Tilley handles decadeslong character arcs with empathy, resulting in a resonant and humanistic novel.

AGAINST THE WIND

Tilley’s debut novel after several collections of poetry traces the connections between a disparate group of people in the United States and Canada.

It begins with Ralph, a well-off lawyer in New York City, having a health episode that prompts him to revisit a canoe trip he undertook in 1965 with several of his high school friends. Ralph’s high school girlfriend, Lynn, is a teacher; his old rival, Dieter, now works for a company with a contentious wind farm project in the works. Jean-Pierre, Lynn’s estranged husband, also has ties to the wind farm and often ponders his younger days, when he was deeply involved in Quebecois separatist politics. Many of the characters are in late middle age, with decades of personal history and professional rivalries behind them. The main exception, generationally speaking, is Jules, the grandson of Lynn and Jean-Pierre, raised by them after the boy's parents died in a plane crash. Jules is a high school senior with an interest in engineering, which connects him to many of Lynn’s old friends. Jules is also transgender, which leads to a few awkward moments between him and Jean-Pierre, who is portrayed as being less understanding of Jules’ gender than Lynn. Tilley’s novel charts the shifting balance of power, both emotional and financial, within this group. Tilley handles most of his characters with sympathy, though an early revelation about Dieter helps to establish him as the closest thing this novel has to an antagonist. It’s a slow-burning work but written with a solid attention to detail—even if its focus on quiet conflicts and interpersonal dynamics can feel too restrained at times.

Tilley handles decadeslong character arcs with empathy, resulting in a resonant and humanistic novel.

Pub Date: Sept. 24, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-59709-835-9

Page Count: 296

Publisher: Red Hen Press

Review Posted Online: July 1, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2019

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The emotions run high, the conversations run deep, and the relationships ebb and flow with grace.

REGRETTING YOU

When tragedy strikes, a mother and daughter forge a new life.

Morgan felt obligated to marry her high school sweetheart, Chris, when she got pregnant with their daughter, Clara. But she secretly got along much better with Chris’ thoughtful best friend, Jonah, who was dating her sister, Jenny. Now her life as a stay-at-home parent has left her feeling empty but not ungrateful for what she has. Jonah and Jenny eventually broke up, but years later they had a one-night stand and Jenny got pregnant with their son, Elijah. Now Jonah is back in town, engaged to Jenny, and working at the local high school as Clara’s teacher. Clara dreams of being an actress and has a crush on Miller, who plans to go to film school, but her father doesn't approve. It doesn’t help that Miller already has a jealous girlfriend who stalks him via text from college. But Clara and Morgan’s home life changes radically when Chris and Jenny are killed in an accident, revealing long-buried secrets and forcing Morgan to reevaluate the life she chose when early motherhood forced her hand. Feeling betrayed by the adults in her life, Clara marches forward, acting both responsible and rebellious as she navigates her teenage years without her father and her aunt, while Jonah and Morgan's relationship evolves in the wake of the accident. Front-loaded with drama, the story leaves plenty of room for the mother and daughter to unpack their feelings and decide what’s next.

The emotions run high, the conversations run deep, and the relationships ebb and flow with grace.

Pub Date: Dec. 10, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-5420-1642-1

Page Count: 400

Publisher: Montlake Romance

Review Posted Online: Oct. 14, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 2019

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This quirky, complex, and frustrating heroine will win hearts and challenge assumptions about family dysfunction and mental...

WITHOUT MERIT

With the help of unusual houseguests, a teenage girl who tries to rebel by airing her family’s dirty laundry cleans up her act instead.

To Merit Voss, the white picket fence around her house is the only thing normal about the family it contains. She lives in a converted church with her father, stepmother, and siblings, and although her parents have been divorced for years, her mother still lives in the basement, struggling with social anxiety. No one in her family is religious, so her brother Utah updates the church marquee every day with fun facts instead of Bible verses. Merit is less accomplished than her identical twin sister, Honor, so she likes to buy used trophies to celebrate her failures. But Honor seems to have a fetish for terminally ill boys, so it’s a surprise to Merit when Sagan, who is perfectly healthy, kisses Merit after mistaking her for her sister—and then reveals that he’s living in their house. Soon they have another houseguest, Luck, whose connection to the family makes Merit even more convinced she’s living in a madhouse. So why is everyone so angry at her? Merit has a love/hate relationship with her sister. She's conflicted by her feelings for Sagan, who leaves intriguing sketches (illustrated by Adams) around the house for her to decipher. She’s simultaneously intrigued and repulsed by Luck, who annoys her with his questions but is also her confidant. She can’t sit through dinner without starting a fight; she’s been skipping school for days; and when she decides to give her whole family the silent treatment, Sagan is the only one who notices. In fact, he and Luck are the only people in the house who recognize Merit’s quirks for what they really are—cries for help. And when Merit takes drastic measures to be heard, the fallout is both worse and much better than she feared. Hoover (It Ends With Us, 2016, etc.) does an excellent job of revealing the subtle differences between healthy teenage rebellion and clinical depression, and Merit’s aha moment is worthy of every trophy in her collection.

This quirky, complex, and frustrating heroine will win hearts and challenge assumptions about family dysfunction and mental illness in a life-affirming story that redefines what’s normal.

Pub Date: Oct. 3, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-5011-7062-1

Page Count: 384

Publisher: Atria

Review Posted Online: Aug. 6, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2017

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