Beach reading with an unsettling edge.

READ REVIEW

THE MATCHMAKER

Hilderbrand’s latest Nantucket heroine has a very particular kind of clairvoyance: She can always tell whether a couple is compatible or not.

Dabney Kimball Beech, 49, who heads up Nantucket’s Chamber of Commerce, is known for her headband, pearls, penny loafers and other preppy accoutrements, as well as her fabulous menus for tailgates and picnics. Then there's her track record of spotting perfect matches: If a couple is suited, she sees pink around them; if not, green. So far, her unerring intuition, augmented by artful introductions, has resulted in more than 40 long-term Nantucket marriages. As the wife of John Boxmiller Beech, aka Box, a Harvard economics professor who's frequently summoned to the Oval Office and whose benchmark textbook nets about $3 million a year, Dabney’s domestic life is serene—except that she's never gotten over her high school sweetheart, Clendenin "Clen" Hughes, a Pulitzer-winning journalist whose beat has been, until recently, Southeast Asia. Due to a childhood trauma involving a runaway mother, Dabney has been too phobic to leave Nantucket (except for four years at Harvard). Nearly three decades before, unable to follow in Clen’s globe-trotting footsteps, Dabney banished him from her life and from the life of their daughter, Agnes, who's never met her father, though she knows who he is. Now Clen is back on Nantucket—minus an arm. Agnes is engaged to the uber-rich, controlling and decidedly unclassy sports agent CJ. (This couple is definitely swathed in a green cloud.) Since Box is teaching in Cambridge during the week, the opportunity to resume an affair with Clen proves irresistible to DabneyThe complications mount until, suddenly, Hilderbrand’s essentially sunny setup, bolstered by many summer parties and picnics (and lavishly described meals, particularly seafood), takes a sudden, somber turn. Hilderbrand has a way of transcending the formulaic and tapping directly into the emotional jugular. Class is often an undercurrent in her work, but in this comedy of manners–turned–cautionary tale, luck establishes its own dubious meritocracy.

Beach reading with an unsettling edge.

Pub Date: June 24, 2014

ISBN: 978-0-316-09975-2

Page Count: 416

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: May 7, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2014

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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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If only things went so well in real life! Enjoy the wish fulfillment of ready cash and ideal outcomes.

IT'S NOT ALL DOWNHILL FROM HERE

A close-knit group of 60-something black women deals with loss, illness, addicted family members, and the never-ending challenges of diet and exercise.

In her 10th novel, McMillan (I Almost Forgot About You, 2016, etc.) joins long-career novelists such as Philip Roth and Anne Tyler as she sails her protagonists with her into older age. Southern California beauty supply mogul Loretha Curry is about to celebrate her 68th birthday with her doting, still-hot third husband, and she begins by watching the DVD of her 67th. Here we meet her gal pals: Sadie, the church lady who might be a lesbian; Korynthia, the gorgeous 6-foot-1-inch-tall exercise instructor; Lucky, married to a white architect and with a weight problem like Loretha’s; and Poochie, a cruise-loving widow rolling in dough, now living in Las Vegas to care for her ailing mother. Loretha has told Carl that she’s sick of parties, so the dear man surprises her with a weekend at a favorite Palm Springs resort, where less happy surprises await. Speaking of hot husbands and hotel rooms, the little blue pill plays a humorous role throughout the novel, which is sprinkled with comments like “And he knows how to take just the right amount of Viagra, not like Mr. Roto-Rooter.” After Loretha’s world takes a devastating hit in Chapter 1, all her problems become much more pressing. She’s completely alienated from her twin sister and her alcoholic daughter; her son lives in Japan, and she’s never met her grandkids; her 86-year-old mother is eager to leave the nursing home; many people in her life need money and plan to get it from her. With all this pressure, it's no wonder Loretha’s ignoring her diabetes diagnosis and putting on pounds like crazy, and the only exercise she gets is walking her dog, B.B. King.

If only things went so well in real life! Enjoy the wish fulfillment of ready cash and ideal outcomes.

Pub Date: March 31, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-9848-2374-8

Page Count: 368

Publisher: Ballantine

Review Posted Online: Oct. 28, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15, 2019

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