Observant, stirring writing that explores the challenges of openness.

FIND SOMEONE TO LOVE

An Indian optician living in New York City comes to terms with the fact that she’s gay in Sood’s novel.

The story opens in Queens with Priya, a woman with a master’s degree in English who later became “mesmerized by the world of optics.” Currently, she’s mourning the death of her cousin, Prem. As the family prepares to scatter Prem’s ashes into the Ganges in India, she reflects on the tight bond she shared with her cousin and the secrets they shared. Born a day apart in the same hospital in Calcutta, Prem remained in India, a closeted gay man who married and became a father before taking his own life; Priya, meanwhile, relocated to New York, where she fell for fellow student Leyla, only for her love to be unrequited. Priya now works at 20/20 Optical, where her mundane daily life involves awkward interactions with customers and coping with her quirky colleagues—Sam, the owner, who sees the business as his “lifeblood,” and Ed, a lazy yet gifted optician with a mysterious past. Priya’s world is thrown into turmoil when Leyla is unexpectedly hired as 20/20’s new doctor and reveals that she now has a husband. It’s unusual to set a novel in an optician’s store, but Sood makes it work brilliantly, as its workers are endearing and sharply observed, as when Priya describes Sam: “He struck me as someone who didn’t just open a business but poured himself into it.” The narrative is punctuated with precise optician-speak (“rimless frames with hi-index lenses in a minus six or six and a quarter”); however, the crackle of jargon is offset by Priya’s tender inner thoughts, which Sood relates poetically: “what had broken my spirit was that I loved her.” The novel also offers moments of poignant, powerful dialogue along the way: “ ‘We could be in a different place.’ I said. ‘If people just talked about it.’ ” Readers seeking a neat resolution to the story may be mildly dissatisfied, but this makes Priya’s emotional journey no less gripping.

Observant, stirring writing that explores the challenges of openness.

Pub Date: May 30, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-62-601503-6

Page Count: 264

Publisher: Riverdale Avenue Books

Review Posted Online: June 1, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2021

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As attuned as always to current geopolitical concerns, but substantially less compelling than Silva's previous novels.

THE CELLIST

Gabriel Allon goes after the deadliest weapon at the Russian president’s disposal—his money.

When CIA agent–turned–art dealer Sarah Bancroft finds the dead body of Viktor Orlov, a wealthy newspaper publisher and Russian dissident, the grim discovery leads Gabriel Allon, the head of Israel’s intelligence service, to a treasure trove of documents detailing massive financial crimes. Once he tracks down the woman who leaked these documents, Gabriel may finally have the tools he needs to take down the autocrat in the Kremlin. “A nuclear bomb can only be dropped once. But money can be wielded every day with no fallout and no threat of mutually assured destruction.” This bit of wisdom comes from a Russian operative Gabriel captured in The Other Woman (2018), and Silva makes a persuasive case that the best way to neutralize the threat of troll farms and disinformation campaigns is to starve these operations of cash. But this is a thriller, not an essay in Foreign Policy. It turns out that money laundering isn’t inherently exciting, and Silva does little to make it so. Identifying the shadowy figure who manages the Russian president’s fortune is easy, as is infiltrating his world. All the characters in this universe are types, but most of them are crafted with verisimilitude sufficient to keep the reader engaged. The titular cellist, Isabel Brenner, is a beautiful blond blank. It’s not at all clear why she makes the transition from functionary at a dirty bank to amateur spy willing to risk her life to ruin oligarchs. In previous novels, Silva wove in chapters written from the points of view of the bad guys. This technique creates dramatic irony, and it has given us some truly terrific villains—horrifying sadists and gleeful monsters of corruption who make excellent foils for the nearly superhuman Gabriel. Past installments have also given Gabriel's team more to do, and it’s impossible not to miss them and their spycraft.

As attuned as always to current geopolitical concerns, but substantially less compelling than Silva's previous novels.

Pub Date: July 13, 2021

ISBN: 978-0-06-283486-7

Page Count: 480

Publisher: Harper

Review Posted Online: July 15, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2021

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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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