An earnest, if overlong, novel about the lasting effects of a Bangladeshi Muslim childhood in England.

WRITTEN

THERE ARE NO CHOICES. IT WAS ALREADY WRITTEN.

A girl from a conservative household grows into a woman torn between tradition and independence in Lee’s debut novel.

Growing up in a Bangladeshi immigrant family in Ashcroft, England, Eleanor is raised according to her mother’s Muslim faith. “We are not here to judge what is written,” her mother tells her, “only Allah knows what is written for us.” This notion of things being written doesn’t sit well with Eleanor, for why would Allah write such terrible things? The man who molests her at the mosque, for instance? Or the violence that Eleanor and her mother suffer at the hands of her father? At the age of 7, Eleanor is drawn to Mrs. Abbots, a friendly woman in a fur coat whom she meets while putting flyers under windshield wipers in Ashcroft to promote her father’s restaurant. Mrs. Abbots teaches her that life gives people the freedom to make their own choices, and, inspired by that idea, Eleanor attends college, moves out of the family home, gets a job, and begins to travel the world. She seems on track for a liberated, self-determined life but feels she owes it to her mother to enter into a traditional marriage, as she promised she would. She begins to see Syed, a Bengali man who would please her parents but who does not share Eleanor’s views on female independence. Will Eleanor end up a subservient housewife like her mother or find the freedom to write her own story? Lee tells Eleanor’s tale in smooth, expressive prose that captures her protagonist’s inner turmoil: “I woke up in the morning, staring emptily at the ceiling. Syed had already left for work. I could just walk out and leave, couldn’t I? I thought as I looked at the door. How many mornings had I let that thought run through my mind, only to unconvince myself?” At 570 pages, the book is far too long, particularly since the reader has a pretty good sense of where it is going from the start. That said, people caught between religious and secular cultures should be able to relate to Eleanor’s struggles and may see themselves in her story.

An earnest, if overlong, novel about the lasting effects of a Bangladeshi Muslim childhood in England.

Pub Date: Dec. 9, 2019

ISBN: N/A

Page Count: 526

Publisher: Loving Creative Inspirational Publishing

Review Posted Online: April 3, 2020

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A warm and winning "When Harry Met Sally…" update that hits all the perfect notes.

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PEOPLE WE MEET ON VACATION

A travel writer has one last shot at reconnecting with the best friend she just might be in love with.

Poppy and Alex couldn't be more different. She loves wearing bright colors while he prefers khakis and a T-shirt. She likes just about everything while he’s a bit more discerning. And yet, their opposites-attract friendship works because they love each other…in a totally platonic way. Probably. Even though they have their own separate lives (Poppy lives in New York City and is a travel writer with a popular Instagram account; Alex is a high school teacher in their tiny Ohio hometown), they still manage to get together each summer for one fabulous vacation. They grow closer every year, but Poppy doesn’t let herself linger on her feelings for Alex—she doesn’t want to ruin their friendship or the way she can be fully herself with him. They continue to date other people, even bringing their serious partners on their summer vacations…but then, after a falling-out, they stop speaking. When Poppy finds herself facing a serious bout of ennui, unhappy with her glamorous job and the life she’s been dreaming of forever, she thinks back to the last time she was truly happy: her last vacation with Alex. And so, though they haven’t spoken in two years, she asks him to take another vacation with her. She’s determined to bridge the gap that’s formed between them and become best friends again, but to do that, she’ll have to be honest with Alex—and herself—about her true feelings. In chapters that jump around in time, Henry shows readers the progression (and dissolution) of Poppy and Alex’s friendship. Their slow-burn love story hits on beloved romance tropes (such as there unexpectedly being only one bed on the reconciliation trip Poppy plans) while still feeling entirely fresh. Henry’s biggest strength is in the sparkling, often laugh-out-loud-funny dialogue, particularly the banter-filled conversations between Poppy and Alex. But there’s depth to the story, too—Poppy’s feeling of dissatisfaction with a life that should be making her happy as well as her unresolved feelings toward the difficult parts of her childhood make her a sympathetic and relatable character. The end result is a story that pays homage to classic romantic comedies while having a point of view all its own.

A warm and winning "When Harry Met Sally…" update that hits all the perfect notes.

Pub Date: May 11, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-9848-0675-8

Page Count: 384

Publisher: Berkley

Review Posted Online: March 3, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2021

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Light on suspense but still a solid page-turner.

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THE LAST THING HE TOLD ME

When a devoted husband and father disappears, his wife and daughter set out to find him.

Hannah Hall is deeply in love with her husband of one year, Owen Michaels. She’s also determined to win over his 16-year-old daughter, Bailey, who has made it very clear that she’s not thrilled with her new stepmother. Despite the drama, the family is mostly a happy one. They live in a lovely houseboat in Sausalito; Hannah is a woodturner whose handmade furniture brings in high-dollar clientele; and Owen works for The Shop, a successful tech firm. Their lives are shattered, however, when Hannah receives a note saying “Protect her” and can’t reach Owen by phone. Then there’s the bag full of cash Bailey finds in her school locker and the shocking news that The Shop’s CEO has been taken into custody. Hannah learns that the FBI has been investigating the firm for about a year regarding some hot new software they took to market before it was fully functional, falsifying their financial statements. Hannah refuses to believe her husband is involved in the fraud, and a U.S. marshal assigned to the case claims Owen isn’t a suspect. Hannah doesn’t know whom to trust, though, and she and Bailey resolve to root out the clues that might lead to Owen. They must also learn to trust one another. Hannah’s narrative alternates past and present, detailing her early days with Owen alongside her current hunt for him, and author Dave throws in a touch of danger and a few surprises. But what really drives the story is the evolving nature of Hannah and Bailey’s relationship, which is by turns poignant and frustrating but always realistic.

Light on suspense but still a solid page-turner.

Pub Date: May 4, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-5011-7134-5

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: Feb. 10, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2021

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