An artistic stream-of-consciousness novel of health care workers and their patients in 1980s Massachusetts.

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Adam's Chair

Health aides and residents of an assisted living facility deal with challenges while a space shuttle makes its first orbit.

In this historical novel, de la Cuesta (On the River This Morning, 2014) follows several health aides and patients at an assisted living facility in the Boston suburb of Waltham in 1981. The book’s first section is narrated primarily by Priscilla, who traces her family’s prominent local roots as she commutes to her job cleaning up the incontinent elderly. Interspersed throughout Priscilla’s section are updates from the space shuttle Columbia, making its first trip to space (“A hundred and seventy miles above the Earth, Columbia passes over gypsum sands, the Tularosa Basin. Young and Crippen sleep”), which provides a counterpoint to the dramas of patients Wolfie, Alcide Arsenault, Adie, and Megan. In the second section, patient Henrietta Rose tells stories of confronting her alcoholism and her many years spent overseas (“She recalls the dinners that she used to hostess…Henrietta’s extravaganzas, people called them, there on that plateau of Sogamoso…dusky little wives of her husband’s underling engineers…the waiters in and out with appetizers, children underfoot in nighties…barman, who had had a few himself just after midnight”). The final section of the book is narrated by Priscilla’s colleague Rosa Mundo, whose relationship with Wolfie is more than professional, and who tells the story of a health care workers’ strike that challenges the characters to balance self-interest, community goals, and altruism. De la Cuesta is at her strongest in building the book’s setting, painting a vivid portrait of 1981 Waltham that demonstrates how little the city has changed in three decades (“She skirts the Common with its warm lights and reassuring bus passengers at the south end, and goes straight up Moody without her morning detour over the little footbridge by the Mill”), and renders the Charles River a character of as much importance in Priscilla’s life as her children are. But the book’s stream-of-consciousness style and the author’s decision to present dialogue without quotation marks or other tags (“I so proud of you, Rosa says. I never hear of a teacher like that./I love her, Esmeralda says. All the girls love her”) makes for challenging and often tedious reading, amplified by the book’s excessive length.

An artistic stream-of-consciousness novel of health care workers and their patients in 1980s Massachusetts.

Pub Date: Dec. 29, 2015

ISBN: N/A

Page Count: 372

Publisher: CreateSpace

Review Posted Online: Oct. 4, 2016

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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

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A strongly felt, if not terribly gripping, sendoff for a Turow favorite nearly 35 years after his appearance in Presumed...

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THE LAST TRIAL

Trying his final case at 85, celebrated criminal defense lawyer Sandy Stern defends a Nobel-winning doctor and longtime friend whose cancer wonder drug saved Stern's life but subsequently led to the deaths of others.

Federal prosecutors are charging the eminent doctor, Kiril Pafko, with murder, fraud, and insider trading. An Argentine émigré like Stern, Pafko is no angel. His counselor is certain he sold stock in the company that produced the drug, g-Livia, before users' deaths were reported. The 78-year-old Nobelist is a serial adulterer whose former and current lovers have strong ties to the case. Working for one final time alongside his daughter and proficient legal partner, Marta, who has announced she will close the firm and retire along with her father following the case, Stern must deal not only with "senior moments" before Chief Judge Sonya "Sonny" Klonsky, but also his physical frailty. While taking a deep dive into the ups and downs of a complicated big-time trial, Turow (Testimony, 2017, etc.) crafts a love letter to his profession through his elegiac appreciation of Stern, who has appeared in all his Kindle County novels. The grandly mannered attorney (his favorite response is "Just so") has dedicated himself to the law at great personal cost. But had he not spent so much of his life inside courtrooms, "He never would have known himself." With its bland prosecutors, frequent focus on technical details like "double-blind clinical trials," and lack of real surprises, the novel likely will disappoint some fans of legal thrillers. But this smoothly efficient book gains timely depth through its discussion of thorny moral issues raised by a drug that can extend a cancer sufferer's life expectancy at the risk of suddenly ending it.

A strongly felt, if not terribly gripping, sendoff for a Turow favorite nearly 35 years after his appearance in Presumed Innocent.

Pub Date: May 12, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-5387-4813-8

Page Count: 448

Publisher: Grand Central Publishing

Review Posted Online: Feb. 10, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2020

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