A bittersweet drama that delicately captures the moods of the human spirit.


Two friends attempt to fulfill a request from beyond the grave in this novel.

Months have passed since 62-year-old Paul Marden was released from the hospital after an unidentifiable infection nearly took his life. Now, living on disability payments and his pension in a neighborhood battered by Hurricane Sandy, he grapples every day with the constant pain that pervades his body. Struggling to walk home one evening, he takes a ride from a familiar-seeming stranger: Lelee Connors, a transgender woman who was once his childhood neighbor. As the two develop a friendship, Lelee reveals that she has the extraordinary ability to communicate with the dead. Despite her peaceful lifestyle, her reputation and well-being are being threatened by a man named Michael Odenkirk, the host of a television show that focuses on defaming psychically gifted individuals. When Lelee channels the spirit of a 1960s radio host known as Happy Howie, he explains that his own career was destroyed by Odenkirk, who publicized his identity as a gay man and falsely suggested that he was a child molester. Howie implores Paul and Lelee to help him clear his name and enact justice. Meanwhile, Paul is occupied with his elderly father, who has dementia. Although their relationship was precarious in his youth, Paul desperately wants him to have a good quality of life. Unfortunately, Paul has strong doubts about the level of care his father is receiving in his nursing home. The expressive quality of Lerman’s (The Stargazer’s Embassy, 2017, etc.) writing reflects her prodigious experience as a poet. The narrative touches on a number of complex topics, including the relationship between transgender individuals and the rest of the LGBTQ community, the state of care for those in assisted living facilities, and the impact of the media, in a way that feels organic and true to life. Lelee’s characterization is especially intricate: She proves to be poised, intelligent, and kind but intensely frustrated and quickly angered by insensitivity. As the characters move through their daily routines, there remains an evocative awareness of their mortality.

A bittersweet drama that delicately captures the moods of the human spirit.

Pub Date: Sept. 30, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-57962-575-7

Page Count: 217

Publisher: Permanent Press

Review Posted Online: Dec. 31, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2020

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


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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Like the many-windowed mansion at its center, this richly furnished novel gives brilliantly clear views into the lives it...

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Their mother's disappearance cements an unbreakable connection between a pair of poor-little-rich-kid siblings.

Like The Children's Crusade by Ann Packer or Life Among Giants by Bill Roorbach, this is a deeply pleasurable book about a big house and the family that lives in it. Toward the end of World War II, real estate developer and landlord Cyril Conroy surprises his wife, Elna, with the keys to a mansion in the Elkins Park neighborhood of Philadelphia. Elna, who had no idea how much money her husband had amassed and still thought they were poor, is appalled by the luxurious property, which comes fully furnished and complete with imposing portraits of its former owners (Dutch people named VanHoebeek) as well as a servant girl named Fluffy. When her son, Danny, is 3 and daughter, Maeve, is 10, Elna's antipathy for the place sends her on the lam—first occasionally, then permanently. This leaves the children with the household help and their rigid, chilly father, but the difficulties of the first year pale when a stepmother and stepsisters appear on the scene. Then those problems are completely dwarfed by further misfortune. It's Danny who tells the story, and he's a wonderful narrator, stubborn in his positions, devoted to his sister, and quite clear about various errors—like going to medical school when he has no intention of becoming a doctor—while utterly committed to them. "We had made a fetish out of our disappointment," he says at one point, "fallen in love with it." Casually stated but astute observations about human nature are Patchett's (Commonwealth, 2016, etc.) stock in trade, and she again proves herself a master of aging an ensemble cast of characters over many decades. In this story, only the house doesn't change. You will close the book half believing you could drive to Elkins Park and see it.

Like the many-windowed mansion at its center, this richly furnished novel gives brilliantly clear views into the lives it contains.

Pub Date: Sept. 24, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-06-296367-3

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Harper/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: May 27, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2019

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