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THE ROCKY ORCHARD

An intriguing and ghostly but ultimately hazy tale of grief and memory.

Awards & Accolades

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In this literary novel, a woman alone on her family’s farm becomes trapped in a cycle of memories.

Mazie Mills has returned to the family farm—the vacation spot she loved as a child, where, she remembers, “there was no ‘supposed to’.…Just be.” Alone on the property, she is befriended by elderly neighbor Lula, who takes daily walks through the farm’s orchard. Lula begins to stop by every morning for a game of gin rummy, and Mazie starts to tell her stories about her family. She talks about a road trip to California, how she always had the worst seat at the table, and how she has never eaten an apple from the orchard that tasted any good. Lula, who rarely speaks about herself, listens kindly to Mazie’s memories and offers helpful analysis. But a number of things haunt Mazie, including her early, intense relationship with her high school boyfriend, Sean; a dream she has in which she died; her wedding, which took place on that very farm; and her husband, Eddie. Why is Mazie here alone? And why can’t she quite remember how she got here? Is it possible that she may be dead? Monier’s prose is lyrical and measured, deftly evoking the dreamlike qualities of the setting through Mazie’s eyes: “The short step down from the porch, my bare foot on the hot summer grass, I am hit by a wall of humidity. The full, fertile feel of the air that marks a Pennsylvania mountain summer. Thick, wet, ripe with a steaming, green life.” But the book is a bit too dreamy, both in its premise and its presentation. The first third, which mostly deals with Mazie’s relationship with Sean, is quite gripping, but as soon as the otherworldly element is introduced on Page 50, every scene has the ephemeral quality of a dream sequence. Readers will have trouble taking these scenes seriously, and the novel quickly treads into the clichéd Hollywood territory of false realities and gauzy interior worlds. Despite her clear talent, the author has not constructed enough of a story—one rooted in reality, with genuine stakes and authentic characters—to keep readers invested.

An intriguing and ghostly but ultimately hazy tale of grief and memory.

Pub Date: May 12, 2020

ISBN: N/A

Page Count: 119

Publisher: Amika Press

Review Posted Online: April 27, 2020

THE BOARDWALK BOOKSHOP

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 15, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2022

THE VASTER WILDS

The writing is inspired, the imaginative power near mystic, but some will wish for more plot.

This historical fever dream of a novel follows the flight of a servant girl through the Colonial American wilderness, red in tooth and claw.

As in her last novel, Matrix (2021), Groff’s imaginative journey into a distant time and place is powered by a thrumming engine of language and rhythm. “She had chosen to flee, and in so choosing, she had left behind her everything she had, her roof, her home, her country, her language, the only family she had ever known, the child Bess, who had been born into her care when she was herself a small child of four years or so, her innocence, her understanding of who she was, her dreams of who she might one day be if only she could survive this starving time." Those onrushing sentences will follow the girl, “sixteen or seventeen or perhaps eighteen years of age,” through the wilderness surrounding the desperate colony, driven by famine and plague into barbarism, through the territory of “the powhatan and pamunkey” to what she hopes will be “the settlements of frenchmen, canada,” a place she once saw pointed out on a map. The focus is on the terrors of survival, the exigencies of starvation, the challenges of locomotion, the miseries of a body wounded, infected, and pushed beyond its limit. What plot there is centers on learning the reason for her flight and how it will end, but the book must be read primarily for its sentences and the light it shines on the place of humans in the order of the world. Whether she is eating baby birds and stealing the fluff from the mother’s nest to line her boots, having a little tea party with her meager trove of possessions, temporarily living inside a tree trunk that comes with a pantry full of grubs (spiders prove less tasty), or finally coming to rest in a way neither she nor we can foresee, immersion in the girl’s experience provides a virtual vacation from civilization that readers may find deeply satisfying.

The writing is inspired, the imaginative power near mystic, but some will wish for more plot.

Pub Date: Sept. 12, 2023

ISBN: 9780593418390

Page Count: 272

Publisher: Riverhead

Review Posted Online: June 8, 2023

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2023

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