Written in the tradition of Alice Munro and Jhumpa Lahiri, Leung's debut story collection marks the career of a writer to...

THAT TIME I LOVED YOU

Leung's stories lift the veiled curtain of late 1970s suburbia to reveal the sadness and isolation of its residents.

In the opening story of Leung's linked collection, 11-year-old June Lee frets over a disturbing trend: The parents in her suburban neighborhood of Toronto are committing suicide at an alarming rate. "Regardless of which group we belonged to—Chinese, white, or otherwise—by the second suicide, it felt like we were waiting for something else catastrophic to happen," recalls June. Her stories, all told in the first person, illuminate the subtle boundaries between girlhood and adolescence and serve to anchor the collection. Radiating outward from June's perspective are those of other women and children in the neighborhood. There's Marilyn, an impulsive middle-aged thief of discarded or forgotten items; Josie, June's best friend, who must work to support her family and who quietly keeps an assault to herself; Darren, a young black boy who experiences violent racism at the hands of a teacher; and June's elderly grandmother Poh Poh, who emigrated from Hong Kong and is leery of her granddaughter and her loud Canadian friends. Leung looks for ways to bridge the gaps between what characters say and what they mean, what they admit to themselves and what they won't utter aloud, ultimately painting a picture of deep social and racial divides. (When one white, wealthy neighbor observes that Toronto's poorer Italian neighborhood is "authentic," for instance, it feels a little on-the-nose.) Many of her neighborhood residents have left poverty behind in the city for a better life and a bigger lawn only to struggle with feelings of discontentment and shame about their social standing. The men and women who commit suicide suffer from isolation or mental illness, and Leung uses these tragedies to show the fragility of adulthood. Most heartbreaking, though, are the stories that address the fear and shame children internalize when they encounter racial and gendered violence. Darren is struck by a teacher in class despite repeated warnings from his mother to keep his eyes down around white people, and June's friend Nav is beaten for acting too feminine at school. "I didn't know what to do," June cries to Poh Poh, a familiar refrain throughout the collection. None of the adults in her life offer easy answers or solutions—the best they can do is provide comfort and a soft place to land until trouble moves on to the next family.

Written in the tradition of Alice Munro and Jhumpa Lahiri, Leung's debut story collection marks the career of a writer to watch.

Pub Date: Feb. 26, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-63149-552-6

Page Count: 224

Publisher: Liveright/Norton

Review Posted Online: Oct. 28, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15, 2018

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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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With frank language and patient plotting, this gangly teen crush grows into a confident adult love affair.

LOVE AND OTHER WORDS

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

ISBN: 978-1-5011-2801-1

Page Count: 416

Publisher: Gallery Books/Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: Jan. 23, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2018

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