Gothic in tone, epic in ambition, and creepy in spades.

THE BORDER OF PARADISE

A grievous unhappiness rakes across this novel about the slow self-destruction of the isolated Nowak family.

Wang’s debut begins with a suicidal David Nowak’s reminiscences of his mid-20th-century childhood, which raises ghosts of Henry Roth’s Call It Sleep, both in style and in the self-flagellating obsessions of a neurotic boy. He spends his Brooklyn youth deep in a self-hatred from which he is occasionally rescued by his fixation on a neighbor girl, the lovely and innocent Marianne. When his father’s sudden death leads to the hapless David’s decision to sell the piano company he has inherited, Marianne abandons him under the pressure of her family’s disdain, and so begins the series of events that becomes the death-seeking spiral that forms this novel. Not yet 20, David aimlessly lets his wealth take him to Taiwan, where he meets a bold bar girl named Jia-Hui Chen, whose “sappy, sloppy girlishness” makes his “nerves squirm with delight.” David and the girl he renames Daisy alternate telling the story of the early years of their marriage, "hemorrhaging money" in California. Daisy’s voice is brash and matter-of-fact, a welcome relief from David’s morose, confessional detailing of his progressive madness. Eventually they hole up in a valley in the Sierras, “a place of brambling woods and mining shafts.” Penned in first by David’s aloofness and then by Daisy’s growing paranoia, the Nowaks’ world shrinks and becomes increasingly eccentric. When their overly obedient teenage son William picks up the narrative, his voice is an exact echo of his father’s. So is his obsessive love for pubescent girls. Wang's deeply uncomfortable and somber novel is soaked with bizarre details, yet only in its final movements does the pace shift from static and entrapping to horrifically propulsive as the distant hope of escape glimmers. More focused on psychology than plot, Wang's novel remains extraordinarily unresolved, with sudden brutalities that send the story haring toward an unexpected, abrupt ending.

Gothic in tone, epic in ambition, and creepy in spades.

Pub Date: April 12, 2016

ISBN: 978-1-939419-69-9

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Unnamed Press

Review Posted Online: Jan. 21, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2016

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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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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

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