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THE FRAGILITY OF LIGHT

A YOUNG WOMAN’S DESCENT INTO MADNESS AND FIGHT FOR RECOVERY

A searing portrait of mental illness and a family trying to stay together.

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In this novel, a young woman enjoys a perfect life—a wonderful husband, an intriguing job, a new home—but things threaten to fall apart after she starts to suffer psychotic episodes.

Everything’s looking up for Joshua Fitzpatrick and Sylvia “Sunny” Zielinski. The two, who hit it off in college, get married the summer after graduation. They’re absolutely smitten, whispering loving thoughts into each other’s ears on the day of their wedding, ready to build a new life together. But the lively wedding ends in disaster when, after a sudden flight of rage, Sunny throws cake at the crowd and flees the party. The next day, her new husband swiftly forgives her wedding-night tantrum, optimistically looking to the great things ahead: Sunny’s new job in publishing, a pet cat, and a home in San Diego. But when Sunny’s grandparents, both Holocaust survivors, succumb to a stroke and old age, she falls into a grief-stricken depression that ends in a sudden break with reality. Sunny believes that she’s being chased by the Gestapo and thinks her boss is a secret Nazi. Lonczak breaks the novel up into nonlinear chapters—narrated by Sunny, her father (Peter), and Joshua—in order to flesh out the protagonist’s backstory. Early on, Joshua lovingly describes Sunny: “She was like a vibrant sunrise peeking through a cloudy sky. She was warmth, light, comfort, and dazzling beauty.” The tale reveals a history of intergenerational family trauma, with both Sunny’s mom and maternal grandmother experiencing similar psychotic episodes. The book is not an easy read. At several points, Sunny makes perilous choices, starving herself and going on the run. She even seems to endanger her half siblings. But the story delivers a sharply written and startling account of a woman and a family put to the test by mental illness—and how they learn to cope and become resilient. The novel’s one flaw involves its pacing: Much of the first 50 pages deals with the rather mundane lead-up to Sunny and Joshua’s wedding, which could have been woven into the tale as flashbacks after the ominous wedding night. But once the harrowing book picks up speed, readers will find it impossible to put down.

A searing portrait of mental illness and a family trying to stay together.

Pub Date: March 2, 2024

ISBN: 9798989648108

Page Count: 446

Publisher: Self

Review Posted Online: Jan. 24, 2024

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2024

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THE WOMEN

A dramatic, vividly detailed reconstruction of a little-known aspect of the Vietnam War.

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A young woman’s experience as a nurse in Vietnam casts a deep shadow over her life.

When we learn that the farewell party in the opening scene is for Frances “Frankie” McGrath’s older brother—“a golden boy, a wild child who could make the hardest heart soften”—who is leaving to serve in Vietnam in 1966, we feel pretty certain that poor Finley McGrath is marked for death. Still, it’s a surprise when the fateful doorbell rings less than 20 pages later. His death inspires his sister to enlist as an Army nurse, and this turn of events is just the beginning of a roller coaster of a plot that’s impressive and engrossing if at times a bit formulaic. Hannah renders the experiences of the young women who served in Vietnam in all-encompassing detail. The first half of the book, set in gore-drenched hospital wards, mildewed dorm rooms, and boozy officers’ clubs, is an exciting read, tracking the transformation of virginal, uptight Frankie into a crack surgical nurse and woman of the world. Her tensely platonic romance with a married surgeon ends when his broken, unbreathing body is airlifted out by helicopter; she throws her pent-up passion into a wild affair with a soldier who happens to be her dead brother’s best friend. In the second part of the book, after the war, Frankie seems to experience every possible bad break. A drawback of the story is that none of the secondary characters in her life are fully three-dimensional: Her dismissive, chauvinistic father and tight-lipped, pill-popping mother, her fellow nurses, and her various love interests are more plot devices than people. You’ll wish you could have gone to Vegas and placed a bet on the ending—while it’s against all the odds, you’ll see it coming from a mile away.

A dramatic, vividly detailed reconstruction of a little-known aspect of the Vietnam War.

Pub Date: Feb. 6, 2024

ISBN: 9781250178633

Page Count: 480

Publisher: St. Martin's

Review Posted Online: Nov. 4, 2023

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2023

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THIS SUMMER WILL BE DIFFERENT

A steamy, romantic summer read with a charming setting.

A florist attempts to avoid her best friend’s brother—and their powerful chemistry—on Prince Edward Island.

When Lucy Ashby visits her best friend Bridget’s family home on Prince Edward Island for the first time, Bridget gives her three rules: Eat your weight in oysters….Leave the city behind. And, most importantly, Don’t fall in love with my brother. Unfortunately for Lucy, she sleeps with Felix basically the second her plane lands, unaware that he’s Bridget’s brother until it’s too late. Lucy has never felt understood or accepted by her immediate family, and Bridget is one of the very few people she allows into her inner circle, so Lucy’s desperate to abide by these rules. And so she and Felix try to avoid each other on every one of Lucy’s visits to PEI over the years. And, of course, they fail spectacularly, always returning to each other when they’re in between relationships. But it’s never been anything serious…Lucy makes sure of that, backing off whenever her emotions feel too strong. In her “real life” back in Toronto, it’s easier for Lucy to avoid thinking of Felix as she runs a busy floral shop, working herself into the ground. But when Bridget asks Lucy to come to PEI for an emergency girls’ trip less than two weeks before Bridget is supposed to get married, Lucy drops everything to be there for her best friend. She doesn’t expect to find Felix there, along with feelings that are stronger and more difficult than ever to ignore. Even more than jeopardizing her relationship with Bridget, Lucy is afraid that giving in to her feelings could ruin the life she’s worked so hard to build. Fortune, the author of hits like Every Summer After (2022), gives readers another refreshingly summery story full of angst, romance, and sex scenes aplenty. The PEI setting is a beautiful backdrop for Lucy and Felix’s secret hookups and Lucy’s journey of self-discovery as she learns how to stand on her own two feet as a business owner, friend, and daughter. In addition to frequent (and welcome) Anne of Green Gables references, there are oysters galore and many sandy, windy scenes that transport readers straight to the island.

A steamy, romantic summer read with a charming setting.

Pub Date: May 7, 2024

ISBN: 9780593638880

Page Count: 368

Publisher: Berkley

Review Posted Online: March 9, 2024

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2024

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