All the bucolic pacifism of an episode of Prairie Home Companion without the seething undercurrents.

The denizens of Mason, Missouri, are at it again, dispensing just deserts with unearned optimism on the side.

The premise for this book, a sequel to two other novels set in Mason (Night of Miracles, 2018; The Story of Arthur Truluv, 2017), is the Confession Club, a group of mostly middle-aged women who meet regularly at each other’s homes to exchange secrets over wine and treats. For the most part, though, the Confession Club operates independently and irrelevantly of the novel’s main concern—the ongoing sagas of the late Arthur Truluv’s surviving friends. Iris, baking teacher extraordinaire, is about to turn 50, and 20-something Maddy has just returned from New York City with her 7-year-old daughter, Nola, leaving her new husband behind. A major character is introduced: John, a 66-year-old, handsome, homeless Vietnam vet, has made his way from Chicago to Mason, taking up residence in an abandoned farmhouse. Berg does not delve deeply into either the details of John’s homeless existence or his Vietnam combat experience. However, the competence and resourcefulness John displays as a homeless person are strangely at odds with his PTSD. This contradiction might give readers pause, since PTSD (for which he refused counseling) led to John's wife’s departure, which resulted in his homelessness. Iris is immediately attracted to John, albeit leery of him—and it’s unclear how leery she should be. The Confession Club seems to exist mostly to explore themes like infidelity, loneliness, independence, and longing, which are too generic to relate to the principal players’ predicaments. As usual, Mason is a refuge unruffled by the country’s political turmoil, and conflict, if any, is mostly avoided before it can generate any excitement. Some readers may wish to return to Mason again and again, to relax with the literary equivalent of well-worn slippers, a glass of wine, and no wellness diets in sight. But readers seeking insight into modern American life, leavened with humor, might be better challenged by Richard Russo or Anne Tyler.

All the bucolic pacifism of an episode of Prairie Home Companion without the seething undercurrents.

Pub Date: Nov. 19, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-984855-17-6

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Random House

Review Posted Online: Sept. 1, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2019


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. 5, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2018


With frank language and patient plotting, this gangly teen crush grows into a confident adult love affair.

Eleven years ago, he broke her heart. But he doesn’t know why she never forgave him.

Toggling between past and present, two love stories unfold simultaneously. In the first, Macy Sorensen meets and falls in love with the boy next door, Elliot Petropoulos, in the closet of her dad’s vacation home, where they hide out to discuss their favorite books. In the second, Macy is working as a doctor and engaged to a single father, and she hasn’t spoken to Elliot since their breakup. But a chance encounter forces her to confront the truth: what happened to make Macy stop speaking to Elliot? Ultimately, they’re separated not by time or physical remoteness but by emotional distance—Elliot and Macy always kept their relationship casual because they went to different schools. And as a teen, Macy has more to worry about than which girl Elliot is taking to the prom. After losing her mother at a young age, Macy is navigating her teenage years without a female role model, relying on the time-stamped notes her mother left in her father’s care for guidance. In the present day, Macy’s father is dead as well. She throws herself into her work and rarely comes up for air, not even to plan her upcoming wedding. Since Macy is still living with her fiance while grappling with her feelings for Elliot, the flashbacks offer steamy moments, tender revelations, and sweetly awkward confessions while Macy makes peace with her past and decides her future.

With frank language and patient plotting, this gangly teen crush grows into a confident adult love affair.

Pub Date: April 10, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-5011-2801-1

Page Count: 416

Publisher: Gallery Books/Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: Jan. 22, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2018

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