Reliably entertaining and intelligent, Ginder is an excellent tour guide for both the sunny Greek islands and the darker...

HONESTLY, WE MEANT WELL

A trip to Greece with a family on the rocks.

Ginder (The People We Hate at the Wedding, 2017, etc.) is back with a speedy follow-up to his last wickedly funny concoction, again sending his characters abroad. Meet the Wright family of Berkeley, California: Husband Dean is a beloved American novelist with a cushy academic job at UC Berkeley; wife Sue Ellen teaches classics; their gay son, Will, 23, is unhappily failing to follow in his father's footsteps, struggling through his college fiction workshops. All are coping with the fallout of Dean's recent adultery (the one they know about, anyway). When Sue Ellen is asked to give a lecture to a tour group on the Greek island of Aegina, where she did her doctoral research, she jumps at the chance for a break. Aegina represents a poignant road not taken in her life, and even though her old flame has since died (too bad, he could have really kicked things up a notch), she is eager to return. But what's this? Dean and Will insist on coming with her. Combining farcical elements with more earnest plotlines, the novel never quite achieves liftoff. Ginder is at his best when he's over the top—a Swedish bottled beverage tastes like "compost, mixed with gull shit and spoiled chocolate milk"; Sue Ellen's lecture, as best her husband can peg it, involves "geriatrics gathering with their walkers at the temple's steps, and Sue Ellen speaking as the sun dipped into the Aegean, and her stopping just in time for everyone to have a glass of cheap chardonnay before Zeus, or Poseidon, or Shiva, or whoever ripped a tear in the space-time continuum and carried them all away to that plush, easily navigable retirement home in the sky." Along with the romantic subplots—which are sad—there are not one but two cases of literary plagiarism in the novel. It must be contagious; it's turning up everywhere.

Reliably entertaining and intelligent, Ginder is an excellent tour guide for both the sunny Greek islands and the darker channels of the human heart.

Pub Date: June 11, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-250-14315-0

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Flatiron Books

Review Posted Online: March 18, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2019

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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 heartfelt novel that celebrates its implausibility with a unique joie de vivre.

OONA OUT OF ORDER

What would you say to your younger self if you could give her advice?

“Wise beyond their years” is an expression we’ve all heard before. But for one Brooklyn teen, that saying becomes all too real when an unexplained event causes her to begin living her adult life in random order. On New Year’s Eve 1982, Oona Lockhart is about to turn 19. Change is on the horizon, as she must decide whether to leave school to tour with her band, Early Dawning, or quit the band to continue her studies in London. Does she follow her loving boyfriend and band mate, Dale, or does she make a stable, independent decision for herself? Almost as if standing on a precipice between past and future, Oona finds it important to tell herself: “Remember this party. Every second of it. Every person here.” When the clock strikes midnight, she opens her eyes to a reality far different from the one she'd been experiencing—and decades later. The abrupt shift sets the pace for the rest of the book—it turns out that even when you’re living life out of order, time passes just as quickly. Right as you settle in with one version of Oona, whether it be free-spirited, club-going Oona or middle-aged investor Oona, it’s almost New Year’s again. The effect is something like narrative jet lag, making it impossible to feel grounded in time. Which is, no doubt, the point. Montimore (Asleep From Day, 2018) is not afraid to wrench Oona from one season of life to another, satisfied with ending a year in a fashion as incomplete as this: “She didn’t get a chance to finish her sentence.” These vignettes, removed from linear neatness, celebrate the unpredictability and imperfect nature of life. Even when Oona has the opportunity to leave notes for the next version of herself, it doesn’t always mean she’ll follow her advice. With each temporal shift, Oona is left longing for what came before, but supporting characters like Oona’s mom, Madeleine, and confidante, Kenzie, serve as talismans that guide her back to the present. In the end, we must give credit to Oona for finding joy and even humor in her situation and to Montimore for developing a complex narrative held together by simple truths. Read this to get a bit lost, to root for a character with a strong love for herself, and to connect on a deeply human level with the fear of leading an incomplete life.

A heartfelt novel that celebrates its implausibility with a unique joie de vivre.

Pub Date: Feb. 25, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-250-23660-9

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Flatiron Books

Review Posted Online: Nov. 10, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2019

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