NO GOOD ASKING

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

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 16, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2018

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THE GREAT ALONE

A tour de force.

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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. 30, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15, 2017

THEN SHE WAS GONE

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. 5, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2018

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