Strikingly deft and nuanced; a writer to watch.

THE BALCONY

In an assured debut, a delicate fretwork of lives, relationships, and secrets is built up over the course of a century—and linked by a manor in an ugly French village.

Opening in 1992 with Brigitte, an American hired to work as an au pair in Benneville, a community outside Paris, this unusual novel in stories introduces a place—the Léger country estate—which will act as the connective tissue to 10 overlapping narratives. This "bourgeois manoir with a façade of buttery limestone that stretched three stories into slate turrets and gables" has weathered architectural looting, wars, suicide, and sacrifice and has been home to entrepreneurs and deserters as well as the people who worked for them. Brigitte finds herself attracted to current owner Hugo, a damaged academic, but this is just one single—if significant—moment in a woman’s search for a life trajectory that fits. An intriguing mix of relationships—flawed men, unsettled women, struggling parents and partners—follows, arranged in nonchronological order, with characters recurring, often moving from a glancing reference to center stage. In “A Place in the Country” we meet the Havre family, whose generations, and scars, crop up in several chapters. Paterfamilias Henri, the village schoolmaster and a hero of the World War II Resistance, is as cold and bullying to his grandsons, Alexis and Emmanuel, as he was to his schizophrenic son, Guy. Alexis, whose adult choices are shaped by a childhood encounter with his uncle Guy, reappears in “Half Life,” and Emmanuel’s daughter, Adèle, appears in both “Tintin in the Antilles,” an insightful snapshot of aging, and the weaker “Ants.” While the author affectingly composes her characters' individual psychologies in slow dabs of detail, the manor’s physicality supplies permanence, its balcony a witness to two of the darkest episodes, and the surrounding forest a penumbra of mystery and continuity.

Strikingly deft and nuanced; a writer to watch.

Pub Date: March 27, 2018

ISBN: 978-0-316-55467-1

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: Dec. 24, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2018

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The emotions run high, the conversations run deep, and the relationships ebb and flow with grace.

REGRETTING YOU

When tragedy strikes, a mother and daughter forge a new life.

Morgan felt obligated to marry her high school sweetheart, Chris, when she got pregnant with their daughter, Clara. But she secretly got along much better with Chris’ thoughtful best friend, Jonah, who was dating her sister, Jenny. Now her life as a stay-at-home parent has left her feeling empty but not ungrateful for what she has. Jonah and Jenny eventually broke up, but years later they had a one-night stand and Jenny got pregnant with their son, Elijah. Now Jonah is back in town, engaged to Jenny, and working at the local high school as Clara’s teacher. Clara dreams of being an actress and has a crush on Miller, who plans to go to film school, but her father doesn't approve. It doesn’t help that Miller already has a jealous girlfriend who stalks him via text from college. But Clara and Morgan’s home life changes radically when Chris and Jenny are killed in an accident, revealing long-buried secrets and forcing Morgan to reevaluate the life she chose when early motherhood forced her hand. Feeling betrayed by the adults in her life, Clara marches forward, acting both responsible and rebellious as she navigates her teenage years without her father and her aunt, while Jonah and Morgan's relationship evolves in the wake of the accident. Front-loaded with drama, the story leaves plenty of room for the mother and daughter to unpack their feelings and decide what’s next.

The emotions run high, the conversations run deep, and the relationships ebb and flow with grace.

Pub Date: Dec. 10, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-5420-1642-1

Page Count: 400

Publisher: Montlake Romance

Review Posted Online: Oct. 14, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 2019

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This quirky, complex, and frustrating heroine will win hearts and challenge assumptions about family dysfunction and mental...

WITHOUT MERIT

With the help of unusual houseguests, a teenage girl who tries to rebel by airing her family’s dirty laundry cleans up her act instead.

To Merit Voss, the white picket fence around her house is the only thing normal about the family it contains. She lives in a converted church with her father, stepmother, and siblings, and although her parents have been divorced for years, her mother still lives in the basement, struggling with social anxiety. No one in her family is religious, so her brother Utah updates the church marquee every day with fun facts instead of Bible verses. Merit is less accomplished than her identical twin sister, Honor, so she likes to buy used trophies to celebrate her failures. But Honor seems to have a fetish for terminally ill boys, so it’s a surprise to Merit when Sagan, who is perfectly healthy, kisses Merit after mistaking her for her sister—and then reveals that he’s living in their house. Soon they have another houseguest, Luck, whose connection to the family makes Merit even more convinced she’s living in a madhouse. So why is everyone so angry at her? Merit has a love/hate relationship with her sister. She's conflicted by her feelings for Sagan, who leaves intriguing sketches (illustrated by Adams) around the house for her to decipher. She’s simultaneously intrigued and repulsed by Luck, who annoys her with his questions but is also her confidant. She can’t sit through dinner without starting a fight; she’s been skipping school for days; and when she decides to give her whole family the silent treatment, Sagan is the only one who notices. In fact, he and Luck are the only people in the house who recognize Merit’s quirks for what they really are—cries for help. And when Merit takes drastic measures to be heard, the fallout is both worse and much better than she feared. Hoover (It Ends With Us, 2016, etc.) does an excellent job of revealing the subtle differences between healthy teenage rebellion and clinical depression, and Merit’s aha moment is worthy of every trophy in her collection.

This quirky, complex, and frustrating heroine will win hearts and challenge assumptions about family dysfunction and mental illness in a life-affirming story that redefines what’s normal.

Pub Date: Oct. 3, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-5011-7062-1

Page Count: 384

Publisher: Atria

Review Posted Online: Aug. 6, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2017

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