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SATURDAY NIGHT AT THE LAKESIDE SUPPER CLUB

A loving ode to supper clubs, the Midwest, and the people there who try their best to make life worth living.

Several generations of a family—and their loves, triumphs, and tragedies—depend on a Minnesota supper club.

Mariel Prager’s past, present, and future is the Lakeside Supper Club on scenic Bear Jaw Lake, Minnesota. Her grandmother Betty loved working there, while Mariel’s mother, Florence, wanted no part in it. When Mariel inherits the restaurant, it’s devastating to Florence, who dreamed of a different future for her daughter. But the Lakeside is where Mariel wants to spend her time, and that’s where she meets her husband, Ned Prager. Ned’s from a restaurant family, too—his father owns Jorby’s, a diner chain that’s rapidly taking over the Midwest and putting family restaurants like the Lakeside out of business. Ned and Mariel clash over their competing dreams for their family—Ned sees a future in Jorby’s, while Mariel can’t imagine life without the Lakeside. But when an unbearable tragedy changes everything in their lives, the Lakeside becomes more important to them than ever—a home, an escape, and a family. The story alternates among characters' points of view, showing how the family restaurants are viewed as gifts, safe places, or burdens by different generations. While Ned’s voice is important, the heart of the book consists of the relationships between the women in the family and their hopes, dreams, and despairs. Stradal, as he did in previous books including The Lager Queen of Minnesota (2019), displays his gift for writing female characters who are fully realized, sometimes unlikable, but always as flawed and compelling as real people. The Midwest setting is written with love and respect, and while the story is often heartbreakingly sad, there’s also real warmth and comfort in Stradal’s writing.

A loving ode to supper clubs, the Midwest, and the people there who try their best to make life worth living.

Pub Date: April 18, 2023

ISBN: 9781984881076

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Pamela Dorman/Viking

Review Posted Online: Feb. 7, 2023

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2023

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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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HAPPY PLACE

A wistfully nostalgic look at endings, beginnings, and loving the people who will always have your back.

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Exes pretend they’re still together for the sake of their friends on their annual summer vacation.

Wyn Connor and Harriet Kilpatrick were the perfect couple—until Wyn dumped Harriet for reasons she still doesn’t fully understand. They’ve been part of the same boisterous friend group since college, and they know that their breakup will devastate the others and make things more than a little awkward. So they keep it a secret from their friends and families—in fact, Harriet barely even admits it to herself, focusing instead on her grueling hours as a surgical resident. She’s ready for a vacation at her happy place—the Maine cottage she and her friends visit every summer. But (surprise!) Wyn is there too, and he and Harriet have to share a (very romantic) room and a bed. Telling the truth about their breakup is out of the question, because the cottage is up for sale, and this is the group’s last hurrah. Determined to make sure everyone has the perfect last trip, Harriet and Wyn resolve to fake their relationship for the week. The problem with this plan, of course, is that Harriet still has major feelings for Wyn—feelings that only get stronger as they pretend to be blissfully in love. As always, Henry’s dialogue is sparkling and the banter between characters is snappy and hilarious. Wyn and Harriet’s relationship, shown both in the past and the present, feels achingly real. Their breakup, as well as their complicated relationships with their own families, adds a twinge of melancholy, as do the relatable growing pains of a group of friends whose lives are taking them in different directions.

A wistfully nostalgic look at endings, beginnings, and loving the people who will always have your back.

Pub Date: April 25, 2023

ISBN: 9780593441275

Page Count: 400

Publisher: Berkley

Review Posted Online: Feb. 23, 2023

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2023

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