A moderately interesting story told in extremely broad strokes.

Two troubled families—are there any other kind in Leavitt’s novels (Pictures of You, 2011, etc.)?—grapple to cope with a 12-year-old boy’s disappearance.

Ava moved to Waltham, Mass., with her son Lewis after her divorce. Although her selfish husband, Brian, left them and Ava is working for a pittance at a plumbing company to support her son, the censorious neighbors disapprove of her dating and disdain her for being Jewish; in Leavitt’s less-than-nuanced portrait, these suburbanites are virtual caricatures of 1950s anti-Semitism, sexism and anti-intellectualism. Lewis, told “not to be so smart” by his teachers, finds best friends in also-ostracized siblings Jimmy and Rose, whose widowed mother, Dot, is sort of nice to Ava. But when Jimmy vanishes one afternoon, ugly rumors circulate. Wasn’t there something, well, strange about the boy’s relationship with Ava? Or maybe Ava’s new boyfriend, Jake—a jazz musician, so clearly no good—had something to do with the boy’s disappearance. Jake can’t take the pressure and splits. Ava, Lewis, Rose and Dot are traumatized in individual ways that don’t necessarily draw them together, though Rose continues to pine unrequitedly for Lewis. Seven years later, in 1963, Lewis is a nurse’s aide in Madison, obsessively caring for others but unable to share anything of himself. Orphaned Rose teaches third grade in Ann Arbor, freaking out any time she sees a child more than a few feet from adult supervision. Only Ava, still stuck at the plumbing company but baking magnificent pies in her spare time for a local cafe, seems to be rebuilding her life, when the discovery of Jimmy’s remains forces everyone to face their unresolved issues. The mystery of what exactly happened to Jimmy is cleared up via not one, but two incredibly contrived revelations, and neither Lewis nor Rose is a vivid enough personality for readers to care much whether they’ll ever get together.

A moderately interesting story told in extremely broad strokes.

Pub Date: May 7, 2013

ISBN: 978-1-61620-054-1

Page Count: 384

Publisher: Algonquin

Review Posted Online: Feb. 25, 2013

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2013



A deeply satisfying novel, both sensuously vivid and remarkably poignant.

Norwegian novelist Jacobsen folds a quietly powerful coming-of-age story into a rendition of daily life on one of Norway’s rural islands a hundred years ago in a novel that was shortlisted for the 2017 Man Booker International Prize.

Ingrid Barrøy, her father, Hans, mother, Maria, grandfather Martin, and slightly addled aunt Barbro are the owners and sole inhabitants of Barrøy Island, one of numerous small family-owned islands in an area of Norway barely touched by the outside world. The novel follows Ingrid from age 3 through a carefree early childhood of endless small chores, simple pleasures, and unquestioned familial love into her more ambivalent adolescence attending school off the island and becoming aware of the outside world, then finally into young womanhood when she must make difficult choices. Readers will share Ingrid’s adoration of her father, whose sense of responsibility conflicts with his romantic nature. He adores Maria, despite what he calls her “la-di-da” ways, and is devoted to Ingrid. Twice he finds work on the mainland for his sister, Barbro, but, afraid she’ll be unhappy, he brings her home both times. Rooted to the land where he farms and tied to the sea where he fishes, Hans struggles to maintain his family’s hardscrabble existence on an island where every repair is a struggle against the elements. But his efforts are Sisyphean. Life as a Barrøy on Barrøy remains precarious. Changes do occur in men’s and women’s roles, reflected in part by who gets a literal chair to sit on at meals, while world crises—a war, Sweden’s financial troubles—have unexpected impact. Yet the drama here occurs in small increments, season by season, following nature’s rhythm through deaths and births, moments of joy and deep sorrow. The translator’s decision to use roughly translated phrases in conversation—i.e., “Tha’s goen’ nohvar” for "You’re going nowhere")—slows the reading down at first but ends up drawing readers more deeply into the world of Barrøy and its prickly, intensely alive inhabitants.

A deeply satisfying novel, both sensuously vivid and remarkably poignant.

Pub Date: April 7, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-77196-319-0

Page Count: 272

Publisher: Biblioasis

Review Posted Online: Jan. 12, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2020


A captivating story of a complicated woman blazing new trails.

One of the most beautiful women ever to grace the silver screen, Hedy Lamarr also designed a secret weapon against Nazi Germany.

In her latest portrayal of a lesser-known woman scientist, Benedict (The Other Einstein, 2016, etc.) spins the tale of Lamarr, born Hedwig Kiesler, from her late teens in Austria through her success in Hollywood. Born to Jewish parents in a posh Vienna neighborhood, Hedy endures her mother’s criticism while following her father’s encouragement to pursue both science and acting. Although she finds early success with the risqué Ecstasy, the film’s nudity haunts her efforts to be taken seriously. Just as she achieves the respect of her peers as a stage actress, Hedy catches the eye of Fritz Mandl, a wealthy, charismatic older man who owns several munitions factories. Rumored to have mistreated his former mistresses and to be in league with the fascist (albeit anti-Nazi) Austrian Christian Social Party, Fritz determines to wine, dine, and wed Hedy. Once married, however, Hedy finds herself virtually imprisoned and often abused by her jealous husband. Yet Hedy proves invaluable to Fritz when she begins to gather secret information from their well-connected, politically ambitious house guests. After all, who would suspect such a beautiful woman of understanding military secrets? Yet as Germany and Italy begin to join forces against Austria, Hedy discovers just how mercenary Fritz can be. A daring escape leads Hedy to America, where she vows never to be under another man’s thumb. Once out of Fritz’s reach, Hedy not only returns to acting, but also embarks on a new career as an inventor. Remembering the sensitive information carelessly revealed at Vienna dinner parties, she develops a brilliant radio-communication device. But will the American Navy accept such a weapon from a woman?

A captivating story of a complicated woman blazing new trails.

Pub Date: Jan. 15, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-4926-6686-8

Page Count: 272

Publisher: Sourcebooks Landmark

Review Posted Online: Oct. 27, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15, 2018

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