A family tale offers skillful dialogue as well as brisk pacing and an effective resolution.

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THE TASTE OF AIR

A woman discovers her mother possesses a secret cottage, unleashing a chain of revelations and realizations in this novel.

Eleanor Williams, called Nell, is confused as well as worried when she gets a call from a Hartland, Vermont, hospital saying that her mother, Mary Ellen Reilly, is in intensive care. Vermont? Her mother lives in Massachusetts. Tense with anxiety, Nell rushes to her still-unconscious mother from her New Jersey home to discover a fresh enigma: Mary owns a cottage in Hartland, filled with photos of her covert life going back 20 years, before Nell’s father died. Already subject to insecurity, Nell feels betrayed, her world crumbling: “Wasn’t Mom’s real life good enough? Why did she need to get away from it?” But as she and her older sister Bridget learn more about the cottage and Mary’s friendship with neighbor Jake Bascomb and his son Adam, Nell realizes that in her own home, she has no personal space. To write in her journal, she has to hide in the bathroom, while her husband has both a home office and a man cave. Nell begins to understand why her mother never mentioned the cottage. And as the novel reveals more about its characters, including the Bascombs, buried family secrets come to light and new understandings are reached. In her book, Cleare (Destined, 2011) constructs a well-written examination of how families affect choices, why people keep secrets, and the need for a room of one’s own. The tale retains a sense of mystery as its revelations spill out; one of the greatest riddles, it turns out, is a parent’s real life, the one not shown to children. Nell’s panic at discovering this helps explain the need for secrecy; it’s never an arbitrary plot obstacle. But some things work out a little too neatly or easily and some depend on wealth; in addition, Nell is agonizingly slow at figuring out she should just speak up for what she wants instead of finding a way to manipulate others or not have to ask. Yet many can relate to her dilemma, if not her privilege.

 A family tale offers skillful dialogue as well as brisk pacing and an effective resolution.

Pub Date: Sept. 13, 2016

ISBN: 978-1-940215-81-5

Page Count: 252

Publisher: Red Adept Publishing

Review Posted Online: Jan. 20, 2017

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A touching family drama that effectively explores the negative impact of stress on fragile relationships.

A WEEK AT THE SHORE

A middle-aged woman returns to her childhood home to care for her ailing father, confronting many painful secrets from her past.

When Mallory Aldiss gets a call from a long-ago boyfriend telling her that her elderly father has been gallivanting around town with a gun in his hand, Mallory decides it’s time to return to the small Rhode Island town that she’s been avoiding for more than a decade. Mallory’s precocious 13-year-old daughter, Joy, is thrilled that she'll get to meet her grandfather at long last, and an aunt, too, and she'll finally see the place where her mother grew up. When they arrive in Bay Bluff, it’s barely a few hours before Mallory bumps into her old flame, Jack, the only man she’s ever really loved. Gone is the rebellious young person she remembers, and in his place stands a compassionate, accomplished adult. As they try to reconnect, Mallory realizes that the same obstacle that pushed them apart decades earlier is still standing in their way: Jack blames Mallory’s father for his mother’s death. No one knows exactly how Jack’s mother died, but Jack thinks a love affair between her and Mallory’s father had something to do with it. As Jack and Mallory chase down answers, Mallory also tries to repair her rocky relationships with her two sisters and determine why her father has always been so hard on her. Told entirely from Mallory’s perspective, the novel has a haunting, nostalgic quality. Despite the complex and overlapping layers to the history of Bay Bluff and its inhabitants, the book at times trudges too slowly through Mallory’s meanderings down Memory Lane. Even so, Delinsky sometimes manages to pick up the pace, and in those moments the beauty and nuance of this complicated family tale shine through. Readers who don’t mind skimming past details that do little to advance the plot may find that the juicier nuggets and realistically rendered human connections are worth the effort.

A touching family drama that effectively explores the negative impact of stress on fragile relationships.

Pub Date: May 19, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-250-11951-3

Page Count: 416

Publisher: St. Martin's

Review Posted Online: March 2, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2020

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A love letter to the power of books and friendship.

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THE GIVER OF STARS

Women become horseback librarians in 1930s Kentucky and face challenges from the landscape, the weather, and the men around them.

Alice thought marrying attractive American Bennett Van Cleve would be her ticket out of her stifling life in England. But when she and Bennett settle in Baileyville, Kentucky, she realizes that her life consists of nothing more than staying in their giant house all day and getting yelled at by his unpleasant father, who owns a coal mine. She’s just about to resign herself to a life of boredom when an opportunity presents itself in the form of a traveling horseback library—an initiative from Eleanor Roosevelt meant to counteract the devastating effects of the Depression by focusing on literacy and learning. Much to the dismay of her husband and father-in-law, Alice signs up and soon learns the ropes from the library’s leader, Margery. Margery doesn’t care what anyone thinks of her, rejects marriage, and would rather be on horseback than in a kitchen. And even though all this makes Margery a town pariah, Alice quickly grows to like her. Along with several other women (including one black woman, Sophia, whose employment causes controversy in a town that doesn’t believe black and white people should be allowed to use the same library), Margery and Alice supply magazines, Bible stories, and copies of books like Little Women to the largely poor residents who live in remote areas. Alice spends long days in terrible weather on horseback, but she finally feels happy in her new life in Kentucky, even as her marriage to Bennett is failing. But her powerful father-in-law doesn’t care for Alice’s job or Margery’s lifestyle, and he’ll stop at nothing to shut their library down. Basing her novel on the true story of the Pack Horse Library Project established by the Works Progress Administration in the 1930s, Moyes (Still Me, 2018, etc.) brings an often forgotten slice of history to life. She writes about Kentucky with lush descriptions of the landscape and tender respect for the townspeople, most of whom are poor, uneducated, and grateful for the chance to learn. Although Alice and Margery both have their own romances, the true power of the story is in the bonds between the women of the library. They may have different backgrounds, but their commitment to helping the people of Baileyville brings them together.

A love letter to the power of books and friendship.

Pub Date: Oct. 8, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-399-56248-8

Page Count: 400

Publisher: Pamela Dorman/Viking

Review Posted Online: July 1, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2019

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