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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A deeply satisfying novel, both sensuously vivid and remarkably poignant.

THE UNSEEN

Norwegian novelist Jacobsen folds a quietly powerful coming-of-age story into a rendition of daily life on one of Norway’s rural islands a hundred years ago in a novel that was shortlisted for the 2017 Man Booker International Prize.

Ingrid Barrøy, her father, Hans, mother, Maria, grandfather Martin, and slightly addled aunt Barbro are the owners and sole inhabitants of Barrøy Island, one of numerous small family-owned islands in an area of Norway barely touched by the outside world. The novel follows Ingrid from age 3 through a carefree early childhood of endless small chores, simple pleasures, and unquestioned familial love into her more ambivalent adolescence attending school off the island and becoming aware of the outside world, then finally into young womanhood when she must make difficult choices. Readers will share Ingrid’s adoration of her father, whose sense of responsibility conflicts with his romantic nature. He adores Maria, despite what he calls her “la-di-da” ways, and is devoted to Ingrid. Twice he finds work on the mainland for his sister, Barbro, but, afraid she’ll be unhappy, he brings her home both times. Rooted to the land where he farms and tied to the sea where he fishes, Hans struggles to maintain his family’s hardscrabble existence on an island where every repair is a struggle against the elements. But his efforts are Sisyphean. Life as a Barrøy on Barrøy remains precarious. Changes do occur in men’s and women’s roles, reflected in part by who gets a literal chair to sit on at meals, while world crises—a war, Sweden’s financial troubles—have unexpected impact. Yet the drama here occurs in small increments, season by season, following nature’s rhythm through deaths and births, moments of joy and deep sorrow. The translator’s decision to use roughly translated phrases in conversation—i.e., “Tha’s goen’ nohvar” for "You’re going nowhere")—slows the reading down at first but ends up drawing readers more deeply into the world of Barrøy and its prickly, intensely alive inhabitants.

A deeply satisfying novel, both sensuously vivid and remarkably poignant.

Pub Date: April 7, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-77196-319-0

Page Count: 272

Publisher: Biblioasis

Review Posted Online: Jan. 13, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2020

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Intelligent escapism with heart.

THE IDENTICALS

A tale of identical twins and not-so-identical islands.

When blue-blooded Boston designer Eleanor Roxie-Frost divorces electrical contractor Billy Frost, the rift consigns their 17-year-old identical twin daughters to separate islands. When they're home from college, Tabitha spends the summers with Eleanor on Nantucket and Harper lives on the Vineyard with Billy, and they visit the opposite parents for holidays. Now the twins are 39 and haven't gotten along in years. For reasons that will remain obscure until the end, Tabitha blames Harper for the death of her premature son, Julian. Neither Tabitha nor Harper has ever married. Tabitha had daughter Ainsley and, later, son Julian out of wedlock with her long-term boyfriend, Wyatt (now married to someone else and effectively out of Ainsley’s life). Tabitha, who has lived her entire adult life in Eleanor’s thrall, occupies her mother’s carriage house and manages the ERF boutique on Nantucket, a stodgy purveyor of preppy resort wear on the verge of going bust. Harper, whose past includes menial jobs and a brush with the law, is now a total pariah on the Vineyard: she'd been having an affair with Billy's doctor, Reed, which is discovered by his wife, Sadie, on the night Billy dies. The fun accelerates when Eleanor, Ainsley (now 16), and Tabitha attend Billy’s memorial service only to have Sadie toss a flute of champagne in Tabitha’s face. Then Eleanor, who could never handle champagne, breaks a hip. For complicated reasons, the twins end up trading islands, with Tabitha heading to the Vineyard to renovate Billy's house and then sell it while Harper goes to Nantucket to look after her niece. Hilderbrand makes the most of the complications caused by twinship and small island worlds: Tabitha’s most recent ex, Ramsay, approaches Harper and decides to pursue this less uptight look-alike, and Tabitha, after some initial difficulties occasioned by Harper’s reputation, falls for master builder Franklin—who is Sadie’s brother. The most poignant scenes feature Ainsley, whose teen angst is quelled by Harper’s nurturing. The romantic relationships seem tacked on to satisfy the demands of the genre, but this beach read doesn’t shy from the grittier side of all that sand.

Intelligent escapism with heart.

Pub Date: June 13, 2017

ISBN: 978-0-316-37519-1

Page Count: 432

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: April 4, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2017

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