At times appealingly earnest, at others clumsy and mystic.



A terminally ill restaurateur and amateur poet meticulously plans his end on a late-summer morning on a Long Island beach—but a last-second intervention by another causes collateral damage in the community.

The plot centers on cancer-stricken Paul, a former automotive engineer who moved eastward and coastal for a life richer in poetry, but the chief character in Packard’s debut is Claude, a middle-aged photographer, mystic and sensualist who scratches out a subsistence on the lovely but unglamorous North Fork of Long Island. She finds herself attracted to Paul and his enigmatic, nearly mute wife, and the two women embark on a bizarre, resolutely nonverbal affair in which Paul acts less as a voyeur than as a supervisor or cheerleader. Eventually it becomes clear to Claude that Paul is sick, and that he’s attempting to provide his wife with not only an erotic outlet but also a person with whom (rather trickier, given her brooding taciturnity) to bond emotionally. These three move through a motley, interesting little community. There’s pretty transvestite Cherry Pickens, proprietress of Claude’s mobile-home park, and her lover, Barton; the bitter ex-soldier (and cardboard bigot) Saugerties, another denizen of the park; and nurse Rae, husband Sonny and their precocious, truant, religious-minded nine-year-old daughter, Six, who’s enmeshed in one way or another with everyone. The book buzzes with passion, sexual and artistic, but often the intensity seems awkwardly didactic or out of control, for instance when Paul, granted gnomic dying-man mode, consoles Six about having been called a gypsy at school by saying, “Well, let me get a good look at you. I would describe your beautiful skin color as that of rich sand, just touched by the sea.”

At times appealingly earnest, at others clumsy and mystic.

Pub Date: July 1, 2010

ISBN: 978-1-57962-202-2

Page Count: 260

Publisher: Permanent Press

Review Posted Online: June 3, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 2010

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A lovely read—entertaining, poignant, and meaningful.


After facing tragedy and betrayal in New York, an aspiring fashion designer escapes to her idyllic Pacific coast hometown to raise her best friend’s two young children and finds inspiration, redemption, and love in the unexpected journey.

Caroline Shelby always dreamed of leaving tiny Oysterville, Washington, and becoming a couturier. After years of toil, she finally has a big break only to discover a famous designer has stolen her launch line. When she accuses him, he blackballs her, so she’s already struggling when her best friend, Angelique, a renowned model from Haiti whose work visa has expired, shows up on her doorstep with her two biracial children, running from an abusive partner she won’t identify. When Angelique dies of a drug overdose, Caroline takes custody of the kids and flees back to her hometown. She reconnects with her sprawling family and with Will and Sierra Jensen, who were once her best friends, though their relationships have grown more complicated since Will and Sierra married. Caroline feels guilty that she didn’t realize Angelique was abused and tries to make a difference when she discovers that people she knows in Oysterville are also victims of domestic violence. She creates a support group that becomes a welcome source of professional assistance when some designs she works on for the kids garner local interest that grows regional, then national. Meanwhile, restless Sierra pursues her own dreams, leading to Will and Caroline’s exploring some unresolved feelings. Wiggs’ latest is part revenge fantasy and part romantic fairy tale, and while some details feel too smooth—how fortunate that every person in the circle has some helpful occupation that benefits Caroline's business—Caroline has a challenging road, and she rises to it with compassion and resilience. Timelines alternating among the present and past, both recent and long ago, add tension and depth to a complex narrative that touches on the abuse of power toward women and the extra-high stakes when the women involved are undocumented. Finally, Wiggs writes about the children’s race and immigration status with a soft touch that feels natural and easygoing but that might seem unrealistic to some readers.

A lovely read—entertaining, poignant, and meaningful.

Pub Date: Aug. 13, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-06-242558-4

Page Count: 384

Publisher: Morrow/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: May 27, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2019

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Well-written and insightful but so heartbreaking that it raises the question of what a reader is looking for in fiction.


A 12-year-old boy is the sole survivor of a plane crash—a study in before and after.

Edward Adler is moving to California with his adored older brother, Jordan, and their parents: Mom is a scriptwriter for television, Dad is a mathematician who is home schooling his sons. They will get no further than Colorado, where the plane goes down. Napolitano’s (A Good Hard Look, 2011, etc.) novel twins the narrative of the flight from takeoff to impact with the story of Edward’s life over the next six years. Taken in by his mother’s sister and her husband, a childless couple in New Jersey, Edward’s misery is constant and almost impermeable. Unable to bear sleeping in the never-used nursery his aunt and uncle have hastily appointed to serve as his bedroom, he ends up bunking next door, where there's a kid his age, a girl named Shay. This friendship becomes the single strand connecting him to the world of the living. Meanwhile, in alternating chapters, we meet all the doomed airplane passengers, explore their backstories, and learn about their hopes and plans, every single one of which is minutes from obliteration. For some readers, Napolitano’s premise will be too dark to bear, underlining our terrible vulnerability to random events and our inability to protect ourselves or our children from the worst-case scenario while also imagining in exhaustive detail the bleak experience of survival. The people around Edward have no idea how to deal with him; his aunt and uncle try their best to protect him from the horrors of his instant celebrity as Miracle Boy. As one might expect, there is a ray of light for Edward at the end of the tunnel, and for hardier readers this will make Napolitano’s novel a story of hope.

Well-written and insightful but so heartbreaking that it raises the question of what a reader is looking for in fiction.

Pub Date: Jan. 14, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-9848-5478-0

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Dial

Review Posted Online: Oct. 28, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15, 2019

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