Melodramatic contrivances test the reader’s credulity, but appealing characters and a deft, non-linear structure generate...

KEEPING THE HOUSE

Baker’s sprawling debut recounts the woes of a wealthy Midwestern family from the turn of the 20th century to the dawn of the 1950s.

The imposing, vacant Mickelson house attracts the attention of 20-year-old housewife Dolly Magnuson when she arrives in Pine Rapids, Wis., in 1950. Her husband Byron, part owner of a Chrysler dealership, is content with their undistinguished bungalow, but Dolly, ambivalent about a life of dutifully following Good Housekeeping recipes and other dictates for happy homemaking, dreams of restoring and someday owning the Mickelson mansion. She pieces together its history while attending gossipy meetings of the local Ladies Aid and befriends one of the family’s youngest and most troubled members. The narrative circles back to follow a second story line beginning in 1896, when newlyweds John and Wilma Mickelson move into the house built by his father, Knute, a Norwegian immigrant who amassed a fortune in the lumber industry. Wilma, a talented pianist who sacrificed school for marriage, is instantly smitten with her brother-in-law Gust, and he with her. Although they repress their desires, her less-than-wifely feelings torment Wilma, especially after Gust dies in a logging accident. Years later, her grief is compounded when favorite son Chase joins the Marines with his older brother Jack and is killed in World War I. Built on land that may be cursed, the house seems to doom successive generations to lucklessness in love. Jack’s daughter Elissa falls for a Southern corporal who unwittingly holds a catastrophic family secret; her alcoholic brother JJ, who lost part of his leg in World War II, has an unsettling effect on his Uncle Harry’s fiancée—and on Dolly, when she meets him. But Dolly and JJ, as well as the other remaining Mickelsons, may yet find the means to forge their own destinies.

Melodramatic contrivances test the reader’s credulity, but appealing characters and a deft, non-linear structure generate interest and suspense.

Pub Date: July 17, 2007

ISBN: 1-4000-6635-2

Page Count: 544

Publisher: Random House

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2007

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet

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

Did you like this book?

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

LOVE AND OTHER WORDS

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. 23, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2018

Did you like this book?

more