A joyous literary romp with hidden depth.

THE COMMUNE

This sharp, shapely roman à clef visits a group of feminists, writers, and intellectual hangers-on living as summer housemates on Long Island's East End while they plan what will become the historic Women's Strike for Equality of Aug. 26, 1970.

Abeel affectionately ribs the political maneuverings of the feminists and the self-serving machinations of the writers while more harshly critiquing the proto-Trumpian businessmen, but her novel is at heart a romantic satire marked by apt literary quotations, Dickensian character names, and multiple references to Jane Austen. Running the group house is Gilda Gladstone, the reigning force of the women’s movement (who resembles Betty Friedan). Gilda is middle-aged and homely but charismatic and sexually driven, politically committed to women’s rights but wary of radical feminists, especially lesbians. She’s also deeply jealous of Monica Fairley (a stand-in for Gloria Steinem), who never appears but haunts the novel as Gilda’s glamorous competitor for feminist leadership. Around Gilda swirl her followers, including Leora, a recently divorced mother and struggling writer who's looking for a husband, preferably rich. Leora takes trenchant, metafictional notes for a future novel while deciding between a crude but rich former boyfriend, “the Polish Gatsby,” and a talented but poor journalist who works at Clive Monomark's Gotham (aka New York magazine under Clay Felker). Most of the other characters are composites. The guessing game becomes addictive: Is beautiful photographer Edwina Scahill, who's bisexual and yearning for children, Sally Mann or Annie Leibowitz? Radical highbrow JoBeth Mankiller isn’t quite Susan Sontag. “Well connected dilettante” author Peter Grosvenor must be George Plimpton; rich, organ-playing Sebastian Nye, who co-publishes The National Bugle with William Buckley, sounds like harpsichordist Buckley himself. More important, almost all of Abeel’s characters show complexity—foolish yet brilliant, silly yet sad, insecure yet capable. As they fall in and out of affairs, commit minor treacheries, admit insecurities, and discover love, the reader starts caring deeply.

A joyous literary romp with hidden depth.

Pub Date: July 4, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-954351-79-0

Page Count: 328

Publisher: Adelaide Books

Review Posted Online: May 12, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2021

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If novelists are auditioning to play God, Hilderbrand gets the part.

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GOLDEN GIRL

From the greenroom of the afterlife—make that Benjamin Moore "Parsley Snips" green—a newly dead Nantucket novelist watches life unfold without her.

In her 27th novel, Hilderbrand gives herself an alter ego—beloved beach-novel author Vivian Howe—sends her out for a morning jog, and immediately kills her off. A hit-and-run driver leaves Vivi dead by the side of the road, where her son's best friend discovers her body—or was he responsible for the accident? Vivi doesn't know, nor does she know yet that her daughter Willa is pregnant, or that her daughter Carson is having a terribly ill-advised affair, or that her son, Leo, has a gnawing secret, or that her ex is getting tired of the girl he dumped her for. She will discover all this and more as she watches one last summer on Nantucket play out under the tutelage of Martha, her "Person," who receives her in the boho-chic waiting room of the Beyond. Hermès-scarved Martha explains that Vivi will have three nudges—three chances to change the course of events on Earth and prevent her bereaved loved ones from making life-altering mistakes. She will also get to watch the publication of what will be her last novel, titled Golden Girl, natch, and learn the answers to two questions: Will the secret about her own life she buried in this novel come to light (who cares, really—she's dead now), and will it hit No. 1 on the New York Times bestseller list (now there's an interesting question). She'll also get to see that one of her biggest wrongs is posthumously righted and that her kids have learned her most important lesson. As Willa says to Carson, "You know how she treats the characters in her books? She gives them flaws, she portrays them doing horrible things—but the reader loves them anyway. Because Mom loves them. Because they’re human.”

If novelists are auditioning to play God, Hilderbrand gets the part.

Pub Date: June 1, 2021

ISBN: 978-0-31642008-2

Page Count: 384

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: May 5, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2021

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Light on suspense but still a solid page-turner.

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THE LAST THING HE TOLD ME

When a devoted husband and father disappears, his wife and daughter set out to find him.

Hannah Hall is deeply in love with her husband of one year, Owen Michaels. She’s also determined to win over his 16-year-old daughter, Bailey, who has made it very clear that she’s not thrilled with her new stepmother. Despite the drama, the family is mostly a happy one. They live in a lovely houseboat in Sausalito; Hannah is a woodturner whose handmade furniture brings in high-dollar clientele; and Owen works for The Shop, a successful tech firm. Their lives are shattered, however, when Hannah receives a note saying “Protect her” and can’t reach Owen by phone. Then there’s the bag full of cash Bailey finds in her school locker and the shocking news that The Shop’s CEO has been taken into custody. Hannah learns that the FBI has been investigating the firm for about a year regarding some hot new software they took to market before it was fully functional, falsifying their financial statements. Hannah refuses to believe her husband is involved in the fraud, and a U.S. marshal assigned to the case claims Owen isn’t a suspect. Hannah doesn’t know whom to trust, though, and she and Bailey resolve to root out the clues that might lead to Owen. They must also learn to trust one another. Hannah’s narrative alternates past and present, detailing her early days with Owen alongside her current hunt for him, and author Dave throws in a touch of danger and a few surprises. But what really drives the story is the evolving nature of Hannah and Bailey’s relationship, which is by turns poignant and frustrating but always realistic.

Light on suspense but still a solid page-turner.

Pub Date: May 4, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-5011-7134-5

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: Feb. 10, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2021

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