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THE OTHER SIDE OF SANCTUARY

A NOVEL

An often affecting, if slightly uneven, novel of familial adversity.

To prevent their marriage from collapsing, a husband and wife must make peace with their respective pasts in this debut literary novel.

Rob, a former professional paddleboarder, lives with his wife, Laura, and three children in his parents’ house while running a floundering bar. He remains haunted by his role in the accidental death of his best friend’s sister, Sandra. While out walking with Laura, he sees his old friend, Andre, paddleboarding, which revives his guilt over Andre’s arrest for his sister’s death, and his two-and-a-half year imprisonment for manslaughter. Laura, who senses Rob drawing away from her, runs a small bakery stand to help make ends meet; when she finds an injured cardinal on the street, she looks at her son, Nate, who’s still recovering from the effects of a car wreck: “Now, observing him in his wheelchair, she saw a boy broken like the cardinal that crashed into the window….What could she do about the bird, her son, or anything?” As this summary indicates, Crabb achieves a notable level of psychological realism by revealing her characters’ pasts via a series of emotional triggers. She also gives a highly visual sense of place to the characters’ hometown of Sanctuary, Michigan: “Still, there was no avoiding the glare of the midday sun blazing down…so much so that the village antique store appeared to squint.” In some instances, however, the author’s attention to detail works against the story; a chapter depicting Laura taking Nate to physical therapy, for example, starts off with a weather-based simile (“The wind shook the leaves from the trees that lined the cement path to the front door....The cold air was raw as her emotions”), but then delves into recording the characters’ every single word and gesture for several pages, which feels excessive: “Dr. Azzi…extended his hand to her. ‘Nice to see you again.’ Laura shook his hand before he and Nate exchanged knuckles. ‘How are you doing, young man?’ ” A judicious trimming of such passages would have enhanced some of the more meaningful scenes.

An often affecting, if slightly uneven, novel of familial adversity.

Pub Date: Oct. 2, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-95-121456-2

Page Count: 382

Publisher: Adelaide Books

Review Posted Online: June 24, 2021

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THE WOMEN

A dramatic, vividly detailed reconstruction of a little-known aspect of the Vietnam War.

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A young woman’s experience as a nurse in Vietnam casts a deep shadow over her life.

When we learn that the farewell party in the opening scene is for Frances “Frankie” McGrath’s older brother—“a golden boy, a wild child who could make the hardest heart soften”—who is leaving to serve in Vietnam in 1966, we feel pretty certain that poor Finley McGrath is marked for death. Still, it’s a surprise when the fateful doorbell rings less than 20 pages later. His death inspires his sister to enlist as an Army nurse, and this turn of events is just the beginning of a roller coaster of a plot that’s impressive and engrossing if at times a bit formulaic. Hannah renders the experiences of the young women who served in Vietnam in all-encompassing detail. The first half of the book, set in gore-drenched hospital wards, mildewed dorm rooms, and boozy officers’ clubs, is an exciting read, tracking the transformation of virginal, uptight Frankie into a crack surgical nurse and woman of the world. Her tensely platonic romance with a married surgeon ends when his broken, unbreathing body is airlifted out by helicopter; she throws her pent-up passion into a wild affair with a soldier who happens to be her dead brother’s best friend. In the second part of the book, after the war, Frankie seems to experience every possible bad break. A drawback of the story is that none of the secondary characters in her life are fully three-dimensional: Her dismissive, chauvinistic father and tight-lipped, pill-popping mother, her fellow nurses, and her various love interests are more plot devices than people. You’ll wish you could have gone to Vegas and placed a bet on the ending—while it’s against all the odds, you’ll see it coming from a mile away.

A dramatic, vividly detailed reconstruction of a little-known aspect of the Vietnam War.

Pub Date: Feb. 6, 2024

ISBN: 9781250178633

Page Count: 480

Publisher: St. Martin's

Review Posted Online: Nov. 4, 2023

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2023

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HAPPY PLACE

A wistfully nostalgic look at endings, beginnings, and loving the people who will always have your back.

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Exes pretend they’re still together for the sake of their friends on their annual summer vacation.

Wyn Connor and Harriet Kilpatrick were the perfect couple—until Wyn dumped Harriet for reasons she still doesn’t fully understand. They’ve been part of the same boisterous friend group since college, and they know that their breakup will devastate the others and make things more than a little awkward. So they keep it a secret from their friends and families—in fact, Harriet barely even admits it to herself, focusing instead on her grueling hours as a surgical resident. She’s ready for a vacation at her happy place—the Maine cottage she and her friends visit every summer. But (surprise!) Wyn is there too, and he and Harriet have to share a (very romantic) room and a bed. Telling the truth about their breakup is out of the question, because the cottage is up for sale, and this is the group’s last hurrah. Determined to make sure everyone has the perfect last trip, Harriet and Wyn resolve to fake their relationship for the week. The problem with this plan, of course, is that Harriet still has major feelings for Wyn—feelings that only get stronger as they pretend to be blissfully in love. As always, Henry’s dialogue is sparkling and the banter between characters is snappy and hilarious. Wyn and Harriet’s relationship, shown both in the past and the present, feels achingly real. Their breakup, as well as their complicated relationships with their own families, adds a twinge of melancholy, as do the relatable growing pains of a group of friends whose lives are taking them in different directions.

A wistfully nostalgic look at endings, beginnings, and loving the people who will always have your back.

Pub Date: April 25, 2023

ISBN: 9780593441275

Page Count: 400

Publisher: Berkley

Review Posted Online: Feb. 23, 2023

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2023

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