Discombobulating—in a good way.

TOMB OF THE UNKNOWN RACIST

Twenty years after her last novel (Terminal Velocity, 1997, etc.), Boyd returns with a wildly ambitious page-turner that defies easy categorization.

It’s been years since we last saw Boyd's old protagonist, Ellen Burns: Now it’s 1999, and Ellen—stable and sober—is living a quiet life in Charleston, caring for her aging mother, who’s struggling with dementia. That is, until Page 8 (the book wastes no time). And then one night, after Wheel of Fortune, Ellen is startled by a familiar face on the TV news. A young mother in New Mexico has been kidnapped; her children are missing. Ellen knows that face, though she hasn’t seen it in years: It’s Ruby, her brother’s daughter, now all grown up. Not that Ellen has seen her brother, either: According to the FBI, Royce Burns is dead. Once a celebrated novelist, Royce became a fervent white supremacist, abandoned his multiethnic family, joined up with an underground terrorist organization, and was killed as part of a face-off with the feds. Or at least, that’s what they’re telling her—though she buried his ashes in a child-sized coffin, Ellen herself has never been totally convinced of his death. And so Ellen, both totally plausible and larger-than-life, finds herself rushing to Ruby’s home in New Mexico, still loyal to the idea of her family despite her brother’s crimes. But as she digs into the case alongside rugged police chief Ed Blake, she discovers Ruby’s story—and Royce’s—is even darker and more disturbing than she’d suspected. A gentle romance with Ed bubbling hesitantly in the background, Ellen sets out on a quest to find out the truth about her brother— and is forced to grapple not only with the crimes of her family, but with her own culpability as a white woman, Royce’s sister or not. Unexpectedly light, even chatty, given the subject matter—white supremacy, unspeakable violence, American extremism—the novel is a family drama with all the flourishes of a thriller.

Discombobulating—in a good way.

Pub Date: May 8, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-64009-067-5

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Counterpoint

Review Posted Online: Feb. 20, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2018

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Finding positivity in negative pregnancy-test results, this depiction of a marriage in crisis is nearly perfect.

ALL YOUR PERFECTS

Named for an imperfectly worded fortune cookie, Hoover's (It Ends with Us, 2016, etc.) latest compares a woman’s relationship with her husband before and after she finds out she’s infertile.

Quinn meets her future husband, Graham, in front of her soon-to-be-ex-fiance’s apartment, where Graham is about to confront him for having an affair with his girlfriend. A few years later, they are happily married but struggling to conceive. The “then and now” format—with alternating chapters moving back and forth in time—allows a hopeful romance to blossom within a dark but relatable dilemma. Back then, Quinn’s bad breakup leads her to the love of her life. In the now, she’s exhausted a laundry list of fertility options, from IVF treatments to adoption, and the silver lining is harder to find. Quinn’s bad relationship with her wealthy mother also prevents her from asking for more money to throw at the problem. But just when Quinn’s narrative starts to sound like she’s writing a long Facebook rant about her struggles, she reveals the larger issue: Ever since she and Graham have been trying to have a baby, intimacy has become a chore, and she doesn’t know how to tell him. Instead, she hopes the contents of a mystery box she’s kept since their wedding day will help her decide their fate. With a few well-timed silences, Hoover turns the fairly common problem of infertility into the more universal problem of poor communication. Graham and Quinn may or may not become parents, but if they don’t talk about their feelings, they won’t remain a couple, either.

Finding positivity in negative pregnancy-test results, this depiction of a marriage in crisis is nearly perfect.

Pub Date: July 17, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-5011-7159-8

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Atria

Review Posted Online: May 1, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2018

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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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