A harrowing domestic drama full of heart.

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LOVE AFTER LOVE

A found family attempts to mend their individual and shared wounds.

This novel by Trinidadian author Persaud (If I Never Went Home, 2013), winner of the 2017 Commonwealth Short Story Prize, explores self-harm, sexuality, trauma, loneliness, and the idea of home. In the opening chapter, Betty, a young mother, is being physically abused by her husband. After his abrupt death pages later, she says: “That man only gave love you could feel. He cuff you down? Honeymoon. He give you a black eye? True love in your tail....He put you in hospital for a week? Love will stay the course. He take the knife and stab your leg? Until death do us part.” Years later, Betty invites her colleague Mr. Chetan to live with her and Solo, her adolescent son, as a platonic lodger. As the three of them get to know each other, they create a stable and loving household. After Mr. Chetan shares his deepest secret with Betty, she decides to confess her own—only to realize Solo has overheard the devastating details. The moment upends their family and changes their lives forever. To put space between himself and his mother, Solo embarks on a trip to New York to stay with his paternal uncle. Back in Trinidad, Betty tries to fix the relationship with her son while also finding herself as an individual. Eventually, Mr. Chetan moves out and attempts to live his truth, which puts him in great danger. As the years pass, the three of them grapple with the literal and figurative distance between them. Broken into three parts, the novel oscillates among the three characters' points of view. Writing in vibrant Trinidadian dialect, Persaud renders her characters with great empathy and care. If the novel’s structure feels a bit uneven (with the second section dragging a bit), the ending gives readers some much-needed relief.

A harrowing domestic drama full of heart.

Pub Date: April 14, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-593-15756-5

Page Count: 336

Publisher: One World/Random House

Review Posted Online: Jan. 13, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2020

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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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ANIMAL FARM

A FAIRY STORY

A modern day fable, with modern implications in a deceiving simplicity, by the author of Dickens. Dali and Others (Reynal & Hitchcock, p. 138), whose critical brilliance is well adapted to this type of satire. This tells of the revolt on a farm, against humans, when the pigs take over the intellectual superiority, training the horses, cows, sheep, etc., into acknowledging their greatness. The first hints come with the reading out of a pig who instigated the building of a windmill, so that the electric power would be theirs, the idea taken over by Napoleon who becomes topman with no maybes about it. Napoleon trains the young puppies to be his guards, dickers with humans, gradually instigates a reign of terror, and breaks the final commandment against any animal walking on two legs. The old faithful followers find themselves no better off for food and work than they were when man ruled them, learn their final disgrace when they see Napoleon and Squealer carousing with their enemies... A basic statement of the evils of dictatorship in that it not only corrupts the leaders, but deadens the intelligence and awareness of those led so that tyranny is inevitable. Mr. Orwell's animals exist in their own right, with a narrative as individual as it is apt in political parody.

Pub Date: Aug. 26, 1946

ISBN: 0452277507

Page Count: 114

Publisher: Harcourt, Brace

Review Posted Online: Nov. 2, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 1946

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