A clever and often caustic sendup of modern motherhood.

ADULT CONVERSATION

An overwhelmed mother seeks help from an equally overwhelmed therapist in Ferner’s debut novel.

Motherhood is driving April Stewart crazy. Between her 8-year-old, Elliot, and her toddler, Violet, April feels that she has no space for herself in her own life—she can’t even find time to go to the bathroom. The stay-at-home mom gets little help from her husband, Aaron, a packaging designer for a specialty grocery store: “Something I couldn’t shake, but never knew how to accurately verbalize to Aaron, was my quiet resentment about his daily life having changed very little since we had the kids, whereas mine was now unrecognizable. Parenthood had exacted something from me that it hadn’t exacted from him—not even close.” When she finally can’t take it anymore, she decides to consult a therapist. June is a “flawless blonde” whose put-togetherness at first exacerbates all of April’s anxieties, but the two soon hit it off. At June’s encouragement, April even gets back into designing clothes and finding a boutique to carry them. As June becomes further entwined in her life, however, April notices cracks beneath the surface. When June asks April to come with her to Las Vegas to spy on her cheating husband, April realizes that the “Mom Code”—the “law of helpfulness that moms follow when one of our sisters is in distress”—may be too powerful to overcome. As narrator, April tackles motherhood with unflinching (and often profane) humor: “The flock of women looked up from the table of bags, aghast. They didn’t know that this wasn’t my first time being slapped in the face, in public, by a toddler.” The great specificity with which Ferner writes about child-rearing—and the real but complex resentment she reveals in April’s marriage—helps set this book apart in the field of comic women’s fiction. The plot is a little meandering, and the reader eventually becomes as frustrated with Elliot and Violet as April already is, but the characters are so well constructed and April’s voice is so compelling that the novel has no difficulty pulling the reader through its pages. Ferner will likely have many fans awaiting her next irreverent volume.

A clever and often caustic sendup of modern motherhood.

Pub Date: May 5, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-63152-842-2

Page Count: 280

Publisher: She Writes Press

Review Posted Online: Oct. 21, 2020

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet

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

Did you like this book?

Why you double-crossing little double crossers! Fiendishly clever.

PRETTY THINGS

The daughter of a grifter plans to fund her mother’s cancer treatment with a revenge con.

Rich people suck, don’t they? Nina Ross found this out in her adolescence, when her romance with Benny Liebling was broken up by his status-obsessed, old-money father, who found them screwing in the guest cottage of the family’s Lake Tahoe estate. Back then, Nina had a future—but she’s since followed her con-artist mother into the family business with the help of a handsome blue-eyed Irish confederate named Lachlan. “Here’s my rule,” Nina tells him. “Only people who have too much, and only people who deserve it.” Of course, he agrees. “We take only what we need.” With her art history background, Nina is usually able to target a few expensive antiques they can lift without the rich dopes even noticing they’re gone. But now that Nina's mother is hovering at death’s door without health insurance, she’s going after the $1 million in cash Benny mentioned was in his father’s safe all those years ago. So back to Lake Tahoe it is. The older Lieblings are dead, and Benny’s in the bin, so it’s his sister Vanessa Liebling who is the target of the complicated caper. Vanessa is a terribly annoying character—“I couldn’t tell you how I went from a few dozen Instagram followers to a half-million. One day, you’re uploading photos of your dog wearing sunglasses; and the next you’re begin flown to Coachella on a private jet with four other social media It Girls…”—but, in fact, you’ll hate everyone in this book. That is surely Brown’s (Watch Me Disappear, 2017, etc.) intention as she’s the one making them natter on this way. She also makes them vomit much more than is normal, whether it’s because they’re poisoning each other or because they’re just so horrified by each other’s behavior. Definitely stay to see how it all turns out.

Why you double-crossing little double crossers! Fiendishly clever.

Pub Date: April 21, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-525-47912-3

Page Count: 496

Publisher: Random House

Review Posted Online: Jan. 13, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2020

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet
more