A bit too lugubrious for an elegy, a bit too lighthearted for a caper: still, a serviceable account of a young woman finding...

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SOMETHING RISING (LIGHT AND SWIFT)

Second-novelist Kimmel (The Solace of Leaving Early, 2002, etc.) describes a young pool hustler’s coming of age in rural 1980s Indiana.

Cassandra (“Cassie”) Claiborne has a father bad enough to be hated but too memorable to be forgotten. Jimmy Claiborne met Cassie’s mother Laura in a diner in New Orleans, where Laura worked as a waitress. Genteel and quintessentially southern, Laura comes across as a tragicomic figure in the tradition of Blanche DuBois, forever pining for the childhood innocence she lost when she made her one great mistake: falling in love with Jimmy. Throwing over any number of other badly smitten suitors, she moved north with him to Indiana, where he almost immediately began abandoning her for weeks or months at a time as he pursued his passion for gambling in general and pool especially. Cassie and her older sister Belle grew up used to their father’s long absences and their mother’s rambling laments for the world that she left behind in New Orleans. Temperamentally different (Belle is intellectual and timid, Cassie forceful and ingenious in a tomboyish kind of way), the two sisters are united in their resentment of Jimmy, who eventually shacks up with his trailer-trash girlfriend and files for divorce after the fact. Cassie emulates her father in one respect only: pool, which she learned at an early age from watching him hustle. By the time she’s in her teens, Cassie is more than her father’s equal, and she uses her skill not only to support her abandoned mother and sister but (in a revenge match equal to anything in The Hustler) to repay Jimmy for all his years of neglect.

A bit too lugubrious for an elegy, a bit too lighthearted for a caper: still, a serviceable account of a young woman finding her own way in a twilit world of regret and loss.

Pub Date: Jan. 6, 2004

ISBN: 0-7432-4775-2

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Free Press

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 2003

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Print the bumper sticker—"I'd Rather Be Living in an Elin Hilderbrand Novel."

WHAT HAPPENS IN PARADISE

Back to St. John with the Steele family, whose tragic loss and horrifying discovery have yielded an exciting new life.

In Winter in Paradise (2018), Hilderbrand introduced Midwestern magazine editor Irene Steele and her adult sons, Baker and Cash, then swept them off to the island of St. John after paterfamilias Russell Steele was killed in a helicopter crash with his secret mistress, leaving a preteen love child and a spectacular villa. While the first volume left a lot up in the air about Russell’s dubious business dealings and the manner of his death, this installment fills in many of the blanks. All three Steeles made new friends during their unexpected visit to the island in January, and now that’s resulted in job offers for Irene and Cash and the promise of new love for single dad Baker. Why not move to St. John and into the empty villa? Mother, sons, and grandson do just that. Both the dead mistress’s diary and a cadre of FBI agents begin to provide answers to the questions left dangling in Volume 1, and romantic prospects unfold for all three Steeles. Nevertheless, as a wise person once said, shit happens, combusting the family’s prospects and leading to a cliffhanger ending. On the way, there will be luscious island atmosphere, cute sundresses, frozen drinks, “slender baguette sandwiches with duck, arugula and fig jam,” lemongrass sugar cookies, and numerous bottles of both Krug and Dom Pérignon, the latter served by a wiseass who offers one of his trademark tasting notes: “This storied bubbly has notes of Canadian pennies, your dad’s Members Only jacket, and…‘We Are Never, Ever, Ever Getting Back Together.’ ” You'll be counting the days until you can return to the Virgin Islands with these characters in the concluding volume of the trilogy.

Print the bumper sticker—"I'd Rather Be Living in an Elin Hilderbrand Novel."

Pub Date: Oct. 8, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-316-43557-4

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: Aug. 19, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2019

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Honeyman’s endearing debut is part comic novel, part emotional thriller, and part love story.

ELEANOR OLIPHANT IS COMPLETELY FINE

A very funny novel about the survivor of a childhood trauma.

At 29, Eleanor Oliphant has built an utterly solitary life that almost works. During the week, she toils in an office—don’t inquire further; in almost eight years no one has—and from Friday to Monday she makes the time go by with pizza and booze. Enlivening this spare existence is a constant inner monologue that is cranky, hilarious, deadpan, and irresistible. Eleanor Oliphant has something to say about everything. Riding the train, she comments on the automated announcements: “I wondered at whom these pearls of wisdom were aimed; some passing extraterrestrial, perhaps, or a yak herder from Ulan Bator who had trekked across the steppes, sailed the North Sea, and found himself on the Glasgow-Edinburgh service with literally no prior experience of mechanized transport to call upon.” Eleanor herself might as well be from Ulan Bator—she’s never had a manicure or a haircut, worn high heels, had anyone visit her apartment, or even had a friend. After a mysterious event in her childhood that left half her face badly scarred, she was raised in foster care, spent her college years in an abusive relationship, and is now, as the title states, perfectly fine. Her extreme social awkwardness has made her the butt of nasty jokes among her colleagues, which don’t seem to bother her much, though one notices she is stockpiling painkillers and becoming increasingly obsessed with an unrealistic crush on a local musician. Eleanor’s life begins to change when Raymond, a goofy guy from the IT department, takes her for a potential friend, not a freak of nature. As if he were luring a feral animal from its hiding place with a bit of cheese, he gradually brings Eleanor out of her shell. Then it turns out that shell was serving a purpose.

Honeyman’s endearing debut is part comic novel, part emotional thriller, and part love story.

Pub Date: May 9, 2017

ISBN: 978-0-7352-2068-3

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Pamela Dorman/Viking

Review Posted Online: Jan. 23, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2017

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