A unique, poignant, and slightly taboo novel about family, biology, and evolution.


In the wake of their father’s death, two half siblings confront their pasts and try to rewrite their futures.

Hauser (The From-Aways, 2014) returns with a strange and heartbreaking novel about what it means to be a family. When their estranged father, Dr. Ian Grey, drowns while conducting research, adult half siblings Elsa and Nolan Grey are brought together for the first time in years. Ian, along with other peculiar scientists and researchers, lived on Leap’s Island in the Gulf of Mexico, where he studied the undowny bufflehead, a duck species that seems to be evolving backwards. Before his death, Ian had become obsessed with one duck, Duck Number Twelve or the Paradise Duck, which he described as “a freak among its peers.” Traveling to Leap’s Island, the half siblings hope to gather Ian’s possessions and find answers to their lingering questions. Elsa believes Ian committed suicide, but Nolan is adamant he didn’t. They both wonder if their own failures, inadequacies, and mistakes caused their father to withdraw from the world. Elsa and Nolan must also grapple with their fraught relationship—full of taboos, secrets, and abandonment issues. Playing with time, memory, and point of view, the novel is structurally ambitious, though sometimes to its own detriment. Its strongest parts are its ruminations on the Grey family dynamics, so the portraits of the islanders feel expendable. Hauser's ability to render the complexities of family relationships with radical honesty is a feat. When Elsa thinks back on her childhood, Hauser writes, “her father had been taken from her over and over again, and Elsa was tired of coming up with new ways to suffer in his absence.” A lesser writer would not be able to deliver the disturbing and weird with the grace that Hauser does.

A unique, poignant, and slightly taboo novel about family, biology, and evolution.

Pub Date: July 16, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-385-54462-7

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Doubleday

Review Posted Online: April 14, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 2019

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet

Dark and unsettling, this novel’s end arrives abruptly even as readers are still moving at a breakneck speed.


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

Did you like this book?



A modern day fable, with modern implications in a deceiving simplicity, by the author of Dickens. Dali and Others (Reynal & Hitchcock, p. 138), whose critical brilliance is well adapted to this type of satire. This tells of the revolt on a farm, against humans, when the pigs take over the intellectual superiority, training the horses, cows, sheep, etc., into acknowledging their greatness. The first hints come with the reading out of a pig who instigated the building of a windmill, so that the electric power would be theirs, the idea taken over by Napoleon who becomes topman with no maybes about it. Napoleon trains the young puppies to be his guards, dickers with humans, gradually instigates a reign of terror, and breaks the final commandment against any animal walking on two legs. The old faithful followers find themselves no better off for food and work than they were when man ruled them, learn their final disgrace when they see Napoleon and Squealer carousing with their enemies... A basic statement of the evils of dictatorship in that it not only corrupts the leaders, but deadens the intelligence and awareness of those led so that tyranny is inevitable. Mr. Orwell's animals exist in their own right, with a narrative as individual as it is apt in political parody.

Pub Date: Aug. 26, 1946

ISBN: 0452277507

Page Count: 114

Publisher: Harcourt, Brace

Review Posted Online: Nov. 2, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 1946

Did you like this book?