figments of the imagination—especially when they fail. And they work no miraculous healing in his own life. His new calling often feels like a drag and leads him into a serious ethical lapse; what enlightenment he gains comes through painful experience and self-examination rather than clairvoyance. As he grapples with metaphysical mysteries, even dyed-in-the-wool skeptics should find his struggle compelling.

A vivid evocation of the conflict between reason and spirituality.

Pub Date: Oct. 8, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-62634-530-0

Page Count: 312

Publisher: Greenleaf Book Group Press

Review Posted Online: Sept. 7, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 2018

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A touching family drama that effectively explores the negative impact of stress on fragile relationships.


A middle-aged woman returns to her childhood home to care for her ailing father, confronting many painful secrets from her past.

When Mallory Aldiss gets a call from a long-ago boyfriend telling her that her elderly father has been gallivanting around town with a gun in his hand, Mallory decides it’s time to return to the small Rhode Island town that she’s been avoiding for more than a decade. Mallory’s precocious 13-year-old daughter, Joy, is thrilled that she'll get to meet her grandfather at long last, and an aunt, too, and she'll finally see the place where her mother grew up. When they arrive in Bay Bluff, it’s barely a few hours before Mallory bumps into her old flame, Jack, the only man she’s ever really loved. Gone is the rebellious young person she remembers, and in his place stands a compassionate, accomplished adult. As they try to reconnect, Mallory realizes that the same obstacle that pushed them apart decades earlier is still standing in their way: Jack blames Mallory’s father for his mother’s death. No one knows exactly how Jack’s mother died, but Jack thinks a love affair between her and Mallory’s father had something to do with it. As Jack and Mallory chase down answers, Mallory also tries to repair her rocky relationships with her two sisters and determine why her father has always been so hard on her. Told entirely from Mallory’s perspective, the novel has a haunting, nostalgic quality. Despite the complex and overlapping layers to the history of Bay Bluff and its inhabitants, the book at times trudges too slowly through Mallory’s meanderings down Memory Lane. Even so, Delinsky sometimes manages to pick up the pace, and in those moments the beauty and nuance of this complicated family tale shine through. Readers who don’t mind skimming past details that do little to advance the plot may find that the juicier nuggets and realistically rendered human connections are worth the effort.

A touching family drama that effectively explores the negative impact of stress on fragile relationships.

Pub Date: May 19, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-250-11951-3

Page Count: 416

Publisher: St. Martin's

Review Posted Online: March 2, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2020

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A love letter to the power of books and friendship.

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Women become horseback librarians in 1930s Kentucky and face challenges from the landscape, the weather, and the men around them.

Alice thought marrying attractive American Bennett Van Cleve would be her ticket out of her stifling life in England. But when she and Bennett settle in Baileyville, Kentucky, she realizes that her life consists of nothing more than staying in their giant house all day and getting yelled at by his unpleasant father, who owns a coal mine. She’s just about to resign herself to a life of boredom when an opportunity presents itself in the form of a traveling horseback library—an initiative from Eleanor Roosevelt meant to counteract the devastating effects of the Depression by focusing on literacy and learning. Much to the dismay of her husband and father-in-law, Alice signs up and soon learns the ropes from the library’s leader, Margery. Margery doesn’t care what anyone thinks of her, rejects marriage, and would rather be on horseback than in a kitchen. And even though all this makes Margery a town pariah, Alice quickly grows to like her. Along with several other women (including one black woman, Sophia, whose employment causes controversy in a town that doesn’t believe black and white people should be allowed to use the same library), Margery and Alice supply magazines, Bible stories, and copies of books like Little Women to the largely poor residents who live in remote areas. Alice spends long days in terrible weather on horseback, but she finally feels happy in her new life in Kentucky, even as her marriage to Bennett is failing. But her powerful father-in-law doesn’t care for Alice’s job or Margery’s lifestyle, and he’ll stop at nothing to shut their library down. Basing her novel on the true story of the Pack Horse Library Project established by the Works Progress Administration in the 1930s, Moyes (Still Me, 2018, etc.) brings an often forgotten slice of history to life. She writes about Kentucky with lush descriptions of the landscape and tender respect for the townspeople, most of whom are poor, uneducated, and grateful for the chance to learn. Although Alice and Margery both have their own romances, the true power of the story is in the bonds between the women of the library. They may have different backgrounds, but their commitment to helping the people of Baileyville brings them together.

A love letter to the power of books and friendship.

Pub Date: Oct. 8, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-399-56248-8

Page Count: 400

Publisher: Pamela Dorman/Viking

Review Posted Online: July 1, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2019

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