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

THE OTHER SIDE OF SANCTUARY

A NOVEL

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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Honestly, who needs Nantucket. It could hardly be more fun than this book.

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THE HOTEL NANTUCKET

Bring on the fresh-baked gougères and the hydrangea-blue cashmere throws: A classic fictional setting—the grand hotel—gets the Hilderbrand treatment.

The beloved beach novelist’s 28th book is another tour de force, deploying all her usual tricks and tropes and clever points of view, again among them a character from the afterlife and the collective “we” of gossipy island residents. Our ghost is Grace Hadley, a teenage chambermaid who died under suspicious circumstances in a hotel fire in 1922. Grace’s lonely days are over when the historic property is purchased and reopened by a London billionaire. As Xavier Darling tells his general manager, Lizbet Keaton, their goal will be to get five out of five keys from Shelly Carpenter, an undercover hotel blogger who has not awarded top honors to any spot visited so far. A gorgeous remodel, a sterling staff, free treats in the minibar, and—of course, since this is Hilderbrand—an incredible restaurant where a disco ball drops from the ceiling every night at 9 p.m. and the chef is hotter than any dish on the menu are all in play as the first guests come streaming in. Which one is the hard-to-please Ms. Carpenter? Other addictive storylines include a rich kid cleaning rooms to expiate some mysterious, terrible thing he did this past spring, an evil beauty breaking up island marriages (instead of a gun in the drawer, there's a half-used Chanel eye shadow in Pourpre Brun), and the desperate attempts of Lizbet’s ex, who sexted with their wine rep, to win her back. One of the special services Lizbet creates for the guests of the Hotel Nantucket is a “Blue Book” containing all her recommended island itineraries. A real-life version is included as an appendix, giving the complete scoop on where to eat, drink, sunbathe, shop, and stay on the island, plus notes on which Hilderbrand novels happened where. If you’re ready to check out Chicken Box or to try the sandwiches on herb bread that lured the author to become a permanent island resident in 1993, the Elin Hilderbrand Bucket List Weekend really is a thing.

Honestly, who needs Nantucket. It could hardly be more fun than this book.

Pub Date: June 14, 2022

ISBN: 978-0-316-25867-8

Page Count: 416

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: April 27, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2022

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Delightfully readable fiction, but the mystery disappoints.

THE IT GIRL

Ten years after having discovered her Oxford roommate’s dead body in front of the fireplace in their room, a young woman struggles with the realization that she may have helped send the wrong man to prison.

Hannah Jones arrives at Oxford hardly believing that she’s been accepted into this haven of learning and wealth. Sharing a picturesque set of rooms with the flamboyant and beautiful April Clarke-Cliveden, she divides her time between rigorous studying and energetic socializing with Emily Lippmana, Ryan Coates, Hugh Bland, and Will de Chastaigne, with whom she shares an attraction even though he's April’s boyfriend. It’s a good life except for the increasingly creepy interactions she has with John Neville, one of the porters. When Hannah finds April dead one night just after she’s seen Neville coming down the stairs from their rooms, it’s her testimony that puts him in jail. Ware divides the novel into alternating “before” and “after” chapters, with the narrative of Hannah’s college experience unfolding parallel to the events of her life nearly a decade later, when she’s married to Will and pregnant with their first child. Then Neville dies in prison and Hannah hears from a reporter who thinks he might actually have been innocent. Hannah begins to wonder herself, and she plunges back into the past to see if she can figure out what really happened that night. As usual with Ware, the novel is well crafted—the setting, characters, and dialogue are all engaging—but it lacks the author's signature sense of urgent and imminent threat. The novel unfolds smoothly, providing a few twists and turns, as the reader might expect, but not really delivering any true suspense. It also lacks the contrast between a luxurious background and the characters’ fears that Ware has often played to great effect. She does offer a deeper dive into the trauma of the survivors than she usually does, but this isn't the breathless page-turner one has come to expect from Ware.

Delightfully readable fiction, but the mystery disappoints.

Pub Date: July 12, 2022

ISBN: 978-1-9821-5526-1

Page Count: 432

Publisher: Gallery Books/Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: April 22, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2022

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