With its flavor of Henry James, Harrower’s rediscovered story is an odd, brittle yet impressive piece of work that exposes...

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IN CERTAIN CIRCLES

A previously unpublished novel by an Australian author whose work from the 1950s and ’60s has recently found new popularity reveals how a privileged daughter’s bright future leads to misery.

Harrower (The Watch Tower, 2013, etc.) published four novels more than half a century ago, then withdrew the fifth before its scheduled publication and stopped writing. Available now for the first time, the book returns readers to characteristic Harrower terrain via the finely scrutinized interior lives of two very different pairs of siblings divided by social status, assumptions and, above all, psychologies. Zoe and Russell Howard are the gilded children of notable, well-connected parents living in middle-class comfort in Sydney. A chance meeting on a train introduces Russell to Stephen Quayle and then his sister Anna, whose parents’ deaths in a car accident left them under the damaging guardianship of an uncle and his disturbed wife. While Anna seems to have emerged relatively intact, Stephen is angry and judgmental, and beautiful, talented Zoe—“There was something enchanting and winning and touching about her, and she knew it”—is electrified by his difference. Years later, after Zoe has begun a promising career in the film industry in Europe, her mother dies, and returning to Australia, she is reunited with Stephen. Soon they are married, but the honeymoon phase, with Zoe trying to “cure” Stephen of his unhappy past, slowly evolves into something more destructive, as Stephen’s mix of tenderness and abuse slowly eats away at her. Formal in tone and cerebral in style, Harrower’s novel proceeds in a sequence of snapshot episodes dominated by semiabstract conversations. It takes a late kind of theatrical coup to push the actors out of their frozen roles into a reconfigured future.

With its flavor of Henry James, Harrower’s rediscovered story is an odd, brittle yet impressive piece of work that exposes the complex passions beneath a drawing-room-scenario surface.

Pub Date: Sept. 9, 2014

ISBN: 978-1-922182-29-6

Page Count: 257

Publisher: Text

Review Posted Online: Aug. 25, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2014

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A lovely read—entertaining, poignant, and meaningful.

THE OYSTERVILLE SEWING CIRCLE

After facing tragedy and betrayal in New York, an aspiring fashion designer escapes to her idyllic Pacific coast hometown to raise her best friend’s two young children and finds inspiration, redemption, and love in the unexpected journey.

Caroline Shelby always dreamed of leaving tiny Oysterville, Washington, and becoming a couturier. After years of toil, she finally has a big break only to discover a famous designer has stolen her launch line. When she accuses him, he blackballs her, so she’s already struggling when her best friend, Angelique, a renowned model from Haiti whose work visa has expired, shows up on her doorstep with her two biracial children, running from an abusive partner she won’t identify. When Angelique dies of a drug overdose, Caroline takes custody of the kids and flees back to her hometown. She reconnects with her sprawling family and with Will and Sierra Jensen, who were once her best friends, though their relationships have grown more complicated since Will and Sierra married. Caroline feels guilty that she didn’t realize Angelique was abused and tries to make a difference when she discovers that people she knows in Oysterville are also victims of domestic violence. She creates a support group that becomes a welcome source of professional assistance when some designs she works on for the kids garner local interest that grows regional, then national. Meanwhile, restless Sierra pursues her own dreams, leading to Will and Caroline’s exploring some unresolved feelings. Wiggs’ latest is part revenge fantasy and part romantic fairy tale, and while some details feel too smooth—how fortunate that every person in the circle has some helpful occupation that benefits Caroline's business—Caroline has a challenging road, and she rises to it with compassion and resilience. Timelines alternating among the present and past, both recent and long ago, add tension and depth to a complex narrative that touches on the abuse of power toward women and the extra-high stakes when the women involved are undocumented. Finally, Wiggs writes about the children’s race and immigration status with a soft touch that feels natural and easygoing but that might seem unrealistic to some readers.

A lovely read—entertaining, poignant, and meaningful.

Pub Date: Aug. 13, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-06-242558-4

Page Count: 384

Publisher: Morrow/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: May 27, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2019

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Well-written and insightful but so heartbreaking that it raises the question of what a reader is looking for in fiction.

DEAR EDWARD

A 12-year-old boy is the sole survivor of a plane crash—a study in before and after.

Edward Adler is moving to California with his adored older brother, Jordan, and their parents: Mom is a scriptwriter for television, Dad is a mathematician who is home schooling his sons. They will get no further than Colorado, where the plane goes down. Napolitano’s (A Good Hard Look, 2011, etc.) novel twins the narrative of the flight from takeoff to impact with the story of Edward’s life over the next six years. Taken in by his mother’s sister and her husband, a childless couple in New Jersey, Edward’s misery is constant and almost impermeable. Unable to bear sleeping in the never-used nursery his aunt and uncle have hastily appointed to serve as his bedroom, he ends up bunking next door, where there's a kid his age, a girl named Shay. This friendship becomes the single strand connecting him to the world of the living. Meanwhile, in alternating chapters, we meet all the doomed airplane passengers, explore their backstories, and learn about their hopes and plans, every single one of which is minutes from obliteration. For some readers, Napolitano’s premise will be too dark to bear, underlining our terrible vulnerability to random events and our inability to protect ourselves or our children from the worst-case scenario while also imagining in exhaustive detail the bleak experience of survival. The people around Edward have no idea how to deal with him; his aunt and uncle try their best to protect him from the horrors of his instant celebrity as Miracle Boy. As one might expect, there is a ray of light for Edward at the end of the tunnel, and for hardier readers this will make Napolitano’s novel a story of hope.

Well-written and insightful but so heartbreaking that it raises the question of what a reader is looking for in fiction.

Pub Date: Jan. 14, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-9848-5478-0

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Dial

Review Posted Online: Oct. 28, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15, 2019

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