A small, brittle, not entirely focused story of class and lost illusions.


The web of unhappiness ensnaring the children of an upper-class English family fascinates a restless American visitor.

Chilly, and peopled by a cast of more or less damaged characters, Toynton’s (The Oriental Wife, 2011, etc.) third novel spins a downbeat tale exploring the destructive spiral of the Digby family, whose idyllic Devon home is also the heart of its suffering. The house is presided over by matriarch and famous scientist Helena, whose domineering, narcissistic personality has extended a profound influence over her three children. This history is uncovered slowly by an outsider, widowed American Annie Devereaux, who has fled New York after her husband’s sudden death. An unexpected encounter on a London street with Helena’s son, Julian, leads to a relationship that morphs from sex and sharing into withering cruelty, apparently Julian’s familiar pattern. But before the relationship founders, Annie is introduced to Julian’s sister Isabel, who offers another facet of the family—beautiful, intellectual, and wounded. There’s also a third sibling, math prodigy Sasha, whose mental illness is at times an effective weapon against her selfishly controlling mother. Annie, with her Anglophilia and romantic view of Devon, courtesy of her long-absent father, is magnetized by both Isabel and her home. The text is sprinkled with references to Brideshead Revisited, Toynton’s acknowledgement of some parallels between the two stories. But she pulls her own narrative westward, setting up contrasts between Britain and the U.S. and problematical single-family homes on either side of the Atlantic. It’s a finely phrased and observed piece of writing but doesn’t fully characterize its narrator nor break the doomed family out of the mold. Even though the Digby secrets are exposed and Annie moves on to yet another (imperfect) relationship, little emerges in the way of resolution.

A small, brittle, not entirely focused story of class and lost illusions.

Pub Date: Sept. 17, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-59051-921-9

Page Count: 272

Publisher: Other Press

Review Posted Online: July 1, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2019

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Finding positivity in negative pregnancy-test results, this depiction of a marriage in crisis is nearly perfect.


Named for an imperfectly worded fortune cookie, Hoover's (It Ends with Us, 2016, etc.) latest compares a woman’s relationship with her husband before and after she finds out she’s infertile.

Quinn meets her future husband, Graham, in front of her soon-to-be-ex-fiance’s apartment, where Graham is about to confront him for having an affair with his girlfriend. A few years later, they are happily married but struggling to conceive. The “then and now” format—with alternating chapters moving back and forth in time—allows a hopeful romance to blossom within a dark but relatable dilemma. Back then, Quinn’s bad breakup leads her to the love of her life. In the now, she’s exhausted a laundry list of fertility options, from IVF treatments to adoption, and the silver lining is harder to find. Quinn’s bad relationship with her wealthy mother also prevents her from asking for more money to throw at the problem. But just when Quinn’s narrative starts to sound like she’s writing a long Facebook rant about her struggles, she reveals the larger issue: Ever since she and Graham have been trying to have a baby, intimacy has become a chore, and she doesn’t know how to tell him. Instead, she hopes the contents of a mystery box she’s kept since their wedding day will help her decide their fate. With a few well-timed silences, Hoover turns the fairly common problem of infertility into the more universal problem of poor communication. Graham and Quinn may or may not become parents, but if they don’t talk about their feelings, they won’t remain a couple, either.

Finding positivity in negative pregnancy-test results, this depiction of a marriage in crisis is nearly perfect.

Pub Date: July 17, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-5011-7159-8

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Atria

Review Posted Online: May 1, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2018

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Dark and unsettling, this novel’s end arrives abruptly even as readers are still moving at a breakneck speed.


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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