by Jeff Schwartz ‧ RELEASE DATE: March 21, 2020
An imaginatively woven collection of tales with the occasional overembellishment.
Awards & Accolades
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
Page Count: 106
Review Posted Online: Oct. 19, 2020
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2020
Review Program: Kirkus Indie
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by Susan Mallery ‧ RELEASE DATE: May 31, 2022
A book begging to be read on the beach, with the sun warming the sand and salt in the air: pure escapism.
Three woman who join together to rent a large space along the beach in Los Angeles for their stores—a gift shop, a bakery, and a bookstore—become fast friends as they each experience the highs, and lows, of love.
Bree is a friendly but standoffish bookstore owner who keeps everyone she knows at arm’s length, from guys she meets in bars to her friends. Mikki is a settled-in-her-routines divorced mother of two, happily a mom, gift-shop owner, and co-parent with her ex-husband, Perry. And Ashley is a young, very-much-in-love bakery owner specializing in muffins who devotes herself to giving back to the community through a nonprofit that helps community members develop skills and find jobs. When the women meet drooling over a boardwalk storefront that none of them can afford on her own, a plan is hatched to divide the space in three, and a friendship—and business partnership—is born. An impromptu celebration on the beach at sunset with champagne becomes a weekly touchpoint to their lives as they learn more about each other and themselves. Their friendship blossoms as they help each other, offering support, hard truths, and loving backup. Author Mallery has created a delightful story of friendship between three women that also offers a variety of love stories as they fall in love, make mistakes, and figure out how to be the best—albeit still flawed—versions of themselves. The men are similarly flawed and human. While the story comes down clearly on the side of all-encompassing love, Mallery has struck a careful balance: There is just enough sex to be spicy, just enough swearing to be naughty, and just enough heartbreak to avoid being cloying.A book begging to be read on the beach, with the sun warming the sand and salt in the air: pure escapism.
Pub Date: May 31, 2022
Page Count: 352
Publisher: Harlequin MIRA
Review Posted Online: March 15, 2022
Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2022
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by Kristin Hannah ‧ RELEASE DATE: Feb. 3, 2015
Still, a respectful and absorbing page-turner.
Hannah’s new novel is an homage to the extraordinary courage and endurance of Frenchwomen during World War II.
In 1995, an elderly unnamed widow is moving into an Oregon nursing home on the urging of her controlling son, Julien, a surgeon. This trajectory is interrupted when she receives an invitation to return to France to attend a ceremony honoring passeurs: people who aided the escape of others during the war. Cut to spring, 1940: Viann has said goodbye to husband Antoine, who's off to hold the Maginot line against invading Germans. She returns to tending her small farm, Le Jardin, in the Loire Valley, teaching at the local school and coping with daughter Sophie’s adolescent rebellion. Soon, that world is upended: The Germans march into Paris and refugees flee south, overrunning Viann’s land. Her long-estranged younger sister, Isabelle, who has been kicked out of multiple convent schools, is sent to Le Jardin by Julien, their father in Paris, a drunken, decidedly unpaternal Great War veteran. As the depredations increase in the occupied zone—food rationing, systematic looting, and the billeting of a German officer, Capt. Beck, at Le Jardin—Isabelle’s outspokenness is a liability. She joins the Resistance, volunteering for dangerous duty: shepherding downed Allied airmen across the Pyrenees to Spain. Code-named the Nightingale, Isabelle will rescue many before she's captured. Meanwhile, Viann’s journey from passive to active resistance is less dramatic but no less wrenching. Hannah vividly demonstrates how the Nazis, through starvation, intimidation and barbarity both casual and calculated, demoralized the French, engineering a community collapse that enabled the deportations and deaths of more than 70,000 Jews. Hannah’s proven storytelling skills are ideally suited to depicting such cataclysmic events, but her tendency to sentimentalize undermines the gravitas of this tale.Still, a respectful and absorbing page-turner.
Pub Date: Feb. 3, 2015
Page Count: 448
Publisher: St. Martin's
Review Posted Online: Nov. 19, 2014
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2014
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