A thoughtful and gripping family tale that will haunt readers long after finishing it.

HE GETS THAT FROM ME

A novel takes a deep dive into what goes wrong—and right—between a surrogate mother and the gay couple whose fertilized eggs she carries.

Donovan Gallo-Rigsdale and Chip Rigsdale have a solid marriage and now really want children. They engage Maggie Wingate to carry their fertilized eggs to term. This she does; all goes smoothly; and Donovan and Chip become the proud parents of Kai and Teddy. But a DNA test done some years later shows no genetic connection between Donovan and Kai. The egg he fertilized did not attach itself, and Kai is in fact the son of Maggie and her husband, Nick, conceived shortly after she accepted the donor eggs. This is extremely rare but is possible. To say that this news is cataclysmic is an understatement. Donovan and Chip have proved to be wonderful parents, but so are Maggie and Nick. The real tragedy—and strength—of this riveting story is that there are no villains here. The battle over Kai begins, the point of view toggling between Maggie and Donovan. Friedland is a very talented writer who creates rounded characters and gets deep into their heads: “The window” in Maggie’s brain “becomes a door, then a long hallway…into an enormous stadium, an arena, filled with” a certain dawning understanding. Maggie understands how much Donovan must love Kai, but the child is her own flesh and blood, and she and Nick have always wanted a brother for their son, Wyatt. Donovan has the added fear that the judge overseeing the case might be homophobic. But Donovan is no less of a fighter. And Donovan and Maggie are clashing not over a pet or a painting but a sensitive and very bright human being. It would seem that Kai is just as torn as his parents. Indeed, the underlying question in a case like this has to be what really, besides biology, defines a parent. (It is hard to imagine a better novel for a book club discussion.) The conclusion to all this comes with an absolutely stunning revelation.

A thoughtful and gripping family tale that will haunt readers long after finishing it.

Pub Date: Sept. 14, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-68-463097-4

Page Count: 304

Publisher: SparkPress

Review Posted Online: June 3, 2021

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If novelists are auditioning to play God, Hilderbrand gets the part.

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GOLDEN GIRL

From the greenroom of the afterlife—make that Benjamin Moore "Parsley Snips" green—a newly dead Nantucket novelist watches life unfold without her.

In her 27th novel, Hilderbrand gives herself an alter ego—beloved beach-novel author Vivian Howe—sends her out for a morning jog, and immediately kills her off. A hit-and-run driver leaves Vivi dead by the side of the road, where her son's best friend discovers her body—or was he responsible for the accident? Vivi doesn't know, nor does she know yet that her daughter Willa is pregnant, or that her daughter Carson is having a terribly ill-advised affair, or that her son, Leo, has a gnawing secret, or that her ex is getting tired of the girl he dumped her for. She will discover all this and more as she watches one last summer on Nantucket play out under the tutelage of Martha, her "Person," who receives her in the boho-chic waiting room of the Beyond. Hermès-scarved Martha explains that Vivi will have three nudges—three chances to change the course of events on Earth and prevent her bereaved loved ones from making life-altering mistakes. She will also get to watch the publication of what will be her last novel, titled Golden Girl, natch, and learn the answers to two questions: Will the secret about her own life she buried in this novel come to light (who cares, really—she's dead now), and will it hit No. 1 on the New York Times bestseller list (now there's an interesting question). She'll also get to see that one of her biggest wrongs is posthumously righted and that her kids have learned her most important lesson. As Willa says to Carson, "You know how she treats the characters in her books? She gives them flaws, she portrays them doing horrible things—but the reader loves them anyway. Because Mom loves them. Because they’re human.”

If novelists are auditioning to play God, Hilderbrand gets the part.

Pub Date: June 1, 2021

ISBN: 978-0-31642008-2

Page Count: 384

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: May 5, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2021

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Light on suspense but still a solid page-turner.

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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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