Hoffman wanders into the cow pasture a little too often, but the intersection of the lives of two smart young women with a...

SO MUCH PRETTY

Hoffman’s debut novel takes readers to the unsexy world of rural New York and a farming community with more than one secret.

Stacy Flynn is a reporter covering the tiny town of Haeden. Flynn is on the prowl for the story that will make her name in the field of investigative journalism, and she’s decided that Haeden and its acres of dairy farms are just the ticket to an award. Flynn writes and edits the local paper, but she’s not a Haeden native. Instead, she moved from Cleveland to take over the town rag, covering football games and pancake breakfasts under the occasional eye of the former editor. But when the body of a waitress and local favorite, Wendy White, turns up, Flynn bites into the story like a starving dog. Something is very wrong with the way the police and the town are treating White’s murder, and she’s not the only one who thinks that way. But there’s another case, a more recent one, and that one really weighs on Flynn’s mind. It centers on the most unlikely family imaginable: a pair of disaffected doctors turned hippies and their brilliant little girl, Alice. Unhappy with the way their lives were going in New York City, the Piper family moved to Haeden when Claire and Gene left medicine. Gene, Alice’s father, also believes, as does Flynn, that the dairy business is poisoning the water and land for miles around. Told from Gene’s, Alice’s and Flynn’s perspectives, along with those of many others, including the dead girl’s, Hoffman’s book rotates points of view every couple of pages. Although mostly well written, the story devolves into some snooze-worthy prose, particularly sections detailing agricultural practices and Alice’s essays. The author tells the reader over and over that the women in this story are strong and, in the end, she proves it.

Hoffman wanders into the cow pasture a little too often, but the intersection of the lives of two smart young women with a shared consciousness turns what could have been a boring tale into something worth reading. 

Pub Date: March 15, 2011

ISBN: 978-14516-1675-0

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: Dec. 22, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2010

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A tasty, if not always tasteful, tale of supernatural mayhem that fans of King and Crichton alike will enjoy.

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DEVOLUTION

Are we not men? We are—well, ask Bigfoot, as Brooks does in this delightful yarn, following on his bestseller World War Z (2006).

A zombie apocalypse is one thing. A volcanic eruption is quite another, for, as the journalist who does a framing voice-over narration for Brooks’ latest puts it, when Mount Rainier popped its cork, “it was the psychological aspect, the hyperbole-fueled hysteria that had ended up killing the most people.” Maybe, but the sasquatches whom the volcano displaced contributed to the statistics, too, if only out of self-defense. Brooks places the epicenter of the Bigfoot war in a high-tech hideaway populated by the kind of people you might find in a Jurassic Park franchise: the schmo who doesn’t know how to do much of anything but tries anyway, the well-intentioned bleeding heart, the know-it-all intellectual who turns out to know the wrong things, the immigrant with a tough backstory and an instinct for survival. Indeed, the novel does double duty as a survival manual, packed full of good advice—for instance, try not to get wounded, for “injury turns you from a giver to a taker. Taking up our resources, our time to care for you.” Brooks presents a case for making room for Bigfoot in the world while peppering his narrative with timely social criticism about bad behavior on the human side of the conflict: The explosion of Rainier might have been better forecast had the president not slashed the budget of the U.S. Geological Survey, leading to “immediate suspension of the National Volcano Early Warning System,” and there’s always someone around looking to monetize the natural disaster and the sasquatch-y onslaught that follows. Brooks is a pro at building suspense even if it plays out in some rather spectacularly yucky episodes, one involving a short spear that takes its name from “the sucking sound of pulling it out of the dead man’s heart and lungs.” Grossness aside, it puts you right there on the scene.

A tasty, if not always tasteful, tale of supernatural mayhem that fans of King and Crichton alike will enjoy.

Pub Date: June 16, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-9848-2678-7

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Del Rey/Ballantine

Review Posted Online: Feb. 10, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2020

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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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