A sharp-eyed novel of corporate manners.

THIS COULD HURT

Intrigue swirls around HR executive Rosa Guerrero in this engrossing workplace drama by Medoff (I Couldn’t Love You More, 2012, etc.).

Ellery Consumer Research Group is one of “a glut of boutique research firms…fighting for market share” in the wake of the economic meltdown. The HR department has already shrunk from 22 to 16 to 13 as the story begins in November 2009, and the CEO is pressuring Rosa to cut more. She's just had to fire her trusted right-hand man for embezzling, leaving her at age 64 without an obvious choice to groom for succession. Longtime training and recruiting director Rob Hirsch is blatantly burned-out, while hotshot Wharton MBA Kenny Verville is too busy looking for a better job at a bigger company to pay much attention to his current work. Rounding out the cast of principals are Communications/Policy VP Lucy Bender, gunning for a promotion, and Employee Benefits manager Leo Smalls, Rosa’s principal confidant. These two cover for their boss after she has a minor stroke and, once back at work, her memory and behavior continue to deteriorate. Although Medoff frankly chronicles plenty of scheming and self-serving, Rosa’s devotion to her staff is repaid with loyalty and affection that are all the more poignant coming from believably flawed characters. People get second chances here: Kenny buckles down at Ellery after blowing an outside prospect, and Rob finds that getting laid off is the kick in the pants he needs to revitalize himself. At the center stands Rosa, a tough corporate infighter who is also a mother hen; she’s the most vivid figure, but everyone gets nicely textured treatment in an engrossing narrative that manages to encompass Lucy’s therapy issues, Rob’s devotion to his family, Leo’s search for Mr. Right, and Kenny’s troubled marriage while maintaining the main focus on their lives at work. An economical epilogue makes clever use of corporate organization charts to quickly trace the characters’ odysseys after the story’s bittersweet conclusion in August 2010.

A sharp-eyed novel of corporate manners.

Pub Date: Jan. 9, 2018

ISBN: 978-0-06-266076-3

Page Count: 384

Publisher: Harper/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Sept. 28, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 2017

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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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ANIMAL FARM

A FAIRY STORY

A modern day fable, with modern implications in a deceiving simplicity, by the author of Dickens. Dali and Others (Reynal & Hitchcock, p. 138), whose critical brilliance is well adapted to this type of satire. This tells of the revolt on a farm, against humans, when the pigs take over the intellectual superiority, training the horses, cows, sheep, etc., into acknowledging their greatness. The first hints come with the reading out of a pig who instigated the building of a windmill, so that the electric power would be theirs, the idea taken over by Napoleon who becomes topman with no maybes about it. Napoleon trains the young puppies to be his guards, dickers with humans, gradually instigates a reign of terror, and breaks the final commandment against any animal walking on two legs. The old faithful followers find themselves no better off for food and work than they were when man ruled them, learn their final disgrace when they see Napoleon and Squealer carousing with their enemies... A basic statement of the evils of dictatorship in that it not only corrupts the leaders, but deadens the intelligence and awareness of those led so that tyranny is inevitable. Mr. Orwell's animals exist in their own right, with a narrative as individual as it is apt in political parody.

Pub Date: Aug. 26, 1946

ISBN: 0452277507

Page Count: 114

Publisher: Harcourt, Brace

Review Posted Online: Nov. 2, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 1946

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