A reflective tale of growing up creative in a stifling environment and finding true love.

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WALTZ IN SWING TIME

An elderly woman looks back on her childhood on a farm during the Great Depression and her later career as a dancer in Caugherty’s debut novel.

In 2006, Irene Larsen is almost 90 and living in comfort at the Golden Manor retirement community. Despite some health problems, she has a pleasant existence that includes spending time with her group of friends at the home and regular visits with her daughter, Deirdre. She’s also secretly recording her memoir on an old tape recorder, which makes up the bulk of this book. Irene grew up on a farm in a Mormon family in Paradise, Utah, and in 1932, “Wall Street and its problems…seemed as distant as a foreign land you might read about in the paper, reflect upon idly then quickly forget.” They worked tirelessly, and Irene helped with picking fruit and canning while her father and brothers tended to the wheat fields. Unfortunately, her younger brother Jeremiah was stricken with scarlet fever and died, which sent her mother into a deep depression. The price of wheat fell, and the financial situation on the farm became dire, but Irene found solace singing in school musical productions. Encouraged by a brother at Brigham Young University, Irene applied to study music there and was accepted. However, a summer gig at a Utah resort led to a relationship with a snappy young dancer, which threatened Irene’s relationship with her conservative family. Over the course of this bright novel, Caugherty manages to seamlessly transition between two wildly different decades while maintaining a fresh, youthful voice—which is essential in a book about an ambitious dreamer who struggles through hard times. Insights about farm life, the Depression, and the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints are plentiful throughout the narrative, which is populated with many references to 1930s songs as it showcases Irene’s obvious talent. It’s a hopeful yet realistic story, and the letters that Irene receives from her future husband are a particular joy to read.

A reflective tale of growing up creative in a stifling environment and finding true love.

Pub Date: April 23, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-68433-478-0

Page Count: 300

Publisher: Black Rose Writing

Review Posted Online: March 26, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 2020

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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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A strange, subtle, and haunting novel.

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THE GLASS HOTEL

A financier's Ponzi scheme unravels to disastrous effect, revealing the unexpected connections among a cast of disparate characters.

How did Vincent Smith fall overboard from a container ship near the coast of Mauritania, fathoms away from her former life as Jonathan Alkaitis' pretend trophy wife? In this long-anticipated follow-up to Station Eleven (2014), Mandel uses Vincent's disappearance to pick through the wreckage of Alkaitis' fraudulent investment scheme, which ripples through hundreds of lives. There's Paul, Vincent's half brother, a composer and addict in recovery; Olivia, an octogenarian painter who invested her retirement savings in Alkaitis' funds; Leon, a former consultant for a shipping company; and a chorus of office workers who enabled Alkaitis and are terrified of facing the consequences. Slowly, Mandel reveals how her characters struggle to align their stations in life with their visions for what they could be. For Vincent, the promise of transformation comes when she's offered a stint with Alkaitis in "the kingdom of money." Here, the rules of reality are different and time expands, allowing her to pursue video art others find pointless. For Alkaitis, reality itself is too much to bear. In his jail cell, he is confronted by the ghosts of his victims and escapes into "the counterlife," a soothing alternate reality in which he avoided punishment. It's in these dreamy sections that Mandel's ideas about guilt and responsibility, wealth and comfort, the real and the imagined, begin to cohere. At its heart, this is a ghost story in which every boundary is blurred, from the moral to the physical. How far will Alkaitis go to deny responsibility for his actions? And how quickly will his wealth corrupt the ambitions of those in proximity to it? In luminous prose, Mandel shows how easy it is to become caught in a web of unintended consequences and how disastrous it can be when such fragile bonds shatter under pressure.

A strange, subtle, and haunting novel.

Pub Date: March 24, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-525-52114-3

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Knopf

Review Posted Online: Nov. 25, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2019

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