A stirring reminder that the most beautiful moments can be frustratingly evanescent and that everyone needs to learn the...

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A SUMMER OF GOOD-BYES

A middle-aged man makes peace with his life choices in this novel.

Ben Alto was still in his prime when he first met Anne-Marie, an arresting native who completely swept him off his feet, in France. In the present, his marriage to Lee, a New York–based artist, is not without its challenges, beset as it is by the daily plod of domesticity. Ben has carved a life back home in the United States, quashing his hopes of becoming an artist and resorting to teaching art history and writing about painting instead. As he and Lee desperately try to start a family, Ben is haunted by his trajectory: “I had begun to age, and to mellow; I had begun to lose confidence in any sort of important future—as a painter or a critic—and although I tried not to be bitter, my lack of prominence weighed on me.” Eventually, Ben and Lee adopt little Misha and cobble together a life of middle-class plentitude with its attendant joys and disappointments. When a life-altering event shakes the couple out of their complacency, they decide they will travel to Europe again, revisiting their favorite places, including St.-Rémy-de-Provence. Reaching out to Anne-Marie during their visit, Ben finds that life has not been kind to her: she is struggling with a rebellious teenager, Celestine, and her love, Zach Douglas, is slowly losing his battle to cancer. Middle-aged ennui and long-lost loves are tropes that have frequently been mined before, but Misurella (Arrangement in Black and White, 2014, etc.) tinges the story with enough pathos and color to craft a standout. There is plenty of nuance in a narrative that could easily have slipped into melodrama but doesn’t. The gorgeous Provencal countryside—with its rippling lavender fields, quaint markets, and striking abbeys and churches—is rendered vividly; one can almost imagine the page as an artist’s canvas here. Impressionist and postimpressionist paintings of Provence come to mind, including those by Ben’s favorite artist, van Gogh. What emerges is a moving account of the necessary compromises people make in their lives.

A stirring reminder that the most beautiful moments can be frustratingly evanescent and that everyone needs to learn the delicate art of letting go.

Pub Date: N/A

ISBN: N/A

Page Count: 309

Publisher: Blue Triangle

Review Posted Online: Jan. 23, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2017

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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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A sweeping romantic tale of thwarted love.

THE STATIONERY SHOP

Sixty years after her first love failed to meet her in a market square, Roya Khanom Archer finally has the chance to see him. But will he break her heart again?

Back in 1953, she was a 17-year-old schoolgirl, raised in a progressive home in Tehran, where her father encouraged Roya and her sister, Zari, to take advantage of the recent reforms that allowed women to go to university. While he hoped she might become a chemist, Roya loved escaping into novels, which sent her to Mr. Fakhri’s stationery and book store every Tuesday afternoon. There she first sees Bahman Aslan, a breathless young man already well-known as a political activist. Kamali (Together Tea, 2013) sets Roya and Bahman’s love against the tumultuous days of Mohammad Mossadegh’s rise and fall as prime minister of Iran, infusing their affair with political passion and an increasingly frantic sense of the shortness of time. Tuesday after Tuesday, the couple falls more deeply in love, and Bahman soon proposes marriage to Roya. While Roya’s family welcomes Bahman—although Zari warns Roya that his heart cannot be trusted—Bahman’s emotionally volatile mother refuses to accept the engagement, because she has already chosen Shahla, the daughter of a man closely allied with the shah, for her son. Roya determines to weather her future mother-in-law’s storms, but when Bahman and his family disappear, she can only turn to Mr. Fakhri for help. Although he cannot tell Roya where Bahman has gone, Mr. Fakhri offers to exchange secret letters between the lovers. The plan works, and the two even plan to elope, but Bahman does not show up in Sepah Square. Sixty years later, Bahman’s confession will finally expose the secrets that cast shadows over the lovers so long ago.

A sweeping romantic tale of thwarted love.

Pub Date: June 18, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-9821-0748-2

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Gallery Books/Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: March 31, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2019

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