A moving, funny, and ultimately hopeful look at what makes life meaningful.

THE BIG FINISH

In Fossey's debut, a grumpy assisted living resident realizes his life still has surprises in store.

Duffy Sinclair, 88, knows he didn’t make the most of his life. He spent years of it as an alcoholic, but in his sober old age he’s finally found a home at Centennial, an assisted living facility. He has a best friend—his roommate, Carl, who shares everything with him. He has crushes and nemeses and playful banter with the staff members. Things are perfect—except that Centennial’s new owner will use any excuse to kick residents out so she can rent their rooms for more money, leaving them no option but a poorly run nursing home. Duffy tries to be on his best behavior and stay in line—but then a young woman tumbles through his window. It turns out she’s Carl’s granddaughter—one Duffy never knew he had. She has a black eye, an alcohol problem, and nowhere to stay—and Carl thinks she should camp out in their room. Duffy knows that getting caught hiding an alcoholic 20-something would earn him an immediate one-way ticket out of Centennial, and at first he tells Carl and Josie no way. But as he gets to know Josie and see the kind of pain he knows all too well, Duffy realizes he might finally have a chance to make up for all those wasted years. Duffy is cantankerous, gruff, and occasionally unkind, but his head is always an entertaining place to be. It’s clear that he cares deeply about his friends and fellow Centennial residents, and it’s impossible not to root for him. Fossey manages to depict the struggles of the elderly, whose concerns aren’t often examined in fiction, in a way that’s both respectful and entertaining.

A moving, funny, and ultimately hopeful look at what makes life meaningful.

Pub Date: April 14, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-9848-0493-8

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Berkley

Review Posted Online: Jan. 27, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2020

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Bestselling Hannah (True Colors, 2009, etc.) sabotages a worthy effort with an overly neat resolution.

WINTER GARDEN

A Russian refugee’s terrible secret overshadows her family life.

Meredith, heir apparent to her family’s thriving Washington State apple enterprises, and Nina, a globetrotting photojournalist, grew up feeling marginalized by their mother. Anya saw her daughters as merely incidental to her grateful love for their father Evan, who rescued her from a German prison camp. The girls know neither their mother’s true age, nor the answers to several other mysteries: her color-blindness, her habit of hoarding food despite the family’s prosperity and the significance of her “winter garden” with its odd Cyrillic-inscribed columns. The only thawing in Anya’s mien occurs when she relates a fairy tale about a peasant girl who meets a prince and their struggles to live happily ever after during the reign of a tyrannical Black Knight. After Evan dies, the family comes unraveled: Anya shows signs of dementia; Nina and Meredith feud over whether to move Mom from her beloved dacha-style home, named Belye Nochi after the summer “white nights” of her native Leningrad (St. Petersburg). Anya, now elderly but of preternaturally youthful appearance—her white hair has been that way as long as the girls can remember—keeps babbling about leather belts boiled for soup, furniture broken up for firewood and other oddities. Prompted by her daughters’ snooping and a few vodka-driven dinners, she grudgingly divulges her story. She is not Anya, but Vera, sole survivor of a Russian family; her father, grandmother, mother, sister, husband and two children were all lost either to Stalin’s terror or during the German army’s siege of Leningrad. Anya’s chronicle of the 900-day siege, during which more than half a million civilians perished from hunger and cold, imparts new gravitas to the novel, easily overwhelming her daughters’ more conventional “issues.” The effect, however, is all but vitiated by a manipulative and contrived ending.

Bestselling Hannah (True Colors, 2009, etc.) sabotages a worthy effort with an overly neat resolution.

Pub Date: Feb. 2, 2010

ISBN: 978-0-312-36412-0

Page Count: 400

Publisher: St. Martin's

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15, 2009

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Fun to read, as always with Moriarty's books, but try not to think about it or it will stop making sense.

NINE PERFECT STRANGERS

Nine people gather at a luxurious health resort in the Australian bushland. Will they have sex, fall in love, get killed, or maybe just lose weight?

Moriarty (Truly Madly Guilty, 2014, etc.) is known for darkly humorous novels set in the suburbs of Sydney—though her most famous book, Big Little Lies (2014), has been transported to Monterey, California, by Reese Witherspoon's HBO series. Her new novel moves away from the lives of prosperous parents to introduce a more eclectic group of people who've signed up for a 10-day retreat at Tranquillium House, a remote spa run by the messianic Masha, "an extraordinary-looking woman. A supermodel. An Olympic athlete. At least six feet tall, with corpse-like white skin and green eyes so striking and huge they were almost alien-like." This was the moment when the guests should probably have fled, but they all decided to stay (perhaps because their hefty payments were nonrefundable?). The book's title is slightly misleading, since not all the guests are strangers to each other. There are two family groups: Ben and Jessica Chandler, a young couple whose relationship broke down after they won the lottery, and the Marconis, Napolean and Heather and their 20-year-old daughter, Zoe, who are trying to recover after the death of Zoe's twin brother, Zach. Carmel Schneider is a divorced housewife who wants to get her mojo back, Lars Lee is an abnormally handsome divorce lawyer who's addicted to spas, and Tony Hogburn is a former professional footballer who wants to get back into shape. Though all these people have their own chapters, the main character is Frances Welty, a romance writer who needs a pick-me-up after having had her latest novel rejected and having been taken in by an internet scam—she fell in love with a man she met on Facebook and sent money to help his (nonexistent) son, who'd been in a (nonexistent) car accident. How humiliating for a writer to fall for a fictional person, Frances thinks, in her characteristically wry way. When the guests arrive, they're given blood tests (why?) and told they're going to start off with a five-day "noble silence" in which they're not even supposed to make eye contact with each other. As you can imagine, something fishy is going on, and while Moriarty displays her usual humor and Frances in particular is an appealing character, it's all a bit ridiculous.

Fun to read, as always with Moriarty's books, but try not to think about it or it will stop making sense.

Pub Date: Nov. 6, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-250-06982-5

Page Count: 464

Publisher: Flatiron Books

Review Posted Online: Nov. 15, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2018

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