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THE KING OF NOTHING MUCH

A NOVELLA

A funny, tender, but indulgent study in modern masculinity.

A stay-at-home father considers his past and future, influenced by events during one weekend at the family cabin.

Subtitled A Novella, this latest work from Johnson (Yearbook, 2017) offers a brief comic portrait of one version of middle-class 21st-century manhood that’s built around a more serious, emotionally intense core. The house-spouse in question is Weldon Tines, whose inner monologue fills the book’s pages, not only charting developments, but also delivering jokes, musings, and the mantras of his life. “I am over halfway done” is one of them, marking Weldon’s acknowledgement of a kind of midlife crisis. Was his wife, Deb, right to marry him? Is he a good-enough parent to daughter Presley and twins Danny and Reese? (Reese, who likes to wander, is the subject of another mantra: “I am here to protect you.”) What is his purpose now that the children are in decreasing need of him? The story opens at a boy’s birthday party, where Weldon, horsing around with the youngsters, accidentally injures Perry Glazier, the indulged son of a wealthy father named Pike. Instead of suing, Pike extorts a price from Weldon: He must take Perry along on a family weekend trip to the Tines’ lakeside cabin. The short vacation offers insights, revelations, and confessions by several characters alongside a continuous stream of provocation by difficult-to-please Perry, culminating in an act of disobedience, a heroic response, and more physical damage. Weldon emerges from it all more open to the idea of change and readier to accept that parenting means accommodating the trajectory of his children, “streaming away.” A late, surprise encounter with Pike delivers a closing note of moral superiority to add to the self-satisfaction and general quirkiness.

A funny, tender, but indulgent study in modern masculinity.

Pub Date: April 7, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-58988-144-0

Page Count: 121

Publisher: Paul Dry Books

Review Posted Online: Jan. 12, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2020

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THEN SHE WAS GONE

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

ISBN: 978-1-5011-5464-5

Page Count: 368

Publisher: Atria

Review Posted Online: Feb. 5, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2018

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THE PERFECT COUPLE

Sink into this book like a hot, scented bath...a delicious, relaxing pleasure. And a clever whodunit at the same time.

A wedding on Nantucket is canceled when the bride finds her maid of honor floating facedown in the Atlantic on the morning of the big day.

One of the supporting characters in Hilderbrand's (Winter Solstice, 2017, etc.) 21st Nantucket novel is Greer Garrison, the mother of the groom and a well-known novelist. Unfortunately, in addition to all the other hell about to break loose in Greer's life, she's gone off her game. Early in the book, a disappointed reader wonders if "the esteemed mystery writer, who is always named in the same breath as Sue Grafton and Louise Penny, is coasting now, in her middle age." In fact, Greer's latest manuscript is about to be rejected and sent back for a complete rewrite, with a deadline of two weeks. But wanna know who's most definitely not coasting? Elin Hilderbrand. Readers can open her latest with complete confidence that it will deliver everything we expect: terrific clothes and food, smart humor, fun plot, Nantucket atmosphere, connections to the characters of preceding novels, and warmth in relationships evoked so beautifully it gets you right there. Example: a tiny moment between the chief of police and his wife. It's very late in the book, and he still hasn't figured out what the hell happened to poor Merritt Monaco, the Instagram influencer and publicist for the Wildlife Conservation Society. Even though it's dinner time, he has to leave the "cold blue cans of Cisco beer in his fridge” and get back to work. " ‘I hate murder investigations,’ [his wife] says, lifting her face for a kiss. ‘But I love you.’ " You will feel that just as powerfully as you believe that Celeste Otis, the bride-to-be, would rather be anywhere on Earth than on the beautiful isle of Nantucket, marrying the handsome, kind, and utterly smitten Benji Winbury. In fact, she had a fully packed bag with her at the crack of dawn when she found her best friend's body.

Sink into this book like a hot, scented bath...a delicious, relaxing pleasure. And a clever whodunit at the same time.

Pub Date: June 19, 2018

ISBN: 978-0-316-37526-9

Page Count: 464

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: April 15, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 2018

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