Desperately contrived, but the bitchiness is fun in small doses.

ALL WE EVER WANTED WAS EVERYTHING

Brown’s fiction debut is a bitter comedy about divorce in California’s Silicon Valley, where apparently men are even more ruthless in marriage than in business.

The same day his pharmaceutical company stock rises meteorically, Paul Miller sends his wife, via messenger, a typed note letting her know that he is leaving her for her tennis partner. Forty-nine-year-old Janice is shocked. She and Paul have been married since she became pregnant in college with their first daughter, Margaret, now 29, and she gave up her dreams to become Paul’s perfect wife—or at least a smashing cook and tennis player. The kind of controlled suburban matron who keeps herself and her home in immaculate condition, Janice doesn’t have a clue about her daughters. After spending most of her childhood overweight and unpopular, 14-year-old Lizzie has recently lost weight and become more popular—or at least busy—since she started having sex with any boy who asks. Margaret, who moved to Los Angeles with her actor boyfriend several years ago, much to her parents’ dismay, has driven the boyfriend away and racked up close to $100,000 in debt running a feminist magazine that even she knows is pretentious twaddle. Learning of the impending divorce, Margaret rushes home not to care for her distraught mother but to escape her creditors. Meanwhile, a distraught Janice starts drinking heavily and buying methamphetamines from the pool guy. Then Margaret discovers that Paul is trying to screw Janice out of her share of his wealth—he even attempts bribing Margaret to testify against her mother in court—and she is galvanized into action. Meanwhile, Lizzie, who has joined a Christian youth group and signed an abstinence oath, realizes she is pregnant. Janice and her daughters bicker and keep secrets from each other but eventually they unite against Paul, who, like most of the male characters, is a total jerk.

Desperately contrived, but the bitchiness is fun in small doses.

Pub Date: May 27, 2008

ISBN: 978-0-385-52401-8

Page Count: 368

Publisher: Spiegel & Grau

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2008

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The best-selling author of tearjerkers like Angel Falls (2000) serves up yet another mountain of mush, topped off with...

SUMMER ISLAND

Talk-show queen takes tumble as millions jeer.

Nora Bridges is a wildly popular radio spokesperson for family-first virtues, but her loyal listeners don't know that she walked out on her husband and teenaged daughters years ago and didn't look back. Now that a former lover has sold racy pix of naked Nora and horny himself to a national tabloid, her estranged daughter Ruby, an unsuccessful stand-up comic in Los Angeles, has been approached to pen a tell-all. Greedy for the fat fee she's been promised, Ruby agrees and heads for the San Juan Islands, eager to get reacquainted with the mom she plans to betray. Once in the family homestead, nasty Ruby alternately sulks and glares at her mother, who is temporarily wheelchair-bound as a result of a post-scandal car crash. Uncaring, Ruby begins writing her side of the story when she's not strolling on the beach with former sweetheart Dean Sloan, the son of wealthy socialites who basically ignored him and his gay brother Eric. Eric, now dying of cancer and also in a wheelchair, has returned to the island. This dismal threesome catch up on old times, recalling their childhood idylls on the island. After Ruby's perfect big sister Caroline shows up, there's another round of heartfelt talk. Nora gradually reveals the truth about her unloving husband and her late father's alcoholism, which led her to seek the approval of others at the cost of her own peace of mind. And so on. Ruby is aghast to discover that she doesn't know everything after all, but Dean offers her subdued comfort. Happy endings await almost everyone—except for readers of this nobly preachy snifflefest.

The best-selling author of tearjerkers like Angel Falls (2000) serves up yet another mountain of mush, topped off with syrupy platitudes about life and love.

Pub Date: March 1, 2001

ISBN: 0-609-60737-5

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Crown

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2001

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

THEN SHE WAS GONE

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

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