More meditation than page-turner, a coming-of-age tale with a twist.

GIRL IN THE WALLS

After a tragedy, a young Louisiana girl returns to her former home, though there's another family already living in it.

After a car accident leaves 11-year-old Elise on her own, she finds herself wandering off from the foster home where she's been placed and back to the beloved house she grew up in, a mazelike structure that her parents were always working on. She finds an unlocked door and makes herself at home again. The only problem? Elise's family had moved out a few months earlier, and the house is now owned by the Mason family: Laura, Nick, and teenagers Marshall and Eddie. While the parents seem oblivious to anything going on, Eddie notices a presence in his room while Marshall tries to track down who ate the food he put aside for himself. How long can a girl secreted in the walls keep her presence hidden, and who might seek her out? Split into five parts, Gnuse’s debut tale is tense but not a thriller. There is always the threat of discovery hanging in the air, but the story focuses more on meandering meditations on Elise’s coping (or lack thereof) with the loss of her parents, Eddie’s vague differences from others his age, or Nick and Laura’s marital problems. Gnuse explores interesting ideas about masculinity as Marshall and Eddie attempt to “man up” and take care of their hidden-person problem in the face of their parents’ disbelief. As the situation spirals out of control for them, there are some genuinely frightening moments. However, despite the anxiety induced by the title, the plot is quite stagnant, mostly revolving around the fact that there is, indeed, a girl in the walls. A reader looking for more of a cat-and-mouse game will be disappointed.

More meditation than page-turner, a coming-of-age tale with a twist.

Pub Date: May 11, 2021

ISBN: 978-0-06-303180-7

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Ecco/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: March 17, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2021

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Light on suspense but still a solid page-turner.

THE LAST THING HE TOLD ME

When a devoted husband and father disappears, his wife and daughter set out to find him.

Hannah Hall is deeply in love with her husband of one year, Owen Michaels. She’s also determined to win over his 16-year-old daughter, Bailey, who has made it very clear that she’s not thrilled with her new stepmother. Despite the drama, the family is mostly a happy one. They live in a lovely houseboat in Sausalito; Hannah is a woodturner whose handmade furniture brings in high-dollar clientele; and Owen works for The Shop, a successful tech firm. Their lives are shattered, however, when Hannah receives a note saying “Protect her” and can’t reach Owen by phone. Then there’s the bag full of cash Bailey finds in her school locker and the shocking news that The Shop’s CEO has been taken into custody. Hannah learns that the FBI has been investigating the firm for about a year regarding some hot new software they took to market before it was fully functional, falsifying their financial statements. Hannah refuses to believe her husband is involved in the fraud, and a U.S. marshal assigned to the case claims Owen isn’t a suspect. Hannah doesn’t know whom to trust, though, and she and Bailey resolve to root out the clues that might lead to Owen. They must also learn to trust one another. Hannah’s narrative alternates past and present, detailing her early days with Owen alongside her current hunt for him, and author Dave throws in a touch of danger and a few surprises. But what really drives the story is the evolving nature of Hannah and Bailey’s relationship, which is by turns poignant and frustrating but always realistic.

Light on suspense but still a solid page-turner.

Pub Date: May 4, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-5011-7134-5

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: Feb. 10, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2021

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For devoted Hannah fans in search of a good cry.

THE FOUR WINDS

The miseries of the Depression and Dust Bowl years shape the destiny of a Texas family.

“Hope is a coin I carry: an American penny, given to me by a man I came to love. There were times in my journey when I felt as if that penny and the hope it represented were the only things that kept me going.” We meet Elsa Wolcott in Dalhart, Texas, in 1921, on the eve of her 25th birthday, and wind up with her in California in 1936 in a saga of almost unrelieved woe. Despised by her shallow parents and sisters for being sickly and unattractive—“too tall, too thin, too pale, too unsure of herself”—Elsa escapes their cruelty when a single night of abandon leads to pregnancy and forced marriage to the son of Italian immigrant farmers. Though she finds some joy working the land, tending the animals, and learning her way around Mama Rose's kitchen, her marriage is never happy, the pleasures of early motherhood are brief, and soon the disastrous droughts of the 1930s drive all the farmers of the area to despair and starvation. Elsa's search for a better life for her children takes them out west to California, where things turn out to be even worse. While she never overcomes her low self-esteem about her looks, Elsa displays an iron core of character and courage as she faces dust storms, floods, hunger riots, homelessness, poverty, the misery of migrant labor, bigotry, union busting, violent goons, and more. The pedantic aims of the novel are hard to ignore as Hannah embodies her history lesson in what feels like a series of sepia-toned postcards depicting melodramatic scenes and clichéd emotions.

For devoted Hannah fans in search of a good cry.

Pub Date: Feb. 9, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-2501-7860-2

Page Count: 464

Publisher: St. Martin's

Review Posted Online: Nov. 18, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2020

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