A sometimes-engaging but ultimately unconvincing portrait of how a mental health crisis affects a family.

NOISE

A NOVEL

A teenager struggles with schizophrenia in a dysfunctional household in Everist’s novel.

Zack Ewing is a teenager, headed off to college, who’s a talented writer and shy and nervous around his parents and peers. From the earliest stages of the novel, however, Everist drops clues that not all is well in the protagonist’s household. His father, Carl Ewing, a man who “never forgot a grudge,” bosses his wife, Sheila, around and is frustrated that his son won’t follow him into the homebuilding business. As his marriage to Sheila crumbles, he remains boorish and oblivious, and his actions include burning his son’s short stories out of anger at what he perceives as the boy’s sensitivity. There’s a weakly developed subplot involving the unusual death of Carl’s former business associate, but it’s Carl’s cruel behavior toward his family members that drives the plot. He insists that his son’s diagnosed schizophrenia is somehow the result of drugs, particularly marijuana, while his own actions indicate increasing instability. Meanwhile, Sheila’s confusion surrounding her son’s deteriorating mental health serves as an intriguing emotional counterpoint, but she remains absent for large sections of the novel, and a plotline about her reaching out to a former high school crush largely fizzles. The story’s most effective scenes involve Zack’s manic episodes, which are presented with an eerie attention to detail as he tries to make sense of his psychiatrist’s and his caring uncle’s advice. As the novel rushes toward its climax, Everist jumps between Zack’s mental health battles and the much less compelling story of Carl and Sheila’s marriage, and the unnecessary use of time jumps does little to foreground the novel’s most intriguing elements.

A sometimes-engaging but ultimately unconvincing portrait of how a mental health crisis affects a family.

Pub Date: Nov. 14, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-73491-032-2

Page Count: 274

Publisher: Logtown Press

Review Posted Online: April 9, 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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A whimsical fantasy about learning what’s important in life.

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THE MIDNIGHT LIBRARY

An unhappy woman who tries to commit suicide finds herself in a mysterious library that allows her to explore new lives.

How far would you go to address every regret you ever had? That’s the question at the heart of Haig’s latest novel, which imagines the plane between life and death as a vast library filled with books detailing every existence a person could have. Thrust into this mysterious way station is Nora Seed, a depressed and desperate woman estranged from her family and friends. Nora has just lost her job, and her cat is dead. Believing she has no reason to go on, she writes a farewell note and takes an overdose of antidepressants. But instead of waking up in heaven, hell, or eternal nothingness, she finds herself in a library filled with books that offer her a chance to experience an infinite number of new lives. Guided by Mrs. Elm, her former school librarian, she can pull a book from the shelf and enter a new existence—as a country pub owner with her ex-boyfriend, as a researcher on an Arctic island, as a rock star singing in stadiums full of screaming fans. But how will she know which life will make her happy? This book isn't heavy on hows; you won’t need an advanced degree in quantum physics or string theory to follow its simple yet fantastical logic. Predicting the path Nora will ultimately choose isn’t difficult, either. Haig treats the subject of suicide with a light touch, and the book’s playful tone will be welcome to readers who like their fantasies sweet if a little too forgettable.

A whimsical fantasy about learning what’s important in life.

Pub Date: Sept. 29, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-52-555947-4

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Viking

Review Posted Online: July 14, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2020

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