If you love Jennifer Weiner, you’ll love this one. And if you’re a newbie, start here.

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BIG SUMMER

A plus-size Instagram influencer stumbles into a murder mystery when called to serve as a bridesmaid for her fabulous former best friend.

Weiner’s 14th novel, and her second with a murder plot, is also a short course in social media lingo and best practices. At its center is Daphne Berg, a classic Weiner heroine—a young New Yorker who supports herself by working 20 hours a week as a nanny, by selling crafts in her Etsy store, and through sponsorships of Instagram posts for both her (yoga mats, makeup, plus-size fashion) and her pooch (organic dog treats). Her career began accidentally in her sophomore year of college, when her No. 1 frenemy, an exquisitely lovely heiress named Drue Lathrop Cavanaugh, lured her into a humiliating setup in a bar, the last of a long series of mean tricks that began in high school. When her date called her a “fat bitch” and Daphne responded with fury—“I am fat. But that doesn’t mean you get to treat me like garbage”—and video of the incident went viral, she chose to embrace the moment. She has since become a beloved internet avatar of body acceptance #sorrynotsorry #justasIam. Drue has been out of her life for seven years when she bursts back in to beg Daphne to be her bridesmaid at a spectacular, made-for–social media Cape Cod wedding. Against her better instincts, Daphne agrees, and before long she is handmaiden at #drueandstu2020, a beachfront extravaganza Weiner really outdoes herself in describing. Things are going a lot better than Daphne ever could have dreamed—hot sex scene alert!—when the plot takes a turn for the Agatha Christie. But no matter what mayhem transpires, you can always count on Weiner for delicious food. “I squeezed lemon onto my first oyster, added a dollop of cocktail sauce, tipped it into my mouth and gulped it down, humming in pleasure at its sweet, briny taste.” “My mother hugged me hard, and my father mixed up a pitcher of Sidecars and served us his cioppino, with toasted wedges of garlicky toasted baguette.” “Get the malasadas, if they’re fresh.” Turns out they are, and so is this novel.

If you love Jennifer Weiner, you’ll love this one. And if you’re a newbie, start here.

Pub Date: May 5, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-5011-3351-0

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Atria

Review Posted Online: March 15, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2020

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Ingeniously structured and so damn entertaining; this novel is as ambitious as its heroines—but it never falls from the sky.

GREAT CIRCLE

The intertwined journeys of an aviatrix born in 1914 and an actress cast to play her a century later.

In a novel twice as long as and an order of magnitude more complex than the well-received Seating Arrangements (2012) and Astonish Me (2014), Shipstead reveals breathtaking range and skill, expertly juggling a multigenerational historical epic and a scandal-soaked Hollywood satire, with scenes playing out on land, at sea, and in the air. "We were both products of vanishment and orphanhood and negligence and airplanes and uncles. She was like me but wasn't. She was uncanny, unknowable except for a few constellations I recognized from my own sky": These are the musings of actress Hadley Baxter. She has been familiar with the story of Marian Graves, an aviatrix who disappeared while trying to circumnavigate the globe, since she was just a little girl—before she became a pop-culture phenomenon, turned into a movie star with a mega-franchise, accidentally destroyed her career, and was given the chance to reinvent herself...by playing Marian in a biopic. The film, Peregrine, is based at least partly on the logbook of Marian's "great circle," which was found wrapped in a life preserver on an ice floe near the South Pole. Shipstead's story begins decades earlier, with the christening of the Josephina Eterna in Glasgow in 1909. The unhappy woman who breaks the bottle on her bow, the laconic captain who takes the ship to sea, the woman he beds onboard, the babies that result from this union—Marian Graves and her twin, Jamie—the uncle who has to raise them when their mother drowns and their father disappears: The destinies of every one of these people, and many more unforgettable characters, intersect in ways that reverberate through a hundred years of story. Whether Shipstead is creating scenes in the Prohibition-era American West, in wartime London, or on a Hollywood movie set, her research is as invisible as it should be, allowing a fully immersive experience.

Ingeniously structured and so damn entertaining; this novel is as ambitious as its heroines—but it never falls from the sky.

Pub Date: May 4, 2021

ISBN: 978-0-525-65697-5

Page Count: 608

Publisher: Knopf

Review Posted Online: Dec. 26, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2021

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Illustrates how rough justice can get when religion and institutional sexism are in the mix.

HOUR OF THE WITCH

A Puritan wife shocks her community and risks her life to file for divorce in 1662 Boston.

For more than five years, Mary, age 24, has been married to Thomas, 45, a prosperous miller. Thomas has been physically and sexually abusive, always taking care that there are no witnesses. He castigates Mary’s intelligence, telling her she has “white meat” for brains. The marriage is childless, drawing community suspicion to Mary. When she can’t hide bruises on her face, she lies about their provenance. The behavior, she tells herself, only occurs when Thomas is “drink-drunk.” The coverup continues until, cold sober, Thomas drives a fork into Mary’s hand, breaking bones. She flees to her parents’ home and files for divorce, which is allowed but only if grounds can be proven. Forks are a major motif: Not merely newfangled “cutlery” which Mary’s father, a shipping entrepreneur, hopes to profit from importing, but miniature pitchforks viewed by the Puritans as “Devil’s tines.” The forks, as well as other clues—a mysterious pestle, a pentagram etched on a door frame—are used to counter Mary’s compelling, but unwitnessed, claims of cruelty with insinuations of witchcraft. Divorce denied, Mary must return to the marital home and resort to ever more drastic expedients in her quest for freedom. Mary comes from privilege, and her parents clearly care about her. (Unlike the divorce magistrates, they don’t believe she injured her hand by falling on a tea kettle spout.) That they allow her return to Thomas to avoid witchcraft charges defies plausibility—death at Thomas’ hands seems a more immediate prospect, and her family wealth affords many other options. The charges come anyway—timed for maximum melodrama. The language, salted liberally with thee and thou, feels period-authentic. The colonists’ impact on nearby Native tribes is not Bohjalian’s primary concern here, but the Hobson’s choice facing women in Puritan society is starkly delineated.

Illustrates how rough justice can get when religion and institutional sexism are in the mix.

Pub Date: April 20, 2021

ISBN: 978-0-385-54243-2

Page Count: 416

Publisher: Doubleday

Review Posted Online: Dec. 26, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2021

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