A grim literary mystery and a hopeful family story, this genre-blending novel manages to be both charming and heartbreaking.

BILLIE STARR'S BOOK OF SORRIES

A down-on-her-luck single mom takes a job that ends up changing her life—and endangering her family—in this funny yet bitingly realistic look at small-town life.

In the town of Benson, Indiana, Jenny Newberg is having a hard time. She can’t pay her bills, her ex (and the father of her daughter) won’t leave her alone, her mother criticizes every choice she makes, and she’s always disappointing her daughter, Billie Starr, a second grader. So when mysterious men in black suits approach and ask her to do one simple job—seduce a man running for governor so they can take down his campaign—she agrees. The job isn’t as easy as she’d expected, though. The men never pay her, and the man running for governor asks her to work as his receptionist. With no better job prospects on the horizon and a debt collector knocking on her door, Jenny agrees. Soon, she finds herself fielding mysterious phone calls, getting threatening faxes, and wondering what, exactly, she’s been caught up in. At the same time, Jenny has to deal with the eccentric characters in her life—her newly engaged mother, the neighbor who’s known for wielding a crossbow in public, the annoyingly perfect moms at school, and everyone else who seems out to get her. But it’s when the mysterious callers threaten what Jenny loves most that her life really starts to spiral out of control. Kennedy excels at writing quirky characters and entertaining dialogue, but what sets the story apart is the shimmering thread of dread that runs through all of Jenny’s thoughts and interactions. Although Kennedy imbues Jenny’s life with the sparkle of humor, the quiet desperation of her sometimes-bleak existence grounds the story in reality.

A grim literary mystery and a hopeful family story, this genre-blending novel manages to be both charming and heartbreaking.

Pub Date: Oct. 4, 2022

ISBN: 978-1-250-13843-9

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Flatiron Books

Review Posted Online: July 13, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2022

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Through palpable tension balanced with glimmers of hope, Hoover beautifully captures the heartbreak and joy of starting over.

IT STARTS WITH US

The sequel to It Ends With Us (2016) shows the aftermath of domestic violence through the eyes of a single mother.

Lily Bloom is still running a flower shop; her abusive ex-husband, Ryle Kincaid, is still a surgeon. But now they’re co-parenting a daughter, Emerson, who's almost a year old. Lily won’t send Emerson to her father’s house overnight until she’s old enough to talk—“So she can tell me if something happens”—but she doesn’t want to fight for full custody lest it become an expensive legal drama or, worse, a physical fight. When Lily runs into Atlas Corrigan, a childhood friend who also came from an abusive family, she hopes their friendship can blossom into love. (For new readers, their history unfolds in heartfelt diary entries that Lily addresses to Finding Nemo star Ellen DeGeneres as she considers how Atlas was a calming presence during her turbulent childhood.) Atlas, who is single and running a restaurant, feels the same way. But even though she’s divorced, Lily isn’t exactly free. Behind Ryle’s veneer of civility are his jealousy and resentment. Lily has to plan her dates carefully to avoid a confrontation. Meanwhile, Atlas’ mother returns with shocking news. In between, Lily and Atlas steal away for romantic moments that are even sweeter for their authenticity as Lily struggles with child care, breastfeeding, and running a business while trying to find time for herself.

Through palpable tension balanced with glimmers of hope, Hoover beautifully captures the heartbreak and joy of starting over.

Pub Date: Oct. 18, 2022

ISBN: 978-1-668-00122-6

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Atria

Review Posted Online: July 27, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2022

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A tale that’s at once familiar and full of odd and unexpected twists—vintage King, in other words.

FAIRY TALE

Narnia on the Penobscot: a grand, and naturally strange, entertainment from the ever prolific King.

What’s a person to do when sheltering from Covid? In King’s case, write something to entertain himself while reflecting on what was going on in the world outside—ravaged cities, contentious politics, uncertainty. King’s yarn begins in a world that’s recognizably ours, and with a familiar trope: A young woman, out to buy fried chicken, is mashed by a runaway plumber’s van, sending her husband into an alcoholic tailspin and her son into a preadolescent funk, driven “bugfuck” by a father who “was always trying to apologize.” The son makes good by rescuing an elderly neighbor who’s fallen off a ladder, though he protests that the man’s equally elderly German shepherd, Radar, was the true hero. Whatever the case, Mr. Bowditch has an improbable trove of gold in his Bates Motel of a home, and its origin seems to lie in a shed behind the house, one that Mr. Bowditch warns the boy away from: “ ‘Don’t go in there,’ he said. ‘You may in time, but for now don’t even think of it.’ ” It’s not Pennywise who awaits in the underworld behind the shed door, but there’s plenty that’s weird and unexpected, including a woman, Dora, whose “skin was slate gray and her face was cruelly deformed,” and a whole bunch of people—well, sort of people, anyway—who’d like nothing better than to bring their special brand of evil up to our world’s surface. King’s young protagonist, Charlie Reade, is resourceful beyond his years, but it helps that the old dog gains some of its youthful vigor in the depths below. King delivers a more or less traditional fable that includes a knowing nod: “I think I know what you want,” Charlie tells the reader, "and now you have it”—namely, a happy ending but with a suitably sardonic wink.

A tale that’s at once familiar and full of odd and unexpected twists—vintage King, in other words.

Pub Date: Sept. 6, 2022

ISBN: 978-1-66800-217-9

Page Count: 608

Publisher: Scribner

Review Posted Online: June 22, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2022

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