A nice portrait of small-town Irish life studded with characters worth caring about, but told in a distracting present...

READ REVIEW

CIVIL & STRANGE

This gentle debut novel by an Irish poet captures a few crucial months in the lives of two women who renew their relationship against the backdrop of a small farming village in Ireland.

Beatrice, whose beloved son, John, committed suicide, finds herself the object of pity and curiosity when another local lad kills himself in the Irish town of Ballindoon. A widow, Beatrice was once the love of Matt Hughes’ life, but when she married another, Matt reacted by wedding the terrible Julia. Julia, a cold, hard woman, has never been the wife Matt wanted, nor deserved. But he stayed with her to raise their two sons and found solace in the local pub. His niece, Ellen, has recently moved to Ballindoon, leaving behind her controlling and overdramatic mother, Kitty, in Dublin. Also in Dublin, where Ellen once taught school, is her former husband, Christy, a man who never made her feel loved. Still, Kitty has a fondness for Christy and does her best to draw Christy and Ellen back together. After leaving Dublin, Ellen purchases an old family property where she once spent childhood summers and renovates it. While there, she catches the eye of a younger man who finds her attractive. Eventually, Beatrice and Ellen rekindle their relationship—Ellen once played with Beatrice’s now-grown daughters who married Englishmen and moved away—and Matt endures his inhospitable wife’s final illness. As Matt’s drinking sends him careening toward disaster, Ellen’s relationship with her suitor heats up, and Beatrice entertains a phone call—and a visit—from her other son, Andy, who moved to New York and has not spoken to his mother in years. Meanwhile, Ellen must take on Kitty’s illness as a new chapter in her life unfolds.

A nice portrait of small-town Irish life studded with characters worth caring about, but told in a distracting present tense, which diminishes the good writing.

Pub Date: March 11, 2008

ISBN: 978-0-618-82936-1

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2008

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.

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

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet

A heartwarming portrait of a broken heart finding a little healing magic.

Our Verdict

  • Our Verdict
  • GET IT

  • New York Times Bestseller

  • IndieBound Bestseller

IN FIVE YEARS

After acing a job interview and accepting a marriage proposal, Dannie Kohan has had the perfect day. That is, until she awakens to find herself five years in the future with a completely different man.

Just one hour in that alternate reality shakes Dannie to her core. After all, highly ambitious Dannie and her boyfriend, David, have plotted out their lives in minute detail, and the sexy man in her dream—was it a dream?—is most certainly not in the script. Serle (The Dinner List, 2018) deftly spins these magical threads into Dannie’s perfectly structured life, leaving not only Dannie, but also the reader wondering whether Dannie time traveled or hallucinated. Her best friend, Bella, would delight in the story given that she thinks Dannie is much too straight-laced, and some spicy dreaming might push Dannie to find someone more passionate than David. Unfortunately, glamorous Bella is in Europe with her latest lover. Ever pragmatic, Dannie consults her therapist, who almost concurs that it was likely a dream, and throws herself into her work. Pleased to have landed the job at a prestigious law firm, Dannie easily loses her worries in litigation. Soon four and a half years have passed with no wedding date set, and Bella is back in the U.S. with a new man in her life. A man who turns out to be literally the man of Dannie’s dream. The sheer fact of Aaron Gregory’s existence forces Dannie to reevaluate her trust in the laws of physics as well as her decision to marry David, a decision that seems less believable with each passing day. And as the architecture of Dannie’s overplanned life disintegrates, Serle twists and twines the remnants of her dream into a surprising future.

A heartwarming portrait of a broken heart finding a little healing magic.

Pub Date: March 3, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-9821-3744-1

Page Count: 240

Publisher: Atria

Review Posted Online: Dec. 9, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2020

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet
more