A hypnotic tale of family secrets that also features delightfully silly humor.


Two troubled lives intersect in a novel combining cozy mystery, comedy, and reflections on fractured relationships.

Mark is a 30-something financial planner from Chicago who inherits his long-lost aunt’s house in Michigan’s rural Upper Peninsula, near Canada. He’s extremely phobic about driving on bridges, so he can only reach his late Aunt Vivian’s home in tiny Manistique by closing his eyes and letting a volunteer driver take him across the roughly 5-mile Mackinac Bridge. Emily, a 24-year-old medical school graduate, is traumatized after hitting a deer with her car while lost in thought about an adulterous affair and a mistake that caused a patient’s death. Stranded in Manistique while awaiting windshield repairs, she seeks shelter at Vivian’s house, which is also be a bed-and-breakfast. Mark, the only person there, is caught off guard, but he tries to accommodate her. He soon becomes, in his own words, “the worst innkeeper imaginable.” Cuesta creates an eccentric cast of townies and further houseguests, including a narcoleptic tourist who’s attempting to be the first person to ever drive around Lake Michigan in an electric car. Along the way, he use his characters’ foibles to deliver Fawlty Towers-style farce, as when Mark ineptly tries to hide the demise of an elderly houseguest. But there’s a sober side to the novel, as well, such as when Vivian’s handyman, Bear Foot, starts a fire in the backyard to help Vivian’s “thundering spirit” journey to the next world. Mark only met his aunt once, as a young child, and he knows little about her except that she was adopted, worked as an international aid doctor in war zones, and figured in his memory like a “saint”; he marvels when Bear Foot talks about her Native American heritage. Cuesta ping-pongs between Mark’s and Emily’s stories before smoothly bringing them together as more houseguests arrive and the young doctor discovers a book containing one of Vivian’s essays. Throughout the novel, the author’s descriptions of Upper Peninsula settings are simple yet evocative, as when Mark releases Vivian’s ashes into a lake and they form “a mesmerizing cloud beneath the surface.”

A hypnotic tale of family secrets that also features delightfully silly humor.

Pub Date: Oct. 18, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-73241-090-9

Page Count: 360

Publisher: Celestial Eyes Press

Review Posted Online: Nov. 12, 2018

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More Hallmarkiana, from a shameless expert in the genre.


High-stakes weepmeister Sparks (A Walk to Remember, 1999, etc.) opts for a happy ending his fourth time out. His writing has improved—though it's still the equivalent of paint-by-numbers—and he makes use this time of at least a vestige of credible psychology.

That vestige involves the deep dark secret—it has something to do with his father's death when son Taylor was nine—that haunts kind, good 36-year-old local contractor Taylor McAden and makes him withdraw from relationships whenever they start getting serious enough to maybe get permanent. He's done this twice before, and now he does it again with pretty and sweet single mother Denise Holton, age 29, who's moved from Atlanta to Taylor's town of Edenton, North Carolina, in order to devote her time more fully to training her four-year-old son Kyle to overcome the peculiar impediment he has that keeps him from achieving normal language acquisition. Okay? When Denise has a car accident in a bad storm, she's rescued by volunteer fireman Taylor—who also rescues little Kyle after he wanders away from his injured mom in the storm. Love blooms in the weeks that follow—until Taylor suddenly begins putting on the brakes. What is it that holds him back, when there just isn't any question but that he loves Denise and vice versa-not to mention that he's "great" with Kyle, just like a father? It will require a couple of near-death experiences (as fireman Taylor bravely risks his life to save others); emotional steadiness from the intelligent, good, true Denise; and the terrible death of a dear and devoted friend before Taylor will come to the point at last of confiding to Denise the terrible memory of how his father died—and the guilt that's been its legacy to Taylor. The psychological dam broken, love will at last be able to flow.

More Hallmarkiana, from a shameless expert in the genre.

Pub Date: Sept. 19, 2000

ISBN: 0-446-52550-2

Page Count: 352

Publisher: N/A

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2000

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The phrase “tour de force” could have been invented for this audacious novel.

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Four men who meet as college roommates move to New York and spend the next three decades gaining renown in their professions—as an architect, painter, actor and lawyer—and struggling with demons in their intertwined personal lives.

Yanagihara (The People in the Trees, 2013) takes the still-bold leap of writing about characters who don’t share her background; in addition to being male, JB is African-American, Malcolm has a black father and white mother, Willem is white, and “Jude’s race was undetermined”—deserted at birth, he was raised in a monastery and had an unspeakably traumatic childhood that’s revealed slowly over the course of the book. Two of them are gay, one straight and one bisexual. There isn’t a single significant female character, and for a long novel, there isn’t much plot. There aren’t even many markers of what’s happening in the outside world; Jude moves to a loft in SoHo as a young man, but we don’t see the neighborhood change from gritty artists’ enclave to glitzy tourist destination. What we get instead is an intensely interior look at the friends’ psyches and relationships, and it’s utterly enthralling. The four men think about work and creativity and success and failure; they cook for each other, compete with each other and jostle for each other’s affection. JB bases his entire artistic career on painting portraits of his friends, while Malcolm takes care of them by designing their apartments and houses. When Jude, as an adult, is adopted by his favorite Harvard law professor, his friends join him for Thanksgiving in Cambridge every year. And when Willem becomes a movie star, they all bask in his glow. Eventually, the tone darkens and the story narrows to focus on Jude as the pain of his past cuts deep into his carefully constructed life.  

The phrase “tour de force” could have been invented for this audacious novel.

Pub Date: March 10, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-385-53925-8

Page Count: 720

Publisher: Doubleday

Review Posted Online: Dec. 22, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2015

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