Predictable, but sweet-natured and mildly absorbing.

LOVE WATER MEMORY

Rescued from San Francisco Bay with no memory of her former life, Lucie Walker tries to reconnect with her fiance and unearth the dark secrets from her past.

Amnesia, that improbable staple of countless mysteries, here receives a 21st-century makeover as “dissociative fugue”—which means, explains the friendly doctor at San Francisco General, “it was brought on by some kind of emotional trauma.” That’s easy to believe when Lucie’s fiance, Grady Goodall, comes to take her home to Seattle, twitching with anxiety and racked with guilt about the big fight they had right before Lucie disappeared. It quickly becomes clear, as Lucie tries to jog her memories by talking with Grady and the neighbors she once shunned, that her pre-fugue self was an unpleasant control freak. Old Lucie, a high-tech headhunter, latched onto Grady while recruiting him for his product development job at Boeing and ran his life ever after: directing what he ate, how he dressed and how they lived—which meant talking as little as possible about Lucie’s dead parents, her hated Aunt Helen or the three scars on her thigh that look like cigarette burns. Insecure Grady, son of an impoverished Native American fisherman who died when he was 8, was fine with being bossed around, until Lucie got so obsessive about planning their wedding that he lost his temper and provoked a screaming attack that he fears (correctly) set off her dissociative fugue. The bulk of the novel shows New Lucie, way nicer than she was before, agonizing over whether Grady still loves her (which is blindingly obvious to everyone but her) and slowly reconstructing her past with the reluctant help of Aunt Helen. Heavy hinting makes the final revelation unsurprising, though still shocking. Nor is there much unexpected about either Lucie or Grady, though both are agreeable enough to hold readers’ attention through Shortridge’s undemanding fifth novel.

Predictable, but sweet-natured and mildly absorbing.

Pub Date: April 2, 2013

ISBN: 978-1-4516-8483-4

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Gallery Books/Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: Jan. 3, 2013

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2013

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Finding positivity in negative pregnancy-test results, this depiction of a marriage in crisis is nearly perfect.

ALL YOUR PERFECTS

Named for an imperfectly worded fortune cookie, Hoover's (It Ends with Us, 2016, etc.) latest compares a woman’s relationship with her husband before and after she finds out she’s infertile.

Quinn meets her future husband, Graham, in front of her soon-to-be-ex-fiance’s apartment, where Graham is about to confront him for having an affair with his girlfriend. A few years later, they are happily married but struggling to conceive. The “then and now” format—with alternating chapters moving back and forth in time—allows a hopeful romance to blossom within a dark but relatable dilemma. Back then, Quinn’s bad breakup leads her to the love of her life. In the now, she’s exhausted a laundry list of fertility options, from IVF treatments to adoption, and the silver lining is harder to find. Quinn’s bad relationship with her wealthy mother also prevents her from asking for more money to throw at the problem. But just when Quinn’s narrative starts to sound like she’s writing a long Facebook rant about her struggles, she reveals the larger issue: Ever since she and Graham have been trying to have a baby, intimacy has become a chore, and she doesn’t know how to tell him. Instead, she hopes the contents of a mystery box she’s kept since their wedding day will help her decide their fate. With a few well-timed silences, Hoover turns the fairly common problem of infertility into the more universal problem of poor communication. Graham and Quinn may or may not become parents, but if they don’t talk about their feelings, they won’t remain a couple, either.

Finding positivity in negative pregnancy-test results, this depiction of a marriage in crisis is nearly perfect.

Pub Date: July 17, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-5011-7159-8

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Atria

Review Posted Online: May 1, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2018

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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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