A cute concept undercut by awkward writing, inconsistent, simplistic characterization and too many implausibilities to allow...

THE BLOSSOM SISTERS

When Gus Hollister’s gold-digger wife throws him out, he works to re-establish ties with his grandmother and great-aunts, whom he’s ignored since his marriage and who have a few secrets of their own.

CPA Gus Hollister is blindsided on the last day of tax season when wife, Elaine, demands a divorce, forcing him out of his own house, which his grandmother paid for. Since their marriage, Elaine has convinced him to ignore his grandmother and her two sisters, the women who raised him and whom he loves more than anyone in the world. Now he must work to get back in their good graces, and in the process, he’ll find out that those ladies and a posse of local seniors have started local and online businesses selling a spectrum of interesting, varied products. Elaine, the gold digger, expects to take him for everything he’s worth, including his house, his car, half his business and even his inheritance. Lucky for Gus, he’s an all-round-good guy no one can stay mad at—oh, and that he has a world-famous, billionaire hedge fund manager as a best friend, who is willing to fund his divorce attorney—the best ever, of course—and a full firm of private investigators.  And how fortunate that Elaine is not only a bona fide gold digger (a term used repeatedly throughout the text), but also a practicing high priestess of witchcraft with a long background of deception, shrewish behavior and all-round-villainess tendencies. (And how unfortunate that Gus wouldn’t listen to all of his relatives and friends when they told him not to marry her.) Not to worry, though, Elaine has her next mark in sight, and Gus is just lucky enough that she’ll move on to the next guy and uncharacteristically decide to cut her losses and legal property rights and leave Gus alone. Meanwhile, Gus will help his grandmother and friends streamline their operation, and maybe he’ll even fall in love.

A cute concept undercut by awkward writing, inconsistent, simplistic characterization and too many implausibilities to allow us to take the book or the ending seriously.

Pub Date: April 30, 2013

ISBN: 978-0-7582-8671-0

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Kensington

Review Posted Online: March 16, 2013

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2013

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THE GREAT ALONE

In 1974, a troubled Vietnam vet inherits a house from a fallen comrade and moves his family to Alaska.

After years as a prisoner of war, Ernt Allbright returned home to his wife, Cora, and daughter, Leni, a violent, difficult, restless man. The family moved so frequently that 13-year-old Leni went to five schools in four years. But when they move to Alaska, still very wild and sparsely populated, Ernt finds a landscape as raw as he is. As Leni soon realizes, “Everyone up here had two stories: the life before and the life now. If you wanted to pray to a weirdo god or live in a school bus or marry a goose, no one in Alaska was going to say crap to you.” There are many great things about this book—one of them is its constant stream of memorably formulated insights about Alaska. Another key example is delivered by Large Marge, a former prosecutor in Washington, D.C., who now runs the general store for the community of around 30 brave souls who live in Kaneq year-round. As she cautions the Allbrights, “Alaska herself can be Sleeping Beauty one minute and a bitch with a sawed-off shotgun the next. There’s a saying: Up here you can make one mistake. The second one will kill you.” Hannah’s (The Nightingale, 2015, etc.) follow-up to her series of blockbuster bestsellers will thrill her fans with its combination of Greek tragedy, Romeo and Juliet–like coming-of-age story, and domestic potboiler. She re-creates in magical detail the lives of Alaska's homesteaders in both of the state's seasons (they really only have two) and is just as specific and authentic in her depiction of the spiritual wounds of post-Vietnam America.

A tour de force.

Pub Date: Feb. 6, 2018

ISBN: 978-0-312-57723-0

Page Count: 448

Publisher: St. Martin's

Review Posted Online: Oct. 31, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15, 2017

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With her second novel, Ng further proves she’s a sensitive, insightful writer with a striking ability to illuminate life in...

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LITTLE FIRES EVERYWHERE

This incandescent portrait of suburbia and family, creativity, and consumerism burns bright.

It’s not for nothing that Ng (Everything I Never Told You, 2014) begins her second novel, about the events leading to the burning of the home of an outwardly perfect-seeming family in Shaker Heights, Ohio, circa 1997, with two epigraphs about the planned community itself—attesting to its ability to provide its residents with “protection forever against…unwelcome change” and “a rather happy life” in Utopia. But unwelcome change is precisely what disrupts the Richardson family’s rather happy life, when Mia, a charismatic, somewhat mysterious artist, and her smart, shy 15-year-old daughter, Pearl, move to town and become tenants in a rental house Mrs. Richardson inherited from her parents. Mia and Pearl live a markedly different life from the Richardsons, an affluent couple and their four high school–age children—making art instead of money (apart from what little they need to get by); rooted in each other rather than a particular place (packing up what fits in their battered VW and moving on when “the bug” hits); and assembling a hodgepodge home from creatively repurposed, scavenged castoffs and love rather than gathering around them the symbols of a successful life in the American suburbs (a big house, a large family, gleaming appliances, chic clothes, many cars). What really sets Mia and Pearl apart and sets in motion the events leading to the “little fires everywhere” that will consume the Richardsons’ secure, stable world, however, is the way they hew to their own rules. In a place like Shaker Heights, a town built on plans and rules, and for a family like the Richardsons, who have structured their lives according to them, disdain for conformity acts as an accelerant, setting fire to the dormant sparks within them. The ultimate effect is cataclysmic. As in Everything I Never Told You, Ng conjures a sense of place and displacement and shows a remarkable ability to see—and reveal—a story from different perspectives. The characters she creates here are wonderfully appealing, and watching their paths connect—like little trails of flame leading inexorably toward one another to create a big inferno—is mesmerizing, casting into new light ideas about creativity and consumerism, parenthood and privilege.

With her second novel, Ng further proves she’s a sensitive, insightful writer with a striking ability to illuminate life in America.

Pub Date: Sept. 12, 2017

ISBN: 978-0-7352-2429-2

Page Count: 384

Publisher: Penguin Press

Review Posted Online: June 20, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2017

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