Transforming the odd and the homely into something beautiful is both the subject and the accomplishment of this book.


When a woman is left a roomful of giant metal artworks by her long-estranged stepmother, a journey begins.

Both characters who narrate this inspiring novel, spare yet packed with plot and ideas, are from a tiny fictional town in the southern Allegheny Mountains. Jean was married to Leah's father until Leah was 10, when their flourishing bond was severed by divorce. In her 60s, living in the house she grew up in, Jean taught herself welding from YouTube videos and began making towers out of sheet metal, decorating them with oddments trapped in little vitrines and quotes like "I WANT TO BELIEVE IN SOLITUDE AND THE GLORY OF MY INNER HORSEFACE, DON'T YOU?" Inspired by the work and writings of Louise Bourgeois, Jean had "no nerve in the morning if [she] skipped [her] nightly Louise," who "made art seem like something any obsessive loner who craved it could achieve." Leah, Jean's one-time stepdaughter, left town long ago, moving to Peru after college, eventually returning to settle in New York with her husband, Gerardo, and son, Silvestre. As the book opens, she is on her way home for the first time in years, having gotten a call from a man who was living with Jean at the time of her death. It's not an easy journey, with the GPS cutting out in rural Pennsylvania and her Spanish-speaking family receiving hostile attention at a gas station festooned with flags. When they get to Jean's, they find a broken-down neighborhood, a scary man with no front teeth, and what Jean referred to as her Manglements. The end of the book comes in a rush as Novey does the metaphorical equivalent of what Jean saw a man doing at the flea market. "He was shifting the height of the shelf and the glass jars to best catch the sunlight moving through his marbles and the pockets of air between them. After his next tweak, a jar of translucent green marbles caught the light in such a divine way the marbles lit up from within." "That’s Art," Jean tells him. "You made it happen, thank you."

Transforming the odd and the homely into something beautiful is both the subject and the accomplishment of this book.

Pub Date: March 14, 2023

ISBN: 978-0-59-365285-5

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Viking

Review Posted Online: Nov. 29, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2022

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A flabby, fervid melodrama of a high-strung Southern family from Conroy (The Great Santini, The Lords of Discipline), whose penchant for overwriting once again obscures a genuine talent. Tom Wingo is an unemployed South Carolinian football coach whose internist wife is having an affair with a pompous cardiac man. When he hears that his fierce, beautiful twin sister Savannah, a well-known New York poet, has once again attempted suicide, he escapes his present emasculation by flying north to meet Savannah's comely psychiatrist, Susan Lowenstein. Savannah, it turns out, is catatonic, and before the suicide attempt had completely assumed the identity of a dead friend—the implication being that she couldn't stand being a Wingo anymore. Susan (a shrink with a lot of time on her hands) says to Tom, "Will you stay in New York and tell me all you know?" and he does, for nearly 600 mostly-bloated pages of flashbacks depicting The Family Wingo of swampy Colleton County: a beautiful mother, a brutal shrimper father (the Great Santini alive and kicking), and Tom and Savannah's much-admired older brother, Luke. There are enough traumas here to fall an average-sized mental ward, but the biggie centers around Luke, who uses the skills learned as a Navy SEAL in Vietnam to fight a guerrilla war against the installation of a nuclear power plant in Colleton and is killed by the authorities. It's his death that precipitates the nervous breakdown that costs Tom his job, and Savannah, almost, her life. There may be a barely-glimpsed smaller novel buried in all this succotash (Tom's marriage and life as a football coach), but it's sadly overwhelmed by the book's clumsy central narrative device (flashback ad infinitum) and Conroy's pretentious prose style: ""There are no verdicts to childhood, only consequences, and the bright freight of memory. I speak now of the sun-struck, deeply lived-in days of my past.

Pub Date: Oct. 21, 1986

ISBN: 0553381547

Page Count: 686

Publisher: Houghton Mifflin

Review Posted Online: Oct. 30, 2013

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 1986

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A book begging to be read on the beach, with the sun warming the sand and salt in the air: pure escapism.


Three woman who join together to rent a large space along the beach in Los Angeles for their stores—a gift shop, a bakery, and a bookstore—become fast friends as they each experience the highs, and lows, of love.

Bree is a friendly but standoffish bookstore owner who keeps everyone she knows at arm’s length, from guys she meets in bars to her friends. Mikki is a settled-in-her-routines divorced mother of two, happily a mom, gift-shop owner, and co-parent with her ex-husband, Perry. And Ashley is a young, very-much-in-love bakery owner specializing in muffins who devotes herself to giving back to the community through a nonprofit that helps community members develop skills and find jobs. When the women meet drooling over a boardwalk storefront that none of them can afford on her own, a plan is hatched to divide the space in three, and a friendship—and business partnership—is born. An impromptu celebration on the beach at sunset with champagne becomes a weekly touchpoint to their lives as they learn more about each other and themselves. Their friendship blossoms as they help each other, offering support, hard truths, and loving backup. Author Mallery has created a delightful story of friendship between three women that also offers a variety of love stories as they fall in love, make mistakes, and figure out how to be the best—albeit still flawed—versions of themselves. The men are similarly flawed and human. While the story comes down clearly on the side of all-encompassing love, Mallery has struck a careful balance: There is just enough sex to be spicy, just enough swearing to be naughty, and just enough heartbreak to avoid being cloying.

A book begging to be read on the beach, with the sun warming the sand and salt in the air: pure escapism.

Pub Date: May 31, 2022

ISBN: 978-0-778-38608-7

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Harlequin MIRA

Review Posted Online: March 16, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2022

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