An unusual but imperfectly realized blend of trivia and tragedy.



A wine expert in training visits her family’s vineyard in Burgundy only to discover a cellar full of secrets.

Kate Elliott, a San Francisco sommelier and daughter of a French expatriate, is preparing for a notoriously difficult wine-tasting exam. If she passes (most don’t), she will be one of a tiny cadre of certified Masters of Wine worldwide. She has repeatedly flunked the test; her weakness is French whites, so some serious cramming at Domaine Charpin, her ancestral vineyard, is in order. There, Kate rejoins Heather, her best friend from college, who married her cousin Nico, the Domaine’s current vintner. Kate herself almost wed a vigneron, Nico’s neighbor Jean-Luc, but feared being trapped in domesticity. Decluttering the family caves, Kate and Heather discover the World War II–era effects of one Hélène Charpin—her great half-aunt, Kate learns. Why, then, do the Charpins, particularly dour Uncle Philippe, seem determined to excise Hélène from family memory? Interspersed with Kate’s first-person narration are excerpts from Hélène’s wartime diary, which her descendants have yet to find. A budding chemist whose university plans were dashed by the German invasion of France, Hélène and her best friend, Rose, who is Jewish, are recruited by the Resistance. Hélène’s father, Edouard, is also a Résistant, unbeknownst to her stepmother, who embraces the new status quo. In the present, the little Kate is able to glean from the historical archives reveals that Hélène was punished as a collaborator, one of the women whose heads were shaved, post-Occupation, as a badge of shame. An extensive subplot, concerning a hidden wine cache and another sommelier’s duplicity, adds little, whereas the central question—what is up with the Charpins?—is sadly underdeveloped. The apparent estrangement not only between the Charpins and Philippe’s sister Céline, Kate’s mother, but between mother and daughter remains unexplored. Wine buffs will enjoy the detailed descriptions of viticulture and the sommelier’s art. Mah deserves credit at least for raising a still-taboo subject—the barbaric and unjust treatment of accused female collaborators after the Allied liberation of France.

An unusual but imperfectly realized blend of trivia and tragedy.

Pub Date: June 19, 2018

ISBN: 978-0-06-282331-1

Page Count: 384

Publisher: Morrow/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: April 3, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2018

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Kin “[find] each other’s lives inscrutable” in this rich, sharp story about the way identity is formed.

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Inseparable identical twin sisters ditch home together, and then one decides to vanish.

The talented Bennett fuels her fiction with secrets—first in her lauded debut, The Mothers (2016), and now in the assured and magnetic story of the Vignes sisters, light-skinned women parked on opposite sides of the color line. Desiree, the “fidgety twin,” and Stella, “a smart, careful girl,” make their break from stultifying rural Mallard, Louisiana, becoming 16-year-old runaways in 1954 New Orleans. The novel opens 14 years later as Desiree, fleeing a violent marriage in D.C., returns home with a different relative: her 8-year-old daughter, Jude. The gossips are agog: “In Mallard, nobody married dark....Marrying a dark man and dragging his blueblack child all over town was one step too far.” Desiree's decision seals Jude’s misery in this “colorstruck” place and propels a new generation of flight: Jude escapes on a track scholarship to UCLA. Tending bar as a side job in Beverly Hills, she catches a glimpse of her mother’s doppelgänger. Stella, ensconced in White society, is shedding her fur coat. Jude, so Black that strangers routinely stare, is unrecognizable to her aunt. All this is expertly paced, unfurling before the book is half finished; a reader can guess what is coming. Bennett is deeply engaged in the unknowability of other people and the scourge of colorism. The scene in which Stella adopts her White persona is a tour de force of doubling and confusion. It calls up Toni Morrison’s The Bluest Eye, the book's 50-year-old antecedent. Bennett's novel plays with its characters' nagging feelings of being incomplete—for the twins without each other; for Jude’s boyfriend, Reese, who is trans and seeks surgery; for their friend Barry, who performs in drag as Bianca. Bennett keeps all these plot threads thrumming and her social commentary crisp. In the second half, Jude spars with her cousin Kennedy, Stella's daughter, a spoiled actress.

Kin “[find] each other’s lives inscrutable” in this rich, sharp story about the way identity is formed.

Pub Date: June 2, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-525-53629-1

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Riverhead

Review Posted Online: March 15, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2020

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


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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