In less careful hands, this story could have come across as sentimental or melodramatic; instead, it takes shape as a...

NO GOOD ASKING

An overwhelmed family living in the rural plains of western Canada begins to change when an abused 11-year-old enters their lives.

The quietly powerful second novel by Canadian author Kimmel (The Shore Girl, 2012) takes place over a bitterly cold week at the end of December. Eric and Ellie Nyland have been living in the small town where Eric grew up for about a year, and neither of them is entirely satisfied with their decision to move there. Eric has given up a position with the Royal Canadian Mounted Police to work as a security guard. Ellie, deeply depressed, is grieving a series of miscarriages. Their 14-year-old son, Daniel, has been grounded for smashing his grandfather's old truck, which he had taken without permission and without a license. Their 5-year-old son, Sammy, somewhere on the autism spectrum, doesn't cope well with any kind of change. They are stuck in this domestic bog when Eric sees a girl struggling through the snow on the road near their house. As it turns out, Hannah's mother has died, and she is being cared for by her mother's ex-boyfriend. After he beats Hannah and locks her in the cellar, he is arrested, and Eric is persuaded by an old friend in Child and Family Services to take her home for a few days. Kimmel painstakingly describes the impact of Hannah's presence on the family and their effect on her, moving smoothly among the points of view of Eric, Ellie, Daniel, and Hannah. She lingers over small scenes—a trip to church, an excursion to chop down a Christmas tree, a family dinner—and allows them to reveal the characters gradually. In addition to the tensions within the family, the brutal weather outside becomes a credible source of danger.

In less careful hands, this story could have come across as sentimental or melodramatic; instead, it takes shape as a guardedly hopeful tale of resilience.

Pub Date: Oct. 2, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-77041-438-9

Page Count: 288

Publisher: ECW Press

Review Posted Online: July 17, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2018

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

ALL YOUR PERFECTS

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.

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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