An occasionally moving and tender work of autofiction that depicts the obsessive interiority of grief.
In this debut from Stockholm-based writer Setterwall, a real-life relationship becomes the basis of a novel about anxiety, motherhood, and trauma.
Carolina is an adventurous concert promoter who falls fast and hard for quiet Aksel, a freelancer. "I'm thirty, and my love life is a mess," she admits, detailing her failed relationships and attempts to address bad romantic patterns in therapy. An anxious but eager girlfriend, she pushes the two across milestone after milestone while circumspect Aksel agrees to be pushed. "If I just wait a few hours, you come back," she muses. "I'm starting to learn your patterns. I'm starting to figure out how to exist in your world." But things shift when the new couple moves into their suburban Stockholm apartment and Carolina admits to wanting a baby. Despite Aksel's hesitations, Carolina resolves to find a way to both have a child and keep Aksel in her life. "Our negotiations are not beautiful," she recalls. "Neither of us ever leaves the kitchen table feeling good." Then, when their son, Ivan, is only a few months old, Aksel dies suddenly in his sleep. To cope with her grief, Carolina chronicles their relationship, from the day they first met until their son turns 2 and romance finds her yet again. Addressed directly to Aksel, the twin narratives of excitement and grief depict Carolina's obsession with both being and having this particular partner. Like grief itself, the narrative is exhausting and exhaustive, as Carolina accumulates details to learn more about her need to control relationships in the face of real or manufactured chaos. Her sentences are spare and simple, and they reveal a portrait of anxiety and control, grief and abandonment, that lasts for many painful years. "How can I hold onto you when you're not here?" she asks. "How can I move on without the approval of the people in our life who matter the most to me? The equation seems unsolvable."An occasionally moving and tender work of autofiction that depicts the obsessive interiority of grief.
Pub Date: July 9, 2019
Page Count: 384
Publisher: Little, Brown
Review Posted Online: April 13, 2019
Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 2019
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by Lisa Jewell ‧ RELEASE DATE: April 24, 2018
Dark and unsettling, this novel’s end arrives abruptly even as readers are still moving at a breakneck speed.
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
Page Count: 368
Review Posted Online: Feb. 5, 2018
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2018
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by Christina Lauren ‧ RELEASE DATE: April 10, 2018
With frank language and patient plotting, this gangly teen crush grows into a confident adult love affair.
Eleven years ago, he broke her heart. But he doesn’t know why she never forgave him.
Toggling between past and present, two love stories unfold simultaneously. In the first, Macy Sorensen meets and falls in love with the boy next door, Elliot Petropoulos, in the closet of her dad’s vacation home, where they hide out to discuss their favorite books. In the second, Macy is working as a doctor and engaged to a single father, and she hasn’t spoken to Elliot since their breakup. But a chance encounter forces her to confront the truth: what happened to make Macy stop speaking to Elliot? Ultimately, they’re separated not by time or physical remoteness but by emotional distance—Elliot and Macy always kept their relationship casual because they went to different schools. And as a teen, Macy has more to worry about than which girl Elliot is taking to the prom. After losing her mother at a young age, Macy is navigating her teenage years without a female role model, relying on the time-stamped notes her mother left in her father’s care for guidance. In the present day, Macy’s father is dead as well. She throws herself into her work and rarely comes up for air, not even to plan her upcoming wedding. Since Macy is still living with her fiance while grappling with her feelings for Elliot, the flashbacks offer steamy moments, tender revelations, and sweetly awkward confessions while Macy makes peace with her past and decides her future.With frank language and patient plotting, this gangly teen crush grows into a confident adult love affair.
Pub Date: April 10, 2018
Page Count: 416
Publisher: Gallery Books/Simon & Schuster
Review Posted Online: Jan. 22, 2018
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2018
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