Wears its philosophical intentions on its sleeve; well-developed characters and their interesting careers seal the deal.

Two families in suburban New York weather crisscrossing births and deaths, losses and rebounds.

Shapiro, who made a splash with her gripping genealogy memoir, Inheritance (2019), returns to fiction with this moody, meditative novel, her 11th book. The story opens in 1985. Fifteen-year-old Theo Wilf is driving the family car; his older sister, Sarah, has been drinking; a friend who came along for the ride is killed in a wreck right in front of their house. To protect her brother, Sarah claims she was at the wheel. Surprisingly, considering it gets our attention with this super-plotty device, the book is actually more concerned with character development and metaphysical questions than event-driven storytelling. To understand the effects of the tragedy on the siblings, their parents, and the universe, we are guided by an omniscient narrator to moments in 2010, 1999, 2020, 2014, and 1970; Sarah becomes a screenwriter with addiction problems; Theo, a tortured master chef. The book's anti-chronological structure reflects the yearning, felt by both the characters and their rather insistent narrator, toward the epiphanic idea that everything is connected; nothing and no one is ever truly lost. Across the street from the Wilfs are the Shenkmans—and it's a good thing for them, since paterfamilias Dr. Wilf will deliver baby Waldo, premature and wrapped in his cord, on the kitchen floor on New Year's Eve of Y2K. Dr. Wilf and Waldo will share a lifelong connection; at 9, Waldo will show him an app he loves that charts constellations and geography. This app becomes a literal bridge between the loneliness of modern suburban living and the book's dream of connectivity. "The stars, rather than appearing distant and implacable, seemed to be signal fires in the dark, mysterious fellow travelers lighting a path; one hundred thousand million luminous presences beckoning from worlds away. See us. We are here. We have always been here. We will always be here."

Wears its philosophical intentions on its sleeve; well-developed characters and their interesting careers seal the deal.

Pub Date: Oct. 18, 2022

ISBN: 978-0-593-53472-4

Page Count: 240

Publisher: Knopf

Review Posted Online: July 6, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2022


A book begging to be read on the beach, with the sun warming the sand and salt in the air: pure escapism.

Three woman who join together to rent a large space along the beach in Los Angeles for their stores—a gift shop, a bakery, and a bookstore—become fast friends as they each experience the highs, and lows, of love.

Bree is a friendly but standoffish bookstore owner who keeps everyone she knows at arm’s length, from guys she meets in bars to her friends. Mikki is a settled-in-her-routines divorced mother of two, happily a mom, gift-shop owner, and co-parent with her ex-husband, Perry. And Ashley is a young, very-much-in-love bakery owner specializing in muffins who devotes herself to giving back to the community through a nonprofit that helps community members develop skills and find jobs. When the women meet drooling over a boardwalk storefront that none of them can afford on her own, a plan is hatched to divide the space in three, and a friendship—and business partnership—is born. An impromptu celebration on the beach at sunset with champagne becomes a weekly touchpoint to their lives as they learn more about each other and themselves. Their friendship blossoms as they help each other, offering support, hard truths, and loving backup. Author Mallery has created a delightful story of friendship between three women that also offers a variety of love stories as they fall in love, make mistakes, and figure out how to be the best—albeit still flawed—versions of themselves. The men are similarly flawed and human. While the story comes down clearly on the side of all-encompassing love, Mallery has struck a careful balance: There is just enough sex to be spicy, just enough swearing to be naughty, and just enough heartbreak to avoid being cloying.

A book begging to be read on the beach, with the sun warming the sand and salt in the air: pure escapism.

Pub Date: May 31, 2022

ISBN: 978-0-778-38608-7

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Harlequin MIRA

Review Posted Online: March 15, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2022


The writing is inspired, the imaginative power near mystic, but some will wish for more plot.

This historical fever dream of a novel follows the flight of a servant girl through the Colonial American wilderness, red in tooth and claw.

As in her last novel, Matrix (2021), Groff’s imaginative journey into a distant time and place is powered by a thrumming engine of language and rhythm. “She had chosen to flee, and in so choosing, she had left behind her everything she had, her roof, her home, her country, her language, the only family she had ever known, the child Bess, who had been born into her care when she was herself a small child of four years or so, her innocence, her understanding of who she was, her dreams of who she might one day be if only she could survive this starving time." Those onrushing sentences will follow the girl, “sixteen or seventeen or perhaps eighteen years of age,” through the wilderness surrounding the desperate colony, driven by famine and plague into barbarism, through the territory of “the powhatan and pamunkey” to what she hopes will be “the settlements of frenchmen, canada,” a place she once saw pointed out on a map. The focus is on the terrors of survival, the exigencies of starvation, the challenges of locomotion, the miseries of a body wounded, infected, and pushed beyond its limit. What plot there is centers on learning the reason for her flight and how it will end, but the book must be read primarily for its sentences and the light it shines on the place of humans in the order of the world. Whether she is eating baby birds and stealing the fluff from the mother’s nest to line her boots, having a little tea party with her meager trove of possessions, temporarily living inside a tree trunk that comes with a pantry full of grubs (spiders prove less tasty), or finally coming to rest in a way neither she nor we can foresee, immersion in the girl’s experience provides a virtual vacation from civilization that readers may find deeply satisfying.

The writing is inspired, the imaginative power near mystic, but some will wish for more plot.

Pub Date: Sept. 12, 2023

ISBN: 9780593418390

Page Count: 272

Publisher: Riverhead

Review Posted Online: June 8, 2023

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2023

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