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

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet

With her second novel, Ng further proves she’s a sensitive, insightful writer with a striking ability to illuminate life in...

Our Verdict

  • Our Verdict
  • GET IT

Google Rating

  • google rating
  • google rating
  • google rating
  • google rating
  • google rating
  • Kirkus Reviews'
    Best Books Of 2017

  • New York Times Bestseller

  • IndieBound Bestseller

LITTLE FIRES EVERYWHERE

This incandescent portrait of suburbia and family, creativity, and consumerism burns bright.

It’s not for nothing that Ng (Everything I Never Told You, 2014) begins her second novel, about the events leading to the burning of the home of an outwardly perfect-seeming family in Shaker Heights, Ohio, circa 1997, with two epigraphs about the planned community itself—attesting to its ability to provide its residents with “protection forever against…unwelcome change” and “a rather happy life” in Utopia. But unwelcome change is precisely what disrupts the Richardson family’s rather happy life, when Mia, a charismatic, somewhat mysterious artist, and her smart, shy 15-year-old daughter, Pearl, move to town and become tenants in a rental house Mrs. Richardson inherited from her parents. Mia and Pearl live a markedly different life from the Richardsons, an affluent couple and their four high school–age children—making art instead of money (apart from what little they need to get by); rooted in each other rather than a particular place (packing up what fits in their battered VW and moving on when “the bug” hits); and assembling a hodgepodge home from creatively repurposed, scavenged castoffs and love rather than gathering around them the symbols of a successful life in the American suburbs (a big house, a large family, gleaming appliances, chic clothes, many cars). What really sets Mia and Pearl apart and sets in motion the events leading to the “little fires everywhere” that will consume the Richardsons’ secure, stable world, however, is the way they hew to their own rules. In a place like Shaker Heights, a town built on plans and rules, and for a family like the Richardsons, who have structured their lives according to them, disdain for conformity acts as an accelerant, setting fire to the dormant sparks within them. The ultimate effect is cataclysmic. As in Everything I Never Told You, Ng conjures a sense of place and displacement and shows a remarkable ability to see—and reveal—a story from different perspectives. The characters she creates here are wonderfully appealing, and watching their paths connect—like little trails of flame leading inexorably toward one another to create a big inferno—is mesmerizing, casting into new light ideas about creativity and consumerism, parenthood and privilege.

With her second novel, Ng further proves she’s a sensitive, insightful writer with a striking ability to illuminate life in America.

Pub Date: Sept. 12, 2017

ISBN: 978-0-7352-2429-2

Page Count: 384

Publisher: Penguin Press

Review Posted Online: June 20, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2017

Did you like this book?

Characters flip between bottomless self-regard and pitiless self-loathing while, as late as the second-to-last chapter, yet...

THE MOST FUN WE EVER HAD

Four Chicago sisters anchor a sharp, sly family story of feminine guile and guilt.

Newcomer Lombardo brews all seven deadly sins into a fun and brimming tale of an unapologetically bougie couple and their unruly daughters. In the opening scene, Liza Sorenson, daughter No. 3, flirts with a groomsman at her sister’s wedding. “There’s four of you?” he asked. “What’s that like?” Her retort: “It’s a vast hormonal hellscape. A marathon of instability and hair products.” Thus begins a story bristling with a particular kind of female intel. When Wendy, the oldest, sets her sights on a mate, she “made sure she left her mark throughout his house—soy milk in the fridge, box of tampons under the sink, surreptitious spritzes of her Bulgari musk on the sheets.” Turbulent Wendy is the novel’s best character, exuding a delectable bratty-ness. The parents—Marilyn, all pluck and busy optimism, and David, a genial family doctor—strike their offspring as impossibly happy. Lombardo levels this vision by interspersing chapters of the Sorenson parents’ early lean times with chapters about their daughters’ wobbly forays into adulthood. The central story unfurls over a single event-choked year, begun by Wendy, who unlatches a closed adoption and springs on her family the boy her stuffy married sister, Violet, gave away 15 years earlier. (The sisters improbably kept David and Marilyn clueless with a phony study-abroad scheme.) Into this churn, Lombardo adds cancer, infidelity, a heart attack, another unplanned pregnancy, a stillbirth, and an office crush for David. Meanwhile, youngest daughter Grace perpetrates a whopper, and “every day the lie was growing like mold, furring her judgment.” The writing here is silky, if occasionally overwrought. Still, the deft touches—a neighborhood fundraiser for a Little Free Library, a Twilight character as erotic touchstone—delight. The class calibrations are divine even as the utter apolitical whiteness of the Sorenson world becomes hard to fathom.

Characters flip between bottomless self-regard and pitiless self-loathing while, as late as the second-to-last chapter, yet another pleasurable tendril of sisterly malice uncurls.

Pub Date: June 25, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-385-54425-2

Page Count: 544

Publisher: Doubleday

Review Posted Online: March 4, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2019

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet
more