A moody, atmospheric domestic drama with a mystery novel somewhere in its family tree.

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THE END OF THE DAY

A web of characters are connected by long-kept secrets, a boxy briefcase, and a once-fabulous mansion in the Connecticut woods.

Dana, Jackie, Lupita, Alice, Hap. How do they all fit together? In rotating vignettes from past and present, Clegg parcels out the clues at a leisurely pace. First we meet Dana Goss, a slim, imperious aging heiress. Suffering from early-onset Alzheimer’s, she keeps forgetting why she’s had herself driven to Connecticut with a monogrammed briefcase full of papers and photos, planning to break the 50-year silence between herself and her childhood best friend. Unfortunately, Jackie, a bitter woman whose fondness for Dana has long since been replaced by fury, won’t even open the door. Next up: Lupita. Daughter of the maid at Dana’s family’s mansion, same age as Dana and Jackie, now living in Hawaii and running a taxi company. Then Alice, of Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, age 73: Dana Goss’ aunt was her benefactor and lifelong friend. Alice is holding a baby for the first time in a while—her son and daughter-in-law have dumped their newborn and disappeared. Finally, Hap, the son in question. He was planning to bring his elderly father to meet the new baby, but the man fell down the stairs at his hotel just as Hap was arriving and died a few days later. Hap is about to find out that almost everything he knows about who he is is a lie. Subsequent sections rotate through the characters, uncovering the secret history that binds them together. On the way Clegg dives deep into the inner life of each, exploring the ways our traumas shape our lives. His unhurried, lyrical sentences often make connections between the characters' states of mind and the natural world: “The late day light breaks through and moves in beams and panels across the sky. It dazzles and vanishes, then reappears, flares bright, goes dark again—on and on, like code, as if the sun itself is speaking to her.” This book is sad, but compared to Clegg’s highly acclaimed first novel, Did You Ever Have a Family, it's a Fourth of July picnic, albeit one that ruins a few characters' lives.

A moody, atmospheric domestic drama with a mystery novel somewhere in its family tree.

Pub Date: June 2, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-4767-9820-2

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Scout Press/Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: March 15, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2020

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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 strange, subtle, and haunting novel.

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THE GLASS HOTEL

A financier's Ponzi scheme unravels to disastrous effect, revealing the unexpected connections among a cast of disparate characters.

How did Vincent Smith fall overboard from a container ship near the coast of Mauritania, fathoms away from her former life as Jonathan Alkaitis' pretend trophy wife? In this long-anticipated follow-up to Station Eleven (2014), Mandel uses Vincent's disappearance to pick through the wreckage of Alkaitis' fraudulent investment scheme, which ripples through hundreds of lives. There's Paul, Vincent's half brother, a composer and addict in recovery; Olivia, an octogenarian painter who invested her retirement savings in Alkaitis' funds; Leon, a former consultant for a shipping company; and a chorus of office workers who enabled Alkaitis and are terrified of facing the consequences. Slowly, Mandel reveals how her characters struggle to align their stations in life with their visions for what they could be. For Vincent, the promise of transformation comes when she's offered a stint with Alkaitis in "the kingdom of money." Here, the rules of reality are different and time expands, allowing her to pursue video art others find pointless. For Alkaitis, reality itself is too much to bear. In his jail cell, he is confronted by the ghosts of his victims and escapes into "the counterlife," a soothing alternate reality in which he avoided punishment. It's in these dreamy sections that Mandel's ideas about guilt and responsibility, wealth and comfort, the real and the imagined, begin to cohere. At its heart, this is a ghost story in which every boundary is blurred, from the moral to the physical. How far will Alkaitis go to deny responsibility for his actions? And how quickly will his wealth corrupt the ambitions of those in proximity to it? In luminous prose, Mandel shows how easy it is to become caught in a web of unintended consequences and how disastrous it can be when such fragile bonds shatter under pressure.

A strange, subtle, and haunting novel.

Pub Date: March 24, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-525-52114-3

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Knopf

Review Posted Online: Nov. 25, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2019

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