A well-considered, insightful mixture of personal drama and early feminism.


A young Lutheran converts to Catholicism and then questions the church’s stance on birth control in this novel of a woman’s self-discovery.

Britt Anderson attends college in rural Minnesota and feels trapped by her father’s prohibition on her becoming a nurse. Jesse, a college boyfriend, abruptly enlists in the U.S. Army to serve in the Korean War, and when she learns her current best friend, Andy Hughes, has likewise joined the Navy, Britt is distraught. Despite the objections of her Lutheran parents and Andy’s Catholic family, the warning from her pastor that she is doomed to hell, and her misgivings at interrupting her education, Britt and Andy rush into marriage. Britt converts to Catholicism and struggles to conform to the church’s teachings on a wife’s proper submission, penance, and avoidance of birth control. As a military wife, she is left alone for months at a time, often while pregnant, and forced to move around the country and live in claustrophobic quarters. She tries to make the best of it. Their parents soften, although Britt’s father lays down a new rule: no more than three children. Conflicted, Britt secretly uses a diaphragm and then discards it in a fit of religious guilt. She and Andy stay celibate for eight months, straining their relationship. Frustrated, longing to resume her education and have a career, Britt becomes pregnant for the fifth time, and Jesse makes a surprise reappearance in her life. The unfortunate title, which hardly captures the story’s emotional depth, misleads the reader into expecting a pro–abortion rights screed. An introduction explains that the novel’s title comes from a 2015 interview with Pope Francis. Nevertheless, this is a well-written family saga centered on a freethinking woman, with fascinating details on making ends meet, antiquated medical attitudes, and the difficulties of raising children in the early 1950s. The characters develop slowly through dialogue and drama, and Britt’s inner conflicts arouse empathy and alarm. The final chapter seems rushed, adds some unnecessary religious commentary, and concludes with an epilogue that likewise appears tacked on. Nevertheless, this is a riveting first effort.

A well-considered, insightful mixture of personal drama and early feminism.

Pub Date: July 6, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-5320-2415-3

Page Count: 292

Publisher: iUniverse

Review Posted Online: Oct. 16, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15, 2017

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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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The writing is merely serviceable, and one can’t help but wish the author had found a way to present her material as...

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An unlikely love story set amid the horrors of a Nazi death camp.

Based on real people and events, this debut novel follows Lale Sokolov, a young Slovakian Jew sent to Auschwitz in 1942. There, he assumes the heinous task of tattooing incoming Jewish prisoners with the dehumanizing numbers their SS captors use to identify them. When the Tätowierer, as he is called, meets fellow prisoner Gita Furman, 17, he is immediately smitten. Eventually, the attraction becomes mutual. Lale proves himself an operator, at once cagey and courageous: As the Tätowierer, he is granted special privileges and manages to smuggle food to starving prisoners. Through female prisoners who catalog the belongings confiscated from fellow inmates, Lale gains access to jewels, which he trades to a pair of local villagers for chocolate, medicine, and other items. Meanwhile, despite overwhelming odds, Lale and Gita are able to meet privately from time to time and become lovers. In 1944, just ahead of the arrival of Russian troops, Lale and Gita separately leave the concentration camp and experience harrowingly close calls. Suffice it to say they both survive. To her credit, the author doesn’t flinch from describing the depravity of the SS in Auschwitz and the unimaginable suffering of their victims—no gauzy evasions here, as in Boy in the Striped Pajamas. She also manages to raise, if not really explore, some trickier issues—the guilt of those Jews, like the tattooist, who survived by doing the Nazis’ bidding, in a sense betraying their fellow Jews; and the complicity of those non-Jews, like the Slovaks in Lale’s hometown, who failed to come to the aid of their beleaguered countrymen.

The writing is merely serviceable, and one can’t help but wish the author had found a way to present her material as nonfiction. Still, this is a powerful, gut-wrenching tale that is hard to shake off.

Pub Date: Sept. 4, 2018

ISBN: 978-0-06-279715-5

Page Count: 272

Publisher: Harper/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: July 17, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2018

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