An overstuffed narrative and sloppy writing mar a novel that, despite it all, still has its moments.


A trio of storylines centers around the Partition of India.

Anwar’s debut novel is an ambitious one, with threads reaching back to World War II, to the more-or-less present day, and to 1970, to the devastating storm that killed half a million people in Bangladesh. The novel follows several storylines and a scattering of characters, straining by the end to bring them all together. To begin with, there’s Shahryar, a young father who lives in Washington, D.C., but was born in Bangladesh. Shahryar’s visa is about to expire, and he’s desperately casting about for a way to stay in the country with his daughter, Anna. Then there’s Claire Drake, a British doctor serving in World War II, first in Burma, and then in what was at that time East Bengal. There’s also Ichiro, a Japanese pilot shot down nearby, whom Claire must treat. There’s Rahim, too, a wealthy Muslim man living in Calcutta with his wife, Zahira, as that city erupts into riots in the midst of the Partition of India. To say the least, there’s a lot going on. Anwar ups the ante even further with additional twists: Rahim is kidnapped by a Hindu gang, and Shahryar is caught up in what may or may not be a conspiracy. At this point, the book is practically bursting at the seams. Why Anwar shoved all these characters into one book is unclear: They would have done just fine each in their own respective novels. His prose doesn’t help matters. It is sometimes overwrought (“a valley covered in cloaks of mist run ragged in places by trees crowned with fall’s incipient fire”) and sometimes plainly lacking (Zahira’s response when the police appear in the nick of time: “You…how…what?”). Still, Anwar has an engaging voice that will perhaps improve with practice.

An overstuffed narrative and sloppy writing mar a novel that, despite it all, still has its moments.

Pub Date: May 15, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-5011-7450-6

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Atria

Review Posted Online: March 5, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2018

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The emotions run high, the conversations run deep, and the relationships ebb and flow with grace.


When tragedy strikes, a mother and daughter forge a new life.

Morgan felt obligated to marry her high school sweetheart, Chris, when she got pregnant with their daughter, Clara. But she secretly got along much better with Chris’ thoughtful best friend, Jonah, who was dating her sister, Jenny. Now her life as a stay-at-home parent has left her feeling empty but not ungrateful for what she has. Jonah and Jenny eventually broke up, but years later they had a one-night stand and Jenny got pregnant with their son, Elijah. Now Jonah is back in town, engaged to Jenny, and working at the local high school as Clara’s teacher. Clara dreams of being an actress and has a crush on Miller, who plans to go to film school, but her father doesn't approve. It doesn’t help that Miller already has a jealous girlfriend who stalks him via text from college. But Clara and Morgan’s home life changes radically when Chris and Jenny are killed in an accident, revealing long-buried secrets and forcing Morgan to reevaluate the life she chose when early motherhood forced her hand. Feeling betrayed by the adults in her life, Clara marches forward, acting both responsible and rebellious as she navigates her teenage years without her father and her aunt, while Jonah and Morgan's relationship evolves in the wake of the accident. Front-loaded with drama, the story leaves plenty of room for the mother and daughter to unpack their feelings and decide what’s next.

The emotions run high, the conversations run deep, and the relationships ebb and flow with grace.

Pub Date: Dec. 10, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-5420-1642-1

Page Count: 400

Publisher: Montlake Romance

Review Posted Online: Oct. 14, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 2019

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This quirky, complex, and frustrating heroine will win hearts and challenge assumptions about family dysfunction and mental...


With the help of unusual houseguests, a teenage girl who tries to rebel by airing her family’s dirty laundry cleans up her act instead.

To Merit Voss, the white picket fence around her house is the only thing normal about the family it contains. She lives in a converted church with her father, stepmother, and siblings, and although her parents have been divorced for years, her mother still lives in the basement, struggling with social anxiety. No one in her family is religious, so her brother Utah updates the church marquee every day with fun facts instead of Bible verses. Merit is less accomplished than her identical twin sister, Honor, so she likes to buy used trophies to celebrate her failures. But Honor seems to have a fetish for terminally ill boys, so it’s a surprise to Merit when Sagan, who is perfectly healthy, kisses Merit after mistaking her for her sister—and then reveals that he’s living in their house. Soon they have another houseguest, Luck, whose connection to the family makes Merit even more convinced she’s living in a madhouse. So why is everyone so angry at her? Merit has a love/hate relationship with her sister. She's conflicted by her feelings for Sagan, who leaves intriguing sketches (illustrated by Adams) around the house for her to decipher. She’s simultaneously intrigued and repulsed by Luck, who annoys her with his questions but is also her confidant. She can’t sit through dinner without starting a fight; she’s been skipping school for days; and when she decides to give her whole family the silent treatment, Sagan is the only one who notices. In fact, he and Luck are the only people in the house who recognize Merit’s quirks for what they really are—cries for help. And when Merit takes drastic measures to be heard, the fallout is both worse and much better than she feared. Hoover (It Ends With Us, 2016, etc.) does an excellent job of revealing the subtle differences between healthy teenage rebellion and clinical depression, and Merit’s aha moment is worthy of every trophy in her collection.

This quirky, complex, and frustrating heroine will win hearts and challenge assumptions about family dysfunction and mental illness in a life-affirming story that redefines what’s normal.

Pub Date: Oct. 3, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-5011-7062-1

Page Count: 384

Publisher: Atria

Review Posted Online: Aug. 6, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2017

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