The novel succeeds as both a disquieting tale of ordinary horror and a portrait of a marriage at a tipping point.

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SMALL HOURS

Over 24 increasingly suspenseful hours, a family’s suburban life unravels.

A tense domestic drama, Kitses’ first novel alternates between the points of view of a husband and wife torn apart by what they don’t tell each other. Tom and Helen have moved from Queens to a small town 90 minutes up the Hudson River with their twin 3-year-old daughters, but their life isn’t as bucolic as they had hoped it would be. Though they’re both working hard—Tom at a news wire service and Helen as a freelance graphic designer—they’re having trouble making ends meet, and the town for which they had high hopes turns out to have a seamy underside. As the day goes on, full of frictions major and minor, both husband and wife come close to reaching the breaking point. Tom finds himself in a confrontation with an old lover with whom he has a complicated relationship, while Helen, already simmering with anger, finds herself taking out her feelings on a pair of teenagers she meets in a park, with unfortunate results. Leavened with occasional humor, particularly directed toward the wire service, the novel gradually and inexorably ratchets up its suspense, with each tiny choice that one of the characters makes spiraling out into a path of destructive behavior. Even as the consequences of these choices grow more severe, Kitses keeps them believable so that the reader’s increasing dread can’t be easily dismissed. The author anchors the family’s story in a larger contemporary social reality, in which the actions of the couple are shaped not just by their emotions, but by the “blighted, postindustrial” town where the value of their house is constantly declining, the fact that both Helen and Tom have been edged out of steady jobs into marginal work, and the lack of affordable child care.

The novel succeeds as both a disquieting tale of ordinary horror and a portrait of a marriage at a tipping point.

Pub Date: June 13, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-4555-9852-6

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Grand Central Publishing

Review Posted Online: March 21, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2017

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Well-written and insightful but so heartbreaking that it raises the question of what a reader is looking for in fiction.

DEAR EDWARD

A 12-year-old boy is the sole survivor of a plane crash—a study in before and after.

Edward Adler is moving to California with his adored older brother, Jordan, and their parents: Mom is a scriptwriter for television, Dad is a mathematician who is home schooling his sons. They will get no further than Colorado, where the plane goes down. Napolitano’s (A Good Hard Look, 2011, etc.) novel twins the narrative of the flight from takeoff to impact with the story of Edward’s life over the next six years. Taken in by his mother’s sister and her husband, a childless couple in New Jersey, Edward’s misery is constant and almost impermeable. Unable to bear sleeping in the never-used nursery his aunt and uncle have hastily appointed to serve as his bedroom, he ends up bunking next door, where there's a kid his age, a girl named Shay. This friendship becomes the single strand connecting him to the world of the living. Meanwhile, in alternating chapters, we meet all the doomed airplane passengers, explore their backstories, and learn about their hopes and plans, every single one of which is minutes from obliteration. For some readers, Napolitano’s premise will be too dark to bear, underlining our terrible vulnerability to random events and our inability to protect ourselves or our children from the worst-case scenario while also imagining in exhaustive detail the bleak experience of survival. The people around Edward have no idea how to deal with him; his aunt and uncle try their best to protect him from the horrors of his instant celebrity as Miracle Boy. As one might expect, there is a ray of light for Edward at the end of the tunnel, and for hardier readers this will make Napolitano’s novel a story of hope.

Well-written and insightful but so heartbreaking that it raises the question of what a reader is looking for in fiction.

Pub Date: Jan. 14, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-9848-5478-0

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Dial

Review Posted Online: Oct. 28, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15, 2019

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Intense passion is concealed behind a facade of British modesty in this understated yet blazing story of hearts wounded and...

WE MUST BE BRAVE

This chronicle of an Englishwoman’s life across the middle of the 20th century radiates love and suffering through a caring but incomplete marriage, war, and aching affection for other people’s children.

In scenes lit by small yet plangent detail, Liardet’s U.S. debut offers a slow reveal of a story, piecing together Ellen Calvert’s life in the English village of Upton. Born into a wealthy family, Ellen was 11 in 1932 “when things started disappearing,” the first indication of the financial ruin that would lead to her father’s suicide and the family’s shameful, swift descent into poverty and hunger, leavened only by the unspoken kindness of a small local community. Ellen emerges from this emotional crucible a determined, clearheaded, reserved young woman who recognizes, at 18, that love could be hers in the form of 39-year-old mill owner Selwyn Parr. But Parr was damaged in World War I, and although his feelings for Ellen are tender and complete, they will never include a sexual relationship. Liardet does a fine job of seeding the past into the present, dropping hints of Ellen’s terrible early suffering while introducing married, practical Ellen in 1940 as she opens her home to Pamela, the 5-year-old survivor of a bombing raid in nearby Southampton. Unexpectedly, and without, at first, Selwyn’s blessing, Ellen finds herself falling into the devoted role of Pamela’s mother. Quicksilver Pamela, however, is only hers temporarily. The novel’s long arc reaches far beyond the end of the war; by the 1970s, Ellen is a widow, suddenly awoken again, through the needs of another desperate child, to the bright spirit of Pamela. Lovely, unshowy prose—“Outside the air was like milk. We had these fogs from time to time”—gives lyrical life to the countryside, the seasons, and to Ellen’s sensitivities during a long span of endurance and profound emotion.

Intense passion is concealed behind a facade of British modesty in this understated yet blazing story of hearts wounded and restored.

Pub Date: Feb. 26, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-7352-1886-4

Page Count: 464

Publisher: Putnam

Review Posted Online: Nov. 26, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2018

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