Larger-than-life characters drive this charming, hilarious, and memorable debut.

A STAR IS BORED

In the dynamic partnership that is Hollywood icon and celebrity assistant, who needs whom more?

This debut novel, based loosely on the author’s own experiences as a celebrity assistant, quickly establishes normalcy as a fluid concept. Normal for Charlie, a news writer in LA, is defined by working the graveyard shift and regularly contemplating suicide. Open to any opportunity to hit reset on his life, he takes a lead from intolerable executive assistant Bruce, whom he met at a gay bar and now hate-follows on social media. Kathi Kannon, star of cult-favorite film Nova Quest, is looking for an assistant. Charlie soon finds himself far outside his comfort zone, buzzing the intercom of his childhood idol. His call is answered with a curt “HURRY!” and the gate opens to his new life. Kathi’s world is, in a word, chaos, and Charlie—now dubbed rather salaciously as Cockring—is tasked with establishing a routine. As in: “feed her, water her, medicate her.” Turns out, Charlie was not left with an Assistant Bible, the invaluable tool that helps new assistants navigate a life to which they could never relate. Deciphering Kathi is a 24-hour task (“KATHI: I urgently need teeth splinter barfs….ME: Toothpicks, you need toothpicks?...KATHI: Horble twat”), and their dynamic will be as amusing for the reader as it is all-consuming for Charlie. Duality is a key theme of this relationship, as Kathi not-so-subtly becomes a second mother figure to Charlie after helping him realize the absurd tragedy of his childhood (“[Your mom] died in a fucking church?!”). At the same time, entranced by Kathi's Hollywood shine, Charlie rationalizes the absurdity in her daily life in a way that leaves him blind to her shadows. Kathi and Charlie’s story is one of addiction—mostly to other people and what they can add to your life. Their story is also deeply human, relatable in the most unrelatable way. Bravo to Lane, who deftly navigates the complexity of inner and outer lives as well as the many facets of normal. Add this to the Assistant Bible: A famous person’s boredom is another person’s saving grace.

Larger-than-life characters drive this charming, hilarious, and memorable debut.

Pub Date: July 28, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-250-26649-1

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Henry Holt

Review Posted Online: March 15, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2020

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If novelists are auditioning to play God, Hilderbrand gets the part.

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GOLDEN GIRL

From the greenroom of the afterlife—make that Benjamin Moore "Parsley Snips" green—a newly dead Nantucket novelist watches life unfold without her.

In her 27th novel, Hilderbrand gives herself an alter ego—beloved beach-novel author Vivian Howe—sends her out for a morning jog, and immediately kills her off. A hit-and-run driver leaves Vivi dead by the side of the road, where her son's best friend discovers her body—or was he responsible for the accident? Vivi doesn't know, nor does she know yet that her daughter Willa is pregnant, or that her daughter Carson is having a terribly ill-advised affair, or that her son, Leo, has a gnawing secret, or that her ex is getting tired of the girl he dumped her for. She will discover all this and more as she watches one last summer on Nantucket play out under the tutelage of Martha, her "Person," who receives her in the boho-chic waiting room of the Beyond. Hermès-scarved Martha explains that Vivi will have three nudges—three chances to change the course of events on Earth and prevent her bereaved loved ones from making life-altering mistakes. She will also get to watch the publication of what will be her last novel, titled Golden Girl, natch, and learn the answers to two questions: Will the secret about her own life she buried in this novel come to light (who cares, really—she's dead now), and will it hit No. 1 on the New York Times bestseller list (now there's an interesting question). She'll also get to see that one of her biggest wrongs is posthumously righted and that her kids have learned her most important lesson. As Willa says to Carson, "You know how she treats the characters in her books? She gives them flaws, she portrays them doing horrible things—but the reader loves them anyway. Because Mom loves them. Because they’re human.”

If novelists are auditioning to play God, Hilderbrand gets the part.

Pub Date: June 1, 2021

ISBN: 978-0-31642008-2

Page Count: 384

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: May 5, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2021

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Unlike baseball, basketball has contributed little to world literature. Call this Exhibit A.

SOOLEY

Legal eagle and mystery maven Grisham shifts gears with a novel about roundball.

What possessed Grisham to stop writing about murder in the Spanish moss–dripping milieus of the Deep South is anyone’s guess, and why he elected to write about basketball, one might imagine, speaks to some deep passion for the game. The depth of that love doesn’t quite emerge in these pages, flat of affect, told almost as if a by-the-numbers biography of an actual player. As it is, Grisham invents an all-too-believable hero in Samuel Sooleymon, who plays his way out of South Sudan, a nation wrought by sectarian violence—Sooley is a Dinka, Grisham instructs, of “the largest ethnic class in the country,” pitted against other ethnic groups—and mired in poverty despite the relative opulence of the capital city of Juba, with its “tall buildings, vibrancy, and well-dressed people.” A hard-charging but heart-of-gold coach changes his life when he arrives at the university there, having been dismissed earlier as a “nonshooting guard.” Soon enough Sooley is sinking three-pointers with alarming precision, which lands him a spot on an American college team. Much of the later portion of Grisham’s novel bounces between Sooley’s on-court exploits, jaw-dropping as they are, and his efforts to bring his embattled family, now refugees from civil war, to join him in the U.S.; explains Grisham, again, “Beatrice and her children were Dinka, the largest tribe in South Sudan, and their strongman was supposedly in control of most of the country,” though evidently not the part where they lived. Alas, Sooley, beloved of all, bound for a glorious career in the NBA, falls into the bad company that sudden wealth and fame can bring, and it all comes crashing down in a morality play that has only the virtue of bringing this tired narrative to an end.

Unlike baseball, basketball has contributed little to world literature. Call this Exhibit A.

Pub Date: April 27, 2021

ISBN: 978-0-385-54768-0

Page Count: 368

Publisher: Doubleday

Review Posted Online: March 3, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2021

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