The inadequately foreshadowed surprise ending involves an ultimate betrayal that will dismay readers almost as much as it...


A widow returns to her family cottage in Maine, her late husband’s ashes and ornery cat in tow, and ponders her first experience of love and loss.

Siddons frames the story around the sudden death of Cam McCall, Virginia architect, while at his wife Lilly’s Maine seashore cottage, Edgewater. Though portrayed as eminently trustworthy, Cam has, unbeknownst to Lilly, visited the unheated cottage many times during the “Off Season” while supposedly traveling elsewhere on business. After wrangling about the disposition of Cam’s cremains with her spoiled yuppie daughters, Lilly heads north with Silas, Cam’s cranky, subliminally conversational cat, and the urn. In her cottage, Lilly revisits the pivotal summer of 1962, when, a wiry 11-year-old tomboy, she led a gang of other kids on a spate of mostly wholesome outdoor activities, occasionally ruffling feathers in this WASP-ruled vacation enclave. Lilly’s preadolescence is thorny. She’s overshadowed by her charismatic painter mother, who yearns to enter Jackie Kennedy’s social circle, and her father, a professor at George Washington University, is too supportive to rebel against. On a lonely ramble to a nearby cliff, Lilly encounters a boy named Jon and is immediately smitten. The two are inseparable until a prissy, meddlesome neighbor child, Peaches, exposes the fact that Jon’s father is Jewish, a secret his father had kept from him and his mother. Shocked by the deception, Jon sails into a fog in Lilly’s sailboat, and drowns. Lilly retreats into a cocoon of denial and becomes obsessed with underwater swimming. Her isolation is exacerbated when her mother dies of breast cancer and her father keeps her cloistered in benevolent but stifling domesticity as the turbulent ’60s unfold. In contrast to Siddons’s usual heroine, who struggles to achieve self-sufficiency, Lilly is overcome by passivity, which deepens as she’s repeatedly blindsided by loss.

The inadequately foreshadowed surprise ending involves an ultimate betrayal that will dismay readers almost as much as it does Lilly.

Pub Date: Aug. 13, 2008

ISBN: 978-0-446-52787-3

Page Count: 350

Publisher: Grand Central Publishing

Review Posted Online: June 24, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2008

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


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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