While Davis crafts compelling characters, her overreliance on secrets and plot gimmicks muddies the narrative.

READ REVIEW

LOVE, ALICE

Grief remains the strongest bond in Davis’ (Summer at Hideaway Key, 2015, etc.) new novel.

A year after her fiance’s unexpected suicide, Dovie Larkin is still desperate for answers. Ignoring the concern of friends and family, Dovie is a frequent visitor at the cemetery, often bringing her lunch there. During one of these visits, she's struck by the sight of an older woman who is visibly distraught over a popular town monument—a life-sized statue known as Alice’s Angel. This grave has always been surrounded by an air of mystery—why did the young maid of one of Charleston’s wealthiest families warrant such an elaborate memorial in the family plot? The stranger’s grief at the gravesite is curious to Dovie, as Alice Tandy has been dead for more than 30 years. When the old woman drops a letter at the grave, Dovie’s curiosity gets the better of her and she snatches it up and reads it. The woman turns out to be Alice's estranged mother, and learning about the rift between mother and daughter, and the circumstances that led Alice to cross the sea from the Blackhurst Asylum for Unwed Mothers in England to Charleston, South Carolina, is far too compelling for Dovie to ignore. She discovers a trove of letters from Alice, somehow still tucked away in the cemetery’s lost and found, and learns just why Alice earned such a grand monument after all. Dovie admits what she has learned to Dora Tandy, and together they dig into the secrets that have been buried away for years. On the topic of grief, Davis writes, “It was inconvenient and intrusive, not quite contagious but the next thing to it.” Though they met merely by chance, together Dovie and Dora delve into the mysteries of the past and start on the long and complicated path toward closure and healing.

While Davis crafts compelling characters, her overreliance on secrets and plot gimmicks muddies the narrative.

Pub Date: Dec. 6, 2016

ISBN: 978-0-451-47481-0

Page Count: 432

Publisher: Berkley

Review Posted Online: Sept. 19, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1, 2016

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet

With humor and insight, Straub creates a family worth rooting for.

ALL ADULTS HERE

When Astrid Strick witnesses a school bus run over a longtime acquaintance of hers—Barbara Baker, a woman she doesn't like very much—it's only the beginning of the shake-ups to come in her life and the lives of those she loves.

Astrid has been tootling along contentedly in the Hudson Valley town of Clapham, New York, a 68-year-old widow with three grown children. After many years of singlehood since her husband died, she's been quietly seeing Birdie Gonzalez, her hairdresser, for the past two years, and after Barbara's death she determines to tell her children about the relationship: "There was no time to waste, not in this life. There were always more school buses." Elliot, her oldest, who's in real estate, lives in Clapham with his wife, Wendy, who's Chinese American, and their twins toddlers, Aidan and Zachary, who are "such hellions that only a fool would willingly ask for more." Astrid's daughter, Porter, owns a nearby farm producing artisanal goat cheese and has just gotten pregnant through a sperm bank while having an affair with her married high school boyfriend. Nicky, the youngest Strick, is disconcertingly famous for having appeared in an era-defining movie when he was younger and now lives in Brooklyn with his French wife, Juliette, and their daughter, Cecelia, who's being shipped up to live with Astrid for a while after her friend got mixed up with a pedophile she met online. As always, Straub (Modern Lovers, 2016, etc.) draws her characters warmly, making them appealing in their self-centeredness and generosity, their insecurity and hope. The cast is realistically diverse, though in most ways it's fairly superficial; the fact that Birdie is Latina or Porter's obstetrician is African American doesn't have much impact on the story or their characters. Cecelia's new friend, August, wants to make the transition to Robin; that storyline gets more attention, with the two middle schoolers supporting each other through challenging times. The Stricks worry about work, money, sex, and gossip; Straub has a sharp eye for her characters' foibles and the details of their liberal, upper-middle-class milieu.

With humor and insight, Straub creates a family worth rooting for.

Pub Date: May 5, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-59463-469-7

Page Count: 368

Publisher: Riverhead

Review Posted Online: Feb. 10, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2020

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet

Dark and unsettling, this novel’s end arrives abruptly even as readers are still moving at a breakneck speed.

THEN SHE WAS GONE

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

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet
more