Like a prism, this novel brilliantly illuminates the human spectrum of connection and longing.

WHITE ON WHITE

A doctoral student in art history strikes up a relationship with a mysterious painter.

When an unnamed graduate student receives a fellowship to conduct research on medieval art, she needs a place to stay. Seeing an apartment advertised through her department, she arranges with the owner, Pascal, a professor of medieval studies, to rent it. Pascal’s wife, a painter named Agnes, has a studio upstairs; she will be in the city “from time to time.” But when Agnes arrives, early in the student’s yearlong stay, she shows no signs of going anywhere. At first, the student is glad for the company and intrigued by Agnes and her art, both of which are characterized by their “restrained elegance.” But as their friendship unfolds, Agnes reveals herself, both through visits to her studio (where she works fretfully at an all-white painting) and long talks, telling increasingly confessional stories about her relationships: with an old friend, an ex–au pair, with her parents, her children, and her husband. As the student is put more off-balance by Agnes’ intensity, she wonders what it is that is really going on behind Agnes’ facade. Despite the thriller-ish underpinning of the novel and the propulsive unfolding of the relationship at the book’s heart, Savas’ graceful and intellectual prose is the star of the show here. It makes air-light what might otherwise be a novel ponderous with weighty questions: What is the nature of art? Does it reveal or conceal? What is the nature of human connection? As Agnes says, “It wasn’t often…that we could present ourselves to others, like a self-portrait. More often, we made portraits of the people around us, guessing at their features from occasional glimpses.”

Like a prism, this novel brilliantly illuminates the human spectrum of connection and longing.

Pub Date: Nov. 30, 2021

ISBN: 978-0-593-33051-7

Page Count: 192

Publisher: Riverhead

Review Posted Online: Sept. 15, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1, 2021

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet

Light on suspense but still a solid page-turner.

Reader Votes

  • Readers Vote
  • 66

Our Verdict

  • Our Verdict
  • GET IT

  • New York Times Bestseller

  • IndieBound Bestseller

THE LAST THING HE TOLD ME

When a devoted husband and father disappears, his wife and daughter set out to find him.

Hannah Hall is deeply in love with her husband of one year, Owen Michaels. She’s also determined to win over his 16-year-old daughter, Bailey, who has made it very clear that she’s not thrilled with her new stepmother. Despite the drama, the family is mostly a happy one. They live in a lovely houseboat in Sausalito; Hannah is a woodturner whose handmade furniture brings in high-dollar clientele; and Owen works for The Shop, a successful tech firm. Their lives are shattered, however, when Hannah receives a note saying “Protect her” and can’t reach Owen by phone. Then there’s the bag full of cash Bailey finds in her school locker and the shocking news that The Shop’s CEO has been taken into custody. Hannah learns that the FBI has been investigating the firm for about a year regarding some hot new software they took to market before it was fully functional, falsifying their financial statements. Hannah refuses to believe her husband is involved in the fraud, and a U.S. marshal assigned to the case claims Owen isn’t a suspect. Hannah doesn’t know whom to trust, though, and she and Bailey resolve to root out the clues that might lead to Owen. They must also learn to trust one another. Hannah’s narrative alternates past and present, detailing her early days with Owen alongside her current hunt for him, and author Dave throws in a touch of danger and a few surprises. But what really drives the story is the evolving nature of Hannah and Bailey’s relationship, which is by turns poignant and frustrating but always realistic.

Light on suspense but still a solid page-turner.

Pub Date: May 4, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-5011-7134-5

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: Feb. 10, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2021

Did you like this book?

A novel that reckons with ghosts—of both specific people and also the shadows resulting from America’s violent, dark habits.

Our Verdict

  • Our Verdict
  • GET IT

  • Kirkus Reviews'
    Best Books Of 2021

  • New York Times Bestseller

THE SENTENCE

The most recent recipient of the Pulitzer Prize in fiction—for The Night Watchman (2020)—turns her eye to various kinds of hauntings, all of which feel quite real to the affected characters.

Erdrich is the owner of Birchbark Books, an independent bookstore in Minneapolis and, in this often funny novel, the favorite bookstore of Flora, one of narrator Tookie’s “most annoying customers.” Flora wants to be thought of as Indigenous, a “very persistent wannabe” in the assessment of Tookie, who's Ojibwe. Flora appears at the store one day with a photo of her great-grandmother, claiming the woman was ashamed of being Indian: “The picture of the woman looked Indianesque, or she might have just been in a bad mood,” Tookie decides. Flora dies on All Souls’ Day 2019 with a book splayed next to her—she didn't have time to put a bookmark in it—but she continues shuffling through the store’s aisles even after her cremation. Tookie is recently out of prison for transporting a corpse across state lines, which would have netted her $26,000 had she not been ratted out and had the body not had crack cocaine duct-taped to its armpits, a mere technicality of which Tookie was unaware. Tookie is also unaware that Flora considered Tookie to be her best friend and thus sticks to her like glue in the afterlife, even smacking a book from the fiction section onto the floor during a staff meeting at Birchbark. The novel’s humor is mordant: “Small bookstores have the romance of doomed intimate spaces about to be erased by unfettered capitalism.” The characters are also haunted by the George Floyd murder, which occurred in Minneapolis; they wrestle with generations of racism against Black and Indigenous Americans. Erdrich’s love for bookselling is clear, as is her complicated affection for Minneapolis and the people who fight to overcome institutional hatred and racism.

A novel that reckons with ghosts—of both specific people and also the shadows resulting from America’s violent, dark habits.

Pub Date: Nov. 9, 2021

ISBN: 978-0-06-267112-7

Page Count: 416

Publisher: Harper/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Aug. 4, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2021

Did you like this book?

more