Theatrical hokum, but written with an assurance and energy that will appeal to readers looking for comfort and romantic role...

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THREE STAGES OF AMAZEMENT

High-octane melodrama from Edgarian (Rise the Euphrates, 1994) about a married couple whose brilliance, beauty and nobility are no safeguard against personal and societal woes during the first year of the Obama presidency.

Former PBS producer Lena Rusch has moved back to her hometown of San Francisco with her husband Charlie Pepper, a working-class Boston boy turned Harvard-trained surgeon/idealistic entrepreneur, and their precocious preschool son Theo. These almost saintly protagonists have been disgustingly happy together, but by the time the novel opens, shortly after the inauguration, life has already started to fall apart. Eleven months ago Lena gave birth to twin girls. One died immediately, and the survivor, Willa, has been in and out of the hospital ever since, her physical and developmental future still uncertain. Lena is exhausted, and she can’t count on much help from Charlie, who is jetting around the country desperately promoting the robotic surgery technique he has developed that could change medicine. Unfortunately start-up money has dried up. Then Cal Rusch, Lena’s extremely wealthy but estranged uncle, offers his backing. Lena is furious when she finds out, especially since Charlie doesn’t tell her himself. Instead, the news comes from Allesandro, Lena’s dashing former lover, who now works with Cal. Days after Cal and his socialite wife Ivy—think Nancy Reagan as a democrat—throw a million-dollar bash attended by Charlie and Lena, their lives fall apart too. Not only does Cal face mutiny in his company, both he and Ivy are struck down by fast-acting terminal cancers. Meanwhile, Charlie’s financial crisis keeps him too busy to pay adequate attention to his family. Feeling abandoned, Lena turns to Allesandro. Theo runs away and breaks his arm. Cal reveals a deep secret concerning Lena. Willa gets sick a few more times. Finally she learns to crawl, and her parents pull themselves together.

Theatrical hokum, but written with an assurance and energy that will appeal to readers looking for comfort and romantic role models during this difficult era.

Pub Date: March 1, 2011

ISBN: 978-1-4391-9830-8

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Scribner

Review Posted Online: Dec. 22, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2010

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A heartwarming portrait of a broken heart finding a little healing magic.

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IN FIVE YEARS

After acing a job interview and accepting a marriage proposal, Dannie Kohan has had the perfect day. That is, until she awakens to find herself five years in the future with a completely different man.

Just one hour in that alternate reality shakes Dannie to her core. After all, highly ambitious Dannie and her boyfriend, David, have plotted out their lives in minute detail, and the sexy man in her dream—was it a dream?—is most certainly not in the script. Serle (The Dinner List, 2018) deftly spins these magical threads into Dannie’s perfectly structured life, leaving not only Dannie, but also the reader wondering whether Dannie time traveled or hallucinated. Her best friend, Bella, would delight in the story given that she thinks Dannie is much too straight-laced, and some spicy dreaming might push Dannie to find someone more passionate than David. Unfortunately, glamorous Bella is in Europe with her latest lover. Ever pragmatic, Dannie consults her therapist, who almost concurs that it was likely a dream, and throws herself into her work. Pleased to have landed the job at a prestigious law firm, Dannie easily loses her worries in litigation. Soon four and a half years have passed with no wedding date set, and Bella is back in the U.S. with a new man in her life. A man who turns out to be literally the man of Dannie’s dream. The sheer fact of Aaron Gregory’s existence forces Dannie to reevaluate her trust in the laws of physics as well as her decision to marry David, a decision that seems less believable with each passing day. And as the architecture of Dannie’s overplanned life disintegrates, Serle twists and twines the remnants of her dream into a surprising future.

A heartwarming portrait of a broken heart finding a little healing magic.

Pub Date: March 3, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-9821-3744-1

Page Count: 240

Publisher: Atria

Review Posted Online: Dec. 9, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 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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