by Jennifer Miller ‧ RELEASE DATE: Nov. 3, 2015
Strong, well-developed portraits of veterans' experiences and relationships are undermined by a lurid, unrealistic ending.
On the road with PTSD: vets on bikes travel to the heart of darkness to heal their wounds.
Miller (The Year of the Gadfly, 2012, etc.) starts her novel with a tease: a letter to someone named Willy from someone named CO Proudfoot that includes the unexplained line: "I wish you hadn't ruined our friendship with all that. But you did, so here I am." This epistolary thread is one of several plotlines in this complicated novel about damaged veterans and the people who love them. The series of letters reveals bit by bit a horrific event in Vietnam that affected several of the characters, foremost a man named King Keller. Known in his hometown "as the Landmine due to his unpredictable outbursts," King is the father of 21-year-old Becca, recently married to Ben, himself an Iraq vet and also the son of a Vietnam vet. Ben's storyline details the experiences in Iraq that have turned a gentle young man into a drunken wife-beater. After Ben attacks her, Becca runs to her dad's house and ends up joining him and a posse of vets on a cross-country motorcycle trip to a desert compound in Utah. There, the author of the letters, CO Proudfoot himself, is running a cult, offering vets like King a form of healing "as powerful and terrible—and perhaps as unthinkable—as his trauma." Searching for both his runaway wife and for his lost sense of self, Ben is on his way to the compound as well. So is Becca's mother, Jeanine, who gave up on King years ago and joined a Christian group called the Hands of God Church. Once everybody meets up, the story takes a dizzying turn into Game of Thrones territory, as a violent contest involving heavy hallucinogens in a heated hogan is held to determine who will take the place of the CO when he steps down.Strong, well-developed portraits of veterans' experiences and relationships are undermined by a lurid, unrealistic ending.
Pub Date: Nov. 3, 2015
Page Count: 320
Publisher: Mariner/Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
Review Posted Online: Aug. 15, 2015
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2015
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by Lisa Jewell ‧ RELEASE DATE: April 24, 2018
Dark and unsettling, this novel’s end arrives abruptly even as readers are still moving at a breakneck speed.
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
Page Count: 368
Review Posted Online: Feb. 5, 2018
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2018
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by Christina Lauren ‧ RELEASE DATE: April 10, 2018
With frank language and patient plotting, this gangly teen crush grows into a confident adult love affair.
Eleven years ago, he broke her heart. But he doesn’t know why she never forgave him.
Toggling between past and present, two love stories unfold simultaneously. In the first, Macy Sorensen meets and falls in love with the boy next door, Elliot Petropoulos, in the closet of her dad’s vacation home, where they hide out to discuss their favorite books. In the second, Macy is working as a doctor and engaged to a single father, and she hasn’t spoken to Elliot since their breakup. But a chance encounter forces her to confront the truth: what happened to make Macy stop speaking to Elliot? Ultimately, they’re separated not by time or physical remoteness but by emotional distance—Elliot and Macy always kept their relationship casual because they went to different schools. And as a teen, Macy has more to worry about than which girl Elliot is taking to the prom. After losing her mother at a young age, Macy is navigating her teenage years without a female role model, relying on the time-stamped notes her mother left in her father’s care for guidance. In the present day, Macy’s father is dead as well. She throws herself into her work and rarely comes up for air, not even to plan her upcoming wedding. Since Macy is still living with her fiance while grappling with her feelings for Elliot, the flashbacks offer steamy moments, tender revelations, and sweetly awkward confessions while Macy makes peace with her past and decides her future.With frank language and patient plotting, this gangly teen crush grows into a confident adult love affair.
Pub Date: April 10, 2018
Page Count: 416
Publisher: Gallery Books/Simon & Schuster
Review Posted Online: Jan. 22, 2018
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2018
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