ALL THE SILENT VOICES

A novel at its most engaging when it shows the protagonist’s struggle to recover from trauma.

A Virginia woman contemplates revenge against her new boss—the very same man who raped her years ago—in Mikalsen’s (The House by the Cypress Trees, 2019, etc.) thriller.

Emma and Aidan Shephard are both worried about their jobs. The owner of Davis & Parsons, the pharmaceutical company where the couple works, is planning to sell. But the unexpected buyer is Avias Global, which is set to merge with D&P. The more startling news for Emma is that the Avias president is Richard Stolar. She quickly confirms he’s the man who beat and raped her at her college, Westview, more than two decades earlier. People at Westview, including the dean, dismissed Emma’s assault claims back then, and she’s never told Aidan about what happened to her. With revenge in mind, Emma ultimately concentrates on Parozex, an antipsychotic drug Richard wants fast-tracked to FDA approval despite potentially fatal side effects. Emma looks for dirt on the new boss and uncovers a surprising link to her former college roomie, Shannon, and Emma’s boyfriend at Westview, Jeff. Richard’s scheme to get Parozex onto the market is unquestionably unethical, but with employees scared of losing jobs and Aidan getting chummy with Richard, convincing others won’t be easy for Emma. Though Mikalsen’s tale has the hallmarks of a thriller, it’s most riveting as a drama. Emma’s story is at times heartbreaking; she often blames herself for Richard’s vicious assault and is psychologically incapable of using stairs, as the attack took place in a stairwell. But it’s gratifying to watch her persevere even as she stumbles, as when she enlists her teen daughter, Sophie, for her hacking skills to dredge up info on Richard. There’s suspense, particularly near the end, and a few memorable plot turns, while the author’s taut prose dramatizes the protagonist’s inner conflict. Her building anger, for example, results in fists so tightly clenched her fingers ache. Still, the book shines brightest with Emma’s triumphs, such as the support she receives from and provides for another rape survivor.

A novel at its most engaging when it shows the protagonist’s struggle to recover from trauma. 

Pub Date: Jan. 6, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-5092-2889-8

Page Count: 334

Publisher: Wild Rose Press

Review Posted Online: Dec. 24, 2019

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A LITTLE LIFE

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. 21, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2015

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MAGIC HOUR

Wacky plot keeps the pages turning and enduring schmaltzy romantic sequences.

Sisters work together to solve a child-abandonment case.

Ellie and Julia Cates have never been close. Julia is shy and brainy; Ellie gets by on charm and looks. Their differences must be tossed aside when a traumatized young girl wanders in from the forest into their hometown in Washington. The sisters’ professional skills are put to the test. Julia is a world-renowned child psychologist who has lost her edge. She is reeling from a case that went publicly sour. Though she was cleared of all wrongdoing, Julia’s name was tarnished, forcing her to shutter her Beverly Hills practice. Ellie Barton is the local police chief in Rain Valley, who’s never faced a tougher case. This is her chance to prove she is more than just a fading homecoming queen, but a scarcity of clues and a reluctant victim make locating the girl’s parents nearly impossible. Ellie places an SOS call to her sister; she needs an expert to rehabilitate this wild-child who has been living outside of civilization for years. Confronted with her professional demons, Julia once again has the opportunity to display her talents and salvage her reputation. Hannah (The Things We Do for Love, 2004, etc.) is at her best when writing from the girl’s perspective. The feral wolf-child keeps the reader interested long after the other, transparent characters have grown tiresome. Hannah’s torturously over-written romance passages are stale, but there are surprises in store as the sisters set about unearthing Alice’s past and creating a home for her.

Wacky plot keeps the pages turning and enduring schmaltzy romantic sequences.

Pub Date: March 1, 2006

ISBN: 0-345-46752-3

Page Count: 400

Publisher: Ballantine

Review Posted Online: June 24, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2005

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