An engrossing, highly rewarding read that marks McKeon as a writer to watch.

SOLACE

A debut novel of love and loss set in contemporary Ireland, where a family’s troubled past cast its shadow over an uncertain future.   

Looking for a distraction from writing his stalled thesis, Mark Casey falls for a green-eyed girl he meets at a Dublin pub. Joanne Lynch, however, is more than a pretty solicitor trainee—she comes from the same patch of rural farmland where Mark grew up. The son of a demanding and truculent farmer, Mark resents the time he must take away from his studies at Trinity College to help out at the family farm in County Longford. That his thesis is going nowhere only adds more strain to his relationship with his father. Joanne is caught in a similar bind. Her late father was a notorious scoundrel whose dodgy dealings earned the enmity of the Casey family, but Joanne is ignorant of the feud. As the new couple navigates their complicated pasts, Joanne becomes pregnant, igniting the fuse to the powder keg into which the young lovers have unwittingly blundered. Midway through the novel, an act of horrendous violence brings the families together in unexpected ways. Though it's not quite Romeo and Juliet, McKeon makes masterful use of the conflict between the two families to propel the story forward and gird scenes of ordinary family drama with tension and dread. Digressions into Joanne’s legal work and the subject of Mark’s thesis (the novels of English author Maria Edgeworth) prove to be welcome asides that add depth to the characters. For instance, Joanne’s infatuation with her client’s eccentric mother, a woman she only knows through court transcripts, suggests Joanne might be better-suited to the scholarly work that Mark seems incapable of finishing. At times, Mark’s struggle with his father takes on undertones of William Faulkner and Joanne is as nuanced and knowable as the heroine of an Edna O’Brien novel.

An engrossing, highly rewarding read that marks McKeon as a writer to watch. 

Pub Date: May 1, 2011

ISBN: 978-1-4516-1054-3

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Scribner

Review Posted Online: April 4, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2011

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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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ANIMAL FARM

A FAIRY STORY

A modern day fable, with modern implications in a deceiving simplicity, by the author of Dickens. Dali and Others (Reynal & Hitchcock, p. 138), whose critical brilliance is well adapted to this type of satire. This tells of the revolt on a farm, against humans, when the pigs take over the intellectual superiority, training the horses, cows, sheep, etc., into acknowledging their greatness. The first hints come with the reading out of a pig who instigated the building of a windmill, so that the electric power would be theirs, the idea taken over by Napoleon who becomes topman with no maybes about it. Napoleon trains the young puppies to be his guards, dickers with humans, gradually instigates a reign of terror, and breaks the final commandment against any animal walking on two legs. The old faithful followers find themselves no better off for food and work than they were when man ruled them, learn their final disgrace when they see Napoleon and Squealer carousing with their enemies... A basic statement of the evils of dictatorship in that it not only corrupts the leaders, but deadens the intelligence and awareness of those led so that tyranny is inevitable. Mr. Orwell's animals exist in their own right, with a narrative as individual as it is apt in political parody.

Pub Date: Aug. 26, 1946

ISBN: 0452277507

Page Count: 114

Publisher: Harcourt, Brace

Review Posted Online: Nov. 2, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 1946

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