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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A novel of capacious intelligence and plenty of page-turning emotional drama.

BEAUTIFUL WORLD, WHERE ARE YOU

Two erudite Irishwomen struggle with romance against the backdrop of the Trump/Brexit years.

Eileen and Alice have been friends since their university days. Now in their late 20s, Eileen works as an editorial assistant at a literary magazine in Dublin. Alice is a famous novelist recovering from a psychiatric hospitalization and staying in a large empty rectory on the west coast of Ireland. Since Alice’s breakdown, the two have kept in touch primarily through lengthy emails that alternate between recounting their romantic lives and working through their angst about the current social and political climate. (In one of these letters, Eileen laments that the introduction of plastic has ruined humanity’s aesthetic calibration and in the next paragraph, she’s eager to know if Alice is sleeping with the new man she’s met.) Eileen has spent many years entangled in an occasionally intimate friendship with her teenage crush, a slightly older man named Simon who is a devout Catholic and who works in the Irish Parliament as an assistant. As Eileen and Simon’s relationship becomes more complicated, Alice meets Felix, a warehouse worker who is unsure what to make of her fame and aloofness. In many ways, this book, a work of both philosophy and romantic tragicomedy about the ways people love and hurt one another, is exactly the type of book one would expect Rooney to write out of the political environment of the past few years. But just because the novel is so characteristic of Rooney doesn’t take anything away from its considerable power. As Alice herself puts it, “Humanity on the cusp of extinction [and] here I am writing another email about sex and friendship. What else is there to live for?”

A novel of capacious intelligence and plenty of page-turning emotional drama.

Pub Date: Sept. 7, 2021

ISBN: 978-0-374-60260-4

Page Count: 368

Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux

Review Posted Online: June 16, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 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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