Allende’s novel offers a stylized but uneven riff on crime-fiction tropes.


Elaborate scams and workplace murders abound in this bleakly comic novel.

In fiction, the strangest things can bring together the participants in a criminal conspiracy. For Charlie and Jignesh, the alternating narrators of Allende’s novel, their connection comes via an unsuccessful date. But it turns out Charlie has a large freezer for sale, and Jignesh happens to have accidentally killed a former co-worker and is frantically trying to cover it up. The novel opens with a flash-forward to Charlie wandering through the desert in Mexico, wishing that he “had never fallen in love with [Jignesh’s] wealth and with his ravishing South Asian skin color.” If that comes off as shallow and fetishizing, that’s the point. For his part, Jignesh has a sideline in writing genre novels with characters along the lines of “winsome Celt women with a wispy mane of red hair like Princess Salmonella McFallog,” and he isn’t as wealthy as Charlie believes him to be. Gradually, the two men become immersed in more unethical activities, from Jignesh’s creative use of workplace funds to outright money laundering. Charlie’s narration is prone to withering takes on the other characters and musings on his Southern upbringing. Jignesh has a more hapless perspective on the world, leading to some comic moments, as when he ponders the appropriate thoughts to have before killing someone: “One shouldn’t pray to his family Gods when committing a crime.” But he also has a more acerbic side that emerges in moments of stress. The high concept of Allende’s novel—placing two relatively average guys who don’t have any real reason to get involved in a murder/fraud plot in the center of one—is interesting. But this ends up being a book that sinks or swims depending on how you feel about the two narrators. That said, Charlie’s penchant for digressive cinematic deep cuts—“His face is as pale as Meryl Streep’s was in The French Lieutenant’s Woman when she first sees Jeremy Irons at The Cobb in Lyme Regis’s harbor”—is endearing.

Allende’s novel offers a stylized but uneven riff on crime-fiction tropes.

Pub Date: June 21, 2022

ISBN: 978-1-63628-035-6

Page Count: 312

Publisher: Red Hen Press

Review Posted Online: March 30, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2022

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Through palpable tension balanced with glimmers of hope, Hoover beautifully captures the heartbreak and joy of starting over.

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The sequel to It Ends With Us (2016) shows the aftermath of domestic violence through the eyes of a single mother.

Lily Bloom is still running a flower shop; her abusive ex-husband, Ryle Kincaid, is still a surgeon. But now they’re co-parenting a daughter, Emerson, who's almost a year old. Lily won’t send Emerson to her father’s house overnight until she’s old enough to talk—“So she can tell me if something happens”—but she doesn’t want to fight for full custody lest it become an expensive legal drama or, worse, a physical fight. When Lily runs into Atlas Corrigan, a childhood friend who also came from an abusive family, she hopes their friendship can blossom into love. (For new readers, their history unfolds in heartfelt diary entries that Lily addresses to Finding Nemo star Ellen DeGeneres as she considers how Atlas was a calming presence during her turbulent childhood.) Atlas, who is single and running a restaurant, feels the same way. But even though she’s divorced, Lily isn’t exactly free. Behind Ryle’s veneer of civility are his jealousy and resentment. Lily has to plan her dates carefully to avoid a confrontation. Meanwhile, Atlas’ mother returns with shocking news. In between, Lily and Atlas steal away for romantic moments that are even sweeter for their authenticity as Lily struggles with child care, breastfeeding, and running a business while trying to find time for herself.

Through palpable tension balanced with glimmers of hope, Hoover beautifully captures the heartbreak and joy of starting over.

Pub Date: Oct. 18, 2022

ISBN: 978-1-668-00122-6

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Atria

Review Posted Online: July 27, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2022

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The years pass by at a fast and steamy clip in Blume’s latest adult novel (Wifey, not reviewed; Smart Women, 1984) as two friends find loyalties and affections tested as they grow into young women. In sixth grade, when Victoria Weaver is asked by new girl Caitlin Somers to spend the summer with her on Martha’s Vineyard, her life changes forever. Victoria, or more commonly Vix, lives in a small house; her brother has muscular dystrophy; her mother is unhappy, and money is scarce. Caitlin, on the other hand, lives part of the year with her wealthy mother Phoebe, who’s just moved to Albuquerque, and summers with her father Lamb, equally affluent, on the Vineyard. The story of how this casual invitation turns the two girls into what they call "Summer sisters" is prefaced with a prologue in which Vix is asked by Caitlin to be her matron of honor. The years in between are related in brief segments by numerous characters, but mostly by Vix. Caitlin, determined never to be ordinary, is always testing the limits, and in adolescence falls hard for Von, an older construction worker, while Vix falls for his friend Bru. Blume knows the way kids and teens speak, but her two female leads are less credible as they reach adulthood. After high school, Caitlin travels the world and can’t understand why Vix, by now at Harvard on a scholarship and determined to have a better life than her mother has had, won’t drop out and join her. Though the wedding briefly revives Vix’s old feelings for Bru, whom Caitlin is marrying, Vix is soon in love with Gus, another old summer friend, and a more compatible match. But Caitlin, whose own demons have been hinted at, will not be so lucky. The dark and light sides of friendship breathlessly explored in a novel best saved for summer beachside reading.

Pub Date: May 8, 1998

ISBN: 0-385-32405-7

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Delacorte

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 1998

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