Richly drawn characters in search of a more compelling narrative.

AVIARY

A suspicious fire at a senior residence profoundly affects the elderly denizens and those around them.

The Pheasant Run condo isn’t nearly as grand as it sounds. Cassie McMackin, one of its occupants, is counting pills and contemplating suicide when we meet her. Cassie’s neighbor Viola Six is worried about paying the rent, having lost her savings to a scam promoted by an ex-beau. Down the hall is Leo Uberti, an Italian Jewish artist with a painful past. Hidden in Viola’s basement storage is an abused and bullied 15-year-old, Clayton Spooner. Then there’s Herbie Bonebright, the treacherous new manager of the building, apparently involved in a scheme to oust tenants so Pheasant Run can be converted into a more profitable enterprise. One morning, a fire erupts in Herbie’s apartment. While the blaze is quickly contained, fire inspector Lander Maki thinks it may be arson. Herbie is suddenly nowhere to be found, and Viola Six has vanished too. But this is no geriatric whodunit, and author McNamer is not so concerned with exposing the perp. (When that revelation finally comes, it’s anticlimactic.) She's more interested in the indignities of old age, memory and loss, and what one character calls “the secret of ongoingness.” Much of the writing is quite lyrical, as in the description of Maki’s “beyond-human” sense of smell: “His olfactory sensitivity had become so intimately intertwined with memory that the smell of a remembered presence arrived in tandem with the smell of its absence.” Still, some passages are overwritten, and some plot points seem dubious. The novel also has a bleak undertow, though Maki’s wife, Rhonda, an animal whisperer, exudes eccentric charm and brightens the scenes she’s in. A quasi-happy ending is preceded by many casualties—some of which seem arbitrary.

Richly drawn characters in search of a more compelling narrative.

Pub Date: April 13, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-57131-138-2

Page Count: 298

Publisher: Milkweed

Review Posted Online: Dec. 25, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2021

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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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With captivating dialogue, angst-y characters, and a couple of steamy sex scenes, Hoover has done it again.

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REMINDERS OF HIM

After being released from prison, a young woman tries to reconnect with her 5-year-old daughter despite having killed the girl’s father.

Kenna didn’t even know she was pregnant until after she was sent to prison for murdering her boyfriend, Scotty. When her baby girl, Diem, was born, she was forced to give custody to Scotty’s parents. Now that she’s been released, Kenna is intent on getting to know her daughter, but Scotty’s parents won’t give her a chance to tell them what really happened the night their son died. Instead, they file a restraining order preventing Kenna from so much as introducing herself to Diem. Handsome, self-assured Ledger, who was Scotty’s best friend, is another key adult in Diem’s life. He’s helping her grandparents raise her, and he too blames Kenna for Scotty’s death. Even so, there’s something about her that haunts him. Kenna feels the pull, too, and seems to be seeking Ledger out despite his judgmental behavior. As Ledger gets to know Kenna and acknowledges his attraction to her, he begins to wonder if maybe he and Scotty’s parents have judged her unfairly. Even so, Ledger is afraid that if he surrenders to his feelings, Scotty’s parents will kick him out of Diem’s life. As Kenna and Ledger continue to mourn for Scotty, they also grieve the future they cannot have with each other. Told alternatively from Kenna’s and Ledger’s perspectives, the story explores the myriad ways in which snap judgments based on partial information can derail people’s lives. Built on a foundation of death and grief, this story has an undercurrent of sadness. As usual, however, the author has created compelling characters who are magnetic and sympathetic enough to pull readers in. In addition to grief, the novel also deftly explores complex issues such as guilt, self-doubt, redemption, and forgiveness.

With captivating dialogue, angst-y characters, and a couple of steamy sex scenes, Hoover has done it again.

Pub Date: Jan. 18, 2022

ISBN: 978-1-5420-2560-7

Page Count: 335

Publisher: Montlake Romance

Review Posted Online: Oct. 13, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 2021

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