by Charlotte Wood ‧ RELEASE DATE: Aug. 4, 2020
A neatly observed, tightly circumscribed journey into predictable territory.
Three elderly female friends reunite to clear out the home of a fourth, who recently died, in a short meditation on relationship bonds and the wisdom—and other traits—accumulated over a lifetime.
Largely observing the classical unities of time, place, and action, Wood’s new novel plays out like a small theatrical drama, a chamber piece in which the three characters, both individually and as a group, confront the limits of their friendship. The time is Christmas, the place is Sylvie’s appealing but decaying seaside home in Bittoes, not far from Sydney, and the action spans the weekend during which Jude, Wendy, and Adele, friends for 40 years, meet to empty the place of Sylvie’s belongings. Fastidious, waspish Jude approaches the task efficiently; blowsy actress Adele (“so short and so bosomy”) responds chaotically; and widowed academic Wendy, accompanied by her decrepit dog, Finn, does what she can. Rigid and preoccupied, Jude is awaiting the arrival of her rich long-term lover, Daniel; artistically impoverished Adele is probably homeless now that her latest relationship seems to be ending; while Wendy is fending off the obvious need to have Finn put to sleep. Wood consistently compartmentalizes, and limits, the women—the thin one, the fat one, the pert one; the clever one, the artsy one, the bossy one—while unraveling their separate and overlapping pasts. The present is largely static until a big bang of a finale is set in motion. The novel displays wit, insight, and some astute social commentary, especially on the topic of age, but offers little in the way of engagement or surprises. Meanwhile poor, mangy Finn haunts the proceedings, an ever present specter of decline and mortality.A neatly observed, tightly circumscribed journey into predictable territory.
Pub Date: Aug. 4, 2020
Page Count: 272
Review Posted Online: May 17, 2020
Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 2020
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by James McBride ‧ RELEASE DATE: Aug. 8, 2023
If it’s possible for America to have a poet laureate, why can’t James McBride be its storyteller-in-chief?
Awards & Accolades
Best Books Of 2023
New York Times Bestseller
McBride follows up his hit novel Deacon King Kong (2020) with another boisterous hymn to community, mercy, and karmic justice.
It's June 1972, and the Pennsylvania State Police have some questions concerning a skeleton found at the bottom of an old well in the ramshackle Chicken Hill section of Pottstown that’s been marked for redevelopment. But Hurricane Agnes intervenes by washing away the skeleton and all other physical evidence of a series of extraordinary events that began more than 40 years earlier, when Jewish and African American citizens shared lives, hopes, and heartbreak in that same neighborhood. At the literal and figurative heart of these events is Chona Ludlow, the forbearing, compassionate Jewish proprietor of the novel’s eponymous grocery store, whose instinctive kindness and fairness toward the Black families of Chicken Hill exceed even that of her husband, Moshe, who, with Chona’s encouragement, desegregates his theater to allow his Black neighbors to fully enjoy acts like Chick Webb’s swing orchestra. Many local White Christians frown upon the easygoing relationship between Jews and Blacks, especially Doc Roberts, Pottstown’s leading physician, who marches every year in the local Ku Klux Klan parade. The ties binding the Ludlows to their Black neighbors become even stronger over the years, but that bond is tested most stringently and perilously when Chona helps Nate Timblin, a taciturn Black janitor at Moshe’s theater and the unofficial leader of his community, conceal and protect a young orphan named Dodo who lost his hearing in an explosion. He isn’t at all “feeble-minded,” but the government wants to put him in an institution promising little care and much abuse. The interlocking destinies of these and other characters make for tense, absorbing drama and, at times, warm, humane comedy. McBride’s well-established skill with narrative tactics may sometimes spill toward the melodramatic here. But as in McBride’s previous works, you barely notice such relatively minor contrivances because of the depth of characterizations and the pitch-perfect dialogue of his Black and Jewish characters. It’s possible to draw a clear, straight line from McBride’s breakthrough memoir, The Color of Water (1996), to the themes of this latest work.If it’s possible for America to have a poet laureate, why can’t James McBride be its storyteller-in-chief?
Pub Date: Aug. 8, 2023
Page Count: 400
Review Posted Online: May 9, 2023
Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 2023
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by Susan Mallery ‧ RELEASE DATE: May 31, 2022
A book begging to be read on the beach, with the sun warming the sand and salt in the air: pure escapism.
Three woman who join together to rent a large space along the beach in Los Angeles for their stores—a gift shop, a bakery, and a bookstore—become fast friends as they each experience the highs, and lows, of love.
Bree is a friendly but standoffish bookstore owner who keeps everyone she knows at arm’s length, from guys she meets in bars to her friends. Mikki is a settled-in-her-routines divorced mother of two, happily a mom, gift-shop owner, and co-parent with her ex-husband, Perry. And Ashley is a young, very-much-in-love bakery owner specializing in muffins who devotes herself to giving back to the community through a nonprofit that helps community members develop skills and find jobs. When the women meet drooling over a boardwalk storefront that none of them can afford on her own, a plan is hatched to divide the space in three, and a friendship—and business partnership—is born. An impromptu celebration on the beach at sunset with champagne becomes a weekly touchpoint to their lives as they learn more about each other and themselves. Their friendship blossoms as they help each other, offering support, hard truths, and loving backup. Author Mallery has created a delightful story of friendship between three women that also offers a variety of love stories as they fall in love, make mistakes, and figure out how to be the best—albeit still flawed—versions of themselves. The men are similarly flawed and human. While the story comes down clearly on the side of all-encompassing love, Mallery has struck a careful balance: There is just enough sex to be spicy, just enough swearing to be naughty, and just enough heartbreak to avoid being cloying.A book begging to be read on the beach, with the sun warming the sand and salt in the air: pure escapism.
Pub Date: May 31, 2022
Page Count: 352
Publisher: Harlequin MIRA
Review Posted Online: March 15, 2022
Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2022
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