A compelling portrait of a woman facing the difficult limits of love.

ALL WE EVER WANTED

The day after Nina Browning's son, Finch, is accepted to Princeton, he makes a terrible decision, and Nina's perfect life comes crashing down.

Raised in the small town of Bristol, on the border of Tennessee and Virginia, Nina married well. Her husband, Kirk, and she have raised Finch among Nashville’s privileged, well-manicured mansions, sending him to the prestigious Windsor Academy. Yet an alcohol-soaked party ends with Finch snapping compromising pictures of an unconscious young woman, Lyla Volpe, a sophomore on scholarship to Windsor. The photos spread like wildfire through the town, leaving Lyla devastated. Her father, Tom, a carpenter struggling to raise Lyla alone after her mother deserted them, is determined to exact justice from the school’s Honor Council. Nina is dismayed to find Finch and Kirk blithely unconcerned about Lyla's feelings or Finch’s crime. They are far more interested in using the Browning family wealth to convince the school and Tom to turn a blind eye—not to mention using Finch’s sexual magnetism to manipulate Lyla’s emotions. Distraught, Nina forges friendships with Tom and Lyla, which will expose the fault lines in her own family. Giffin (First Comes Love, 2016, etc.) shifts perspectives from chapter to chapter, giving voice to Lyla’s teenage fears of social repercussions and Tom’s efforts to balance his fierce protective streak with his desire to give his daughter her freedom. Yet it is Nina’s chapters that ring most powerfully, as Giffin captures the complexity of Nina’s emotions: Her maternal instincts to protect her son war against her feminist alliance with the wronged Lyla; her wistful memories of her beloved little boy wrestle with her outrage at his racist, sexist, and increasingly devious young adult behavior; and her carefully constructed sense of family fractures against her realization that Kirk may not be the husband, father, or man she thought he was.

A compelling portrait of a woman facing the difficult limits of love.

Pub Date: June 26, 2018

ISBN: 978-0-399-17892-4

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Ballantine

Review Posted Online: May 15, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 2018

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The best-selling author of tearjerkers like Angel Falls (2000) serves up yet another mountain of mush, topped off with...

SUMMER ISLAND

Talk-show queen takes tumble as millions jeer.

Nora Bridges is a wildly popular radio spokesperson for family-first virtues, but her loyal listeners don't know that she walked out on her husband and teenaged daughters years ago and didn't look back. Now that a former lover has sold racy pix of naked Nora and horny himself to a national tabloid, her estranged daughter Ruby, an unsuccessful stand-up comic in Los Angeles, has been approached to pen a tell-all. Greedy for the fat fee she's been promised, Ruby agrees and heads for the San Juan Islands, eager to get reacquainted with the mom she plans to betray. Once in the family homestead, nasty Ruby alternately sulks and glares at her mother, who is temporarily wheelchair-bound as a result of a post-scandal car crash. Uncaring, Ruby begins writing her side of the story when she's not strolling on the beach with former sweetheart Dean Sloan, the son of wealthy socialites who basically ignored him and his gay brother Eric. Eric, now dying of cancer and also in a wheelchair, has returned to the island. This dismal threesome catch up on old times, recalling their childhood idylls on the island. After Ruby's perfect big sister Caroline shows up, there's another round of heartfelt talk. Nora gradually reveals the truth about her unloving husband and her late father's alcoholism, which led her to seek the approval of others at the cost of her own peace of mind. And so on. Ruby is aghast to discover that she doesn't know everything after all, but Dean offers her subdued comfort. Happy endings await almost everyone—except for readers of this nobly preachy snifflefest.

The best-selling author of tearjerkers like Angel Falls (2000) serves up yet another mountain of mush, topped off with syrupy platitudes about life and love.

Pub Date: March 1, 2001

ISBN: 0-609-60737-5

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Crown

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2001

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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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