Wolf writes with insight and authority about an issue that society cannot afford to ignore as she points out that, even...

DANNY'S MOM

Former educator Wolf pens a debut adult novel (Camp, 2012) about an American high school where bullying and intolerance seem to be the rule rather than the exception.

High school guidance counselor Beth Maller’s world is turned inside out on a wintry evening when her son, Danny, dies in a car crash on an icy road. Returning to work three weeks later, Beth does her best to rein in her grief and perform her day-to-day duties with little emotional support from school administrators or her husband, Joe. While a small group of teachers and her father try to provide comfort, Beth increasingly turns to a student’s grandmother for encouragement and understanding. She blames her husband for allowing her son to drive that night and is wracked by guilt because she did nothing to stop him. As these feelings spill over into her professional life, Beth becomes frustrated with an insensitive and rigid administration that prefers to adhere to rules at all costs, even if by doing so, a student’s welfare might be endangered. She struggles to cope with the realization that, contrary to traditional beliefs, good guys don’t always triumph, and integrity is not valued by everyone. When colleagues excuse incidents of bullying and intolerance by sweeping them under the rug, and a group of mean girls threaten a fragile student and even Beth herself, Beth decides to take action. And while the author presents Meadow Brook High as an improbably teeming mass of bullies of all shapes, sizes and ages, she makes a valid point: Abuse of power can occur at any level, can take many forms and can harm numerous people, as it certainly does in this brutally honest, no-holds-barred narrative that, in addition to illustrating this point, expertly blends the account of Beth’s personal loss into the story.

Wolf writes with insight and authority about an issue that society cannot afford to ignore as she points out that, even though many schools have implemented effective programs to deal with bullying and intolerance, recent cases serve as proof that institutions like Meadow Brook High do, indeed, exist and that more needs to be done.

Pub Date: Nov. 1, 2012

ISBN: 978-1-61145-694-3

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Arcade

Review Posted Online: Sept. 16, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1, 2012

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Miller makes Homer pertinent to women facing 21st-century monsters.

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CIRCE

A retelling of ancient Greek lore gives exhilarating voice to a witch.

“Monsters are a boon for gods. Imagine all the prayers.” So says Circe, a sly, petulant, and finally commanding voice that narrates the entirety of Miller’s dazzling second novel. The writer returns to Homer, the wellspring that led her to an Orange Prize for The Song of Achilles (2012). This time, she dips into The Odyssey for the legend of Circe, a nymph who turns Odysseus’ crew of men into pigs. The novel, with its distinctive feminist tang, starts with the sentence: “When I was born, the name for what I was did not exist.” Readers will relish following the puzzle of this unpromising daughter of the sun god Helios and his wife, Perse, who had negligible use for their child. It takes banishment to the island Aeaea for Circe to sense her calling as a sorceress: “I will not be like a bird bred in a cage, I thought, too dull to fly even when the door stands open. I stepped into those woods and my life began.” This lonely, scorned figure learns herbs and potions, surrounds herself with lions, and, in a heart-stopping chapter, outwits the monster Scylla to propel Daedalus and his boat to safety. She makes lovers of Hermes and then two mortal men. She midwifes the birth of the Minotaur on Crete and performs her own C-section. And as she grows in power, she muses that “not even Odysseus could talk his way past [her] witchcraft. He had talked his way past the witch instead.” Circe’s fascination with mortals becomes the book’s marrow and delivers its thrilling ending. All the while, the supernatural sits intriguingly alongside “the tonic of ordinary things.” A few passages coil toward melodrama, and one inelegant line after a rape seems jarringly modern, but the spell holds fast. Expect Miller’s readership to mushroom like one of Circe’s spells.

Miller makes Homer pertinent to women facing 21st-century monsters.

Pub Date: April 10, 2018

ISBN: 978-0-316-55634-7

Page Count: 400

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: Jan. 23, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2018

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Dark and unsettling, this novel’s end arrives abruptly even as readers are still moving at a breakneck speed.

THEN SHE WAS GONE

Ten years after her teenage daughter went missing, a mother begins a new relationship only to discover she can't truly move on until she answers lingering questions about the past.

Laurel Mack’s life stopped in many ways the day her 15-year-old daughter, Ellie, left the house to study at the library and never returned. She drifted away from her other two children, Hanna and Jake, and eventually she and her husband, Paul, divorced. Ten years later, Ellie’s remains and her backpack are found, though the police are unable to determine the reasons for her disappearance and death. After Ellie’s funeral, Laurel begins a relationship with Floyd, a man she meets in a cafe. She's disarmed by Floyd’s charm, but when she meets his young daughter, Poppy, Laurel is startled by her resemblance to Ellie. As the novel progresses, Laurel becomes increasingly determined to learn what happened to Ellie, especially after discovering an odd connection between Poppy’s mother and her daughter even as her relationship with Floyd is becoming more serious. Jewell’s (I Found You, 2017, etc.) latest thriller moves at a brisk pace even as she plays with narrative structure: The book is split into three sections, including a first one which alternates chapters between the time of Ellie’s disappearance and the present and a second section that begins as Laurel and Floyd meet. Both of these sections primarily focus on Laurel. In the third section, Jewell alternates narrators and moments in time: The narrator switches to alternating first-person points of view (told by Poppy’s mother and Floyd) interspersed with third-person narration of Ellie’s experiences and Laurel’s discoveries in the present. All of these devices serve to build palpable tension, but the structure also contributes to how deeply disturbing the story becomes. At times, the characters and the emotional core of the events are almost obscured by such quick maneuvering through the weighty plot.

Dark and unsettling, this novel’s end arrives abruptly even as readers are still moving at a breakneck speed.

Pub Date: April 24, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-5011-5464-5

Page Count: 368

Publisher: Atria

Review Posted Online: Feb. 6, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2018

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