Haunting, horrifying, tender, and implacable.


A teenage boy in suburban Boston faces his mother's illness and his father's darkness.

Lish, winner of the PEN/Faulkner Award for his first novel, Preparation for the Next Life (2014), returns with a moody, atmospheric tragedy set in working-class Massachusetts. Gloria Goltz, a "thin, blonde-headed Janis Joplin" with feminist intellectual leanings and literary aspirations, dropped out of Lesley College in Cambridge when she fell under the spell and ultimately bore the son of MIT security guard and self-anointed supergenius Leonard Agoglia, whom she and her friends compare to Good Will Hunting. Though her attachment to Leonard never flagged, even during the many years they barely saw each other, his influence on her life was bleak. "She lost school, love, family, pride…her apartment....The portrait of depression dated from this time." As the book opens, their son, Corey, is 16. His mother, who has been raising him alone all this time, is about to get a diagnosis of ALS, engendering the return of his father to their lives. If that sounds like a nice thing, it definitely isn't—Leonard now definitively reveals himself to be Bad Will Hunting, if any kind of Will Hunting at all. This novel has two sides to its personality—on one side, it's a painfully yet beautifully detailed history of Corey and Gloria and their journey through her illness. (The author's mother was diagnosed with ALS when he was 15, and it seems unlikely that anyone with less immediate experience could have written this book. If you haven't had personal exposure to the disease, you'll learn why it's one of the cruelest ways to die.) On the other hand, in the third act, the novel becomes a Dennis Lehane–ish thriller, with brutal tabloid events piling up almost cartoonishly—but some readers will be too emotionally involved for cartoons at this point. Even those who find themselves rebelling against this aspect of the book will venerate Lish for pushing his vision to the limit and for producing sentences that seem to have been forged in some kind of roaring foundry.

Haunting, horrifying, tender, and implacable.

Pub Date: Sept. 7, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-5247-3232-5

Page Count: 464

Publisher: Knopf

Review Posted Online: Sept. 15, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1, 2021

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A flabby, fervid melodrama of a high-strung Southern family from Conroy (The Great Santini, The Lords of Discipline), whose penchant for overwriting once again obscures a genuine talent. Tom Wingo is an unemployed South Carolinian football coach whose internist wife is having an affair with a pompous cardiac man. When he hears that his fierce, beautiful twin sister Savannah, a well-known New York poet, has once again attempted suicide, he escapes his present emasculation by flying north to meet Savannah's comely psychiatrist, Susan Lowenstein. Savannah, it turns out, is catatonic, and before the suicide attempt had completely assumed the identity of a dead friend—the implication being that she couldn't stand being a Wingo anymore. Susan (a shrink with a lot of time on her hands) says to Tom, "Will you stay in New York and tell me all you know?" and he does, for nearly 600 mostly-bloated pages of flashbacks depicting The Family Wingo of swampy Colleton County: a beautiful mother, a brutal shrimper father (the Great Santini alive and kicking), and Tom and Savannah's much-admired older brother, Luke. There are enough traumas here to fall an average-sized mental ward, but the biggie centers around Luke, who uses the skills learned as a Navy SEAL in Vietnam to fight a guerrilla war against the installation of a nuclear power plant in Colleton and is killed by the authorities. It's his death that precipitates the nervous breakdown that costs Tom his job, and Savannah, almost, her life. There may be a barely-glimpsed smaller novel buried in all this succotash (Tom's marriage and life as a football coach), but it's sadly overwhelmed by the book's clumsy central narrative device (flashback ad infinitum) and Conroy's pretentious prose style: ""There are no verdicts to childhood, only consequences, and the bright freight of memory. I speak now of the sun-struck, deeply lived-in days of my past.

Pub Date: Oct. 21, 1986

ISBN: 0553381547

Page Count: 686

Publisher: Houghton Mifflin

Review Posted Online: Oct. 30, 2013

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 1986

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A book begging to be read on the beach, with the sun warming the sand and salt in the air: pure escapism.


Three woman who join together to rent a large space along the beach in Los Angeles for their stores—a gift shop, a bakery, and a bookstore—become fast friends as they each experience the highs, and lows, of love.

Bree is a friendly but standoffish bookstore owner who keeps everyone she knows at arm’s length, from guys she meets in bars to her friends. Mikki is a settled-in-her-routines divorced mother of two, happily a mom, gift-shop owner, and co-parent with her ex-husband, Perry. And Ashley is a young, very-much-in-love bakery owner specializing in muffins who devotes herself to giving back to the community through a nonprofit that helps community members develop skills and find jobs. When the women meet drooling over a boardwalk storefront that none of them can afford on her own, a plan is hatched to divide the space in three, and a friendship—and business partnership—is born. An impromptu celebration on the beach at sunset with champagne becomes a weekly touchpoint to their lives as they learn more about each other and themselves. Their friendship blossoms as they help each other, offering support, hard truths, and loving backup. Author Mallery has created a delightful story of friendship between three women that also offers a variety of love stories as they fall in love, make mistakes, and figure out how to be the best—albeit still flawed—versions of themselves. The men are similarly flawed and human. While the story comes down clearly on the side of all-encompassing love, Mallery has struck a careful balance: There is just enough sex to be spicy, just enough swearing to be naughty, and just enough heartbreak to avoid being cloying.

A book begging to be read on the beach, with the sun warming the sand and salt in the air: pure escapism.

Pub Date: May 31, 2022

ISBN: 978-0-778-38608-7

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Harlequin MIRA

Review Posted Online: March 16, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2022

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