An imaginatively woven collection of tales with the occasional overembellishment.

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MOTHER'S DAY AND OTHER STORIES

A volume of interconnected short stories centers on Mother’s Day.

Six tales are offered in this promising debut. The opening piece, plainly titled “Mother’s Day Alice’s Story,” introduces Alice Miller, a “lonely middle-aged artist.” It is the first Mother’s Day since her mom died. Sitting in a cafe, she sadly sends a text message, “Happy Mother’s Day, Mom,” and then dismisses it as pathetic. The message is received by Jamal, a security officer who has been assigned Alice’s mother’s old number. When Alice is involved in an accident, events take an unexpected turn. The next story adopts a similar format with Neal Amato, an assistant manager at a New Jersey restaurant, also sending a text to his dead mother, which is read by Liz, who works on the metro desk at the New York Times. In “Mike’s Weekend,” Mike Bloom plans a perfect birthday for his wife. “Mingo Fishtrap 2005” focuses on siblings going to see a band to let off steam; “Jamal’s Story” examines the character’s life after his discharge from the Army; and “Mom’s” features teenage friends drinking illicitly. Schwartz thoughtfully addresses real life dilemmas that other writers may overlook, such as the question of deleting a parent as a cellphone contact after the loved one’s death: “There at the top of her favorites list was the name ‘Mom.’ She had not had the will to delete the contact. Would anyone?” His use of a question is particularly effective here, provoking uncomfortable reflections from readers. It is also compelling to learn how each of the tales is interlinked—which the author reveals incrementally. Schwartz’s failing is that he does not trust readers’ intuitions. The author has a habit of telegraphing what his characters have learned from their journeys. For example, with regard to Jamal: “He would be educated regarding the human condition and help him see the world as it really is.” An epilogue that ties the various characters even tighter together is also unnecessary and makes for an excessively neat conclusion. The first two stories in the book are by far the most impactful, but this remains a thought-provoking and elegantly conceived work that will leave readers wanting more.

An imaginatively woven collection of tales with the occasional overembellishment.

Pub Date: March 21, 2020

ISBN: N/A

Page Count: 106

Publisher: Self

Review Posted Online: Oct. 19, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2020

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A story with both comedy and heartbreak sure to please Backman fans.

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ANXIOUS PEOPLE

Eight people become unlikely friends during a hostage situation created by an inept bank robber.

In a town in Sweden, a desperate parent turns to bank robbery to help pay the rent. Unfortunately, the target turns out to be a cashless bank, which means that no robbery can take place. In an attempt to flee the police, the would-be perpetrator runs into a nearby apartment building and interrupts an open house, causing the would-be buyers to assume they're being held hostage. After the situation has ended with an absent bank robber and blood on the carpet, a father-and-son police pair work through maddening interviews with the witnesses: the ridiculous realtor; an older couple who renovates and sells apartments in an effort to stay busy; a bickering young couple expecting their first child; a well-off woman interested only in the view from the balcony of a significant bridge in her life; an elderly woman missing her husband as New Year’s Eve approaches; and, absurdly, an actor dressed as a rabbit hired to disrupt the showing and drive down the apartment price. Backman’s latest novel focuses on how a shared event can change the course of multiple people’s lives even in times of deep and ongoing anxiousness. The observer/narrator is winding and given to tangents and, in early moments, might distract a bit too much from the strongly drawn characters. But the story gains energy and sureness as it develops, resulting in moments of insight and connection between its numerous amiable characters.

A story with both comedy and heartbreak sure to please Backman fans.

Pub Date: Sept. 8, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-5011-6083-7

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Atria

Review Posted Online: June 17, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2020

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A gentle love story perfect for anyone looking for love amid personal, family, and financial crises.

THE LOST AND FOUND BOOKSHOP

With her promotion to vice president of digital inventory at a Sonoma winery, Natalie Harper finally has the financial security she's always wanted, but a sudden tragedy sends her home to rescue her late mother's charming bookstore.

Once in San Francisco, Natalie moves back into her childhood home, an eclectic set of apartments above the bookshop, a home she shares with her grandfather Andrew, who is suffering from dementia and other mysterious ailments. Blythe, Natalie's mother, loved books, but she was not a savvy businesswoman. Natalie arrives to find unpaid bills and back taxes. Housed in the historic Sunrose Building, the bookshop certainly has stories of its own to tell: Originally a saloon and brothel, it was eventually bought by Natalie's great-grandparents, who converted it into a home and apothecary. Luckily, “hammer for hire” Peach Gallagher shows up. Strong and gorgeous, the contractor catches Natalie's eye, and he certainly is drawn to the curly-haired proprietress. But Peach doesn't date clients, and Natalie is gun-shy from her previous relationship. Plus, she's already met Peach’s adorable little girl, Dorothy. Natalie isn't about to break up a marriage, but she doesn’t know Peach is actually divorced. Wiggs skillfully manipulates the stock in trade of a master romance novelist as she orchestrates Peach and Natalie's inevitable love story. To challenge Peach, enter Trevor Dashwood, a gorgeous and wealthy children's book author, whose books have already won Dorothy's heart. Hosting a book signing with Trevor might help the store’s bottom line. Meanwhile, Natalie, Peach, and Andrew find historical artifacts hidden in the Sunrose building’s walls. Will it be enough to save the store?

A gentle love story perfect for anyone looking for love amid personal, family, and financial crises.

Pub Date: July 7, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-06-291409-5

Page Count: 384

Publisher: Morrow/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: April 13, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 2020

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