A gleefully and wonderfully odd protagonist eases readers into a bare-bones plot.


Molly Bonamici

Mulhern’s (Assumptions and Other Stories, 2016, etc.) drama covers years in the life of Molly Bonamici, who’s indifferent to death and whose most discernible emotion is emptiness.

There are those who consider Molly weird. Even her own parents, who raised her Roman Catholic, are bothered by the fact that she doesn’t believe in God. As a teenager in 1980, Molly is closest to her Nonna, who recognizes that her granddaughter is a bright, beautiful girl. Molly is intrigued by death, if not outright fascinated, but is disturbed when a reputed faith healer tells her that she’ll be “surrounded by death” throughout her life. Soon thereafter, she witnesses her first dead body, an apparent suicide. This incident doesn’t faze Molly, which is apparent to others who see that she isn’t visibly distraught. The 17-year-old graduates early and heads to Boston University, where death follows: a prank apparently results in a student’s fatal heart attack, and Molly loses someone closer to home. A couple of decades later, Molly is a high school English teacher and self-professed asexual woman. She moves from Boston to Florida with new best friend, gay fitness trainer Gabe Callaghan. The still faithless woman becomes a bit reclusive, but Gabe is determined to make a believer out of her. Molly, however, will soon have an epiphany of a thoroughly different sort. The novel, compiled at least in part of previously published short stories, reads like snippets—though the best ones—from a larger tale. Molly’s apathy toward death isn’t as strange as other characters think, more a curiosity than an obsession. This is likewise true for her religious views; Molly doesn’t reject religion but continually (and interestingly) questions it, like why would God allow horrible things to happen. And she’s forever debating her belief: she’s agnostic, then atheist, then unsure. Mulhern’s narrative hits the occasional standstill, where Molly repeatedly ponders the same issues with Nonna or Gabe. But while she may have a cold exterior, her distinctiveness is an appealing quality and often amusing. Molly, for example, discussing a dead body, tells a store clerk: “[M]aggots are a good source of protein....Do you sell word processors?”

A gleefully and wonderfully odd protagonist eases readers into a bare-bones plot.

Pub Date: Feb. 1, 2016

ISBN: 978-1-5238-0780-2

Page Count: 260

Publisher: CreateSpace

Review Posted Online: Feb. 25, 2016

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet

Dark and unsettling, this novel’s end arrives abruptly even as readers are still moving at a breakneck speed.


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

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet

A strongly felt, if not terribly gripping, sendoff for a Turow favorite nearly 35 years after his appearance in Presumed...

Our Verdict

  • Our Verdict
  • GET IT

  • New York Times Bestseller

  • IndieBound Bestseller


Trying his final case at 85, celebrated criminal defense lawyer Sandy Stern defends a Nobel-winning doctor and longtime friend whose cancer wonder drug saved Stern's life but subsequently led to the deaths of others.

Federal prosecutors are charging the eminent doctor, Kiril Pafko, with murder, fraud, and insider trading. An Argentine émigré like Stern, Pafko is no angel. His counselor is certain he sold stock in the company that produced the drug, g-Livia, before users' deaths were reported. The 78-year-old Nobelist is a serial adulterer whose former and current lovers have strong ties to the case. Working for one final time alongside his daughter and proficient legal partner, Marta, who has announced she will close the firm and retire along with her father following the case, Stern must deal not only with "senior moments" before Chief Judge Sonya "Sonny" Klonsky, but also his physical frailty. While taking a deep dive into the ups and downs of a complicated big-time trial, Turow (Testimony, 2017, etc.) crafts a love letter to his profession through his elegiac appreciation of Stern, who has appeared in all his Kindle County novels. The grandly mannered attorney (his favorite response is "Just so") has dedicated himself to the law at great personal cost. But had he not spent so much of his life inside courtrooms, "He never would have known himself." With its bland prosecutors, frequent focus on technical details like "double-blind clinical trials," and lack of real surprises, the novel likely will disappoint some fans of legal thrillers. But this smoothly efficient book gains timely depth through its discussion of thorny moral issues raised by a drug that can extend a cancer sufferer's life expectancy at the risk of suddenly ending it.

A strongly felt, if not terribly gripping, sendoff for a Turow favorite nearly 35 years after his appearance in Presumed Innocent.

Pub Date: May 12, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-5387-4813-8

Page Count: 448

Publisher: Grand Central Publishing

Review Posted Online: Feb. 10, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2020

Did you like this book?