Updike's bold attempt at the generational saga—the first such novel of his long career—falls somewhere between George Eliot and John O'Hara, and doesn't scruple to provide a few of the simpler pleasures … la Judith Krantz or Harold Robbins. In tracing the private and public histories of four generations of the Wilmot family (originally) of Paterson, New Jersey, this ambitious and energetic, though occasionally muted, novel also delineates the growing secularization of American society in this century. It begins with the agonized realization of Presbyterian minister Clarence Wilmot that he no longer believes in God and must in conscience resign his ministry. The hardships subsequently endured by the enervated Clarence's surviving family are memorably encapsulated in his "sensitive" son Teddy's difficult progress to maturity, marriage, and fatherhood in the fractious 1920s. The focus shifts to Teddy's daughter Esther ("Essie"), an extroverted beauty who, like her father and grandfather before her, finds in the excitement of motion pictures a gratifying alternative to the mundane realities of life. Essie breaks into movies in the early 1950s and—as Alma DeMott—enjoys a long career. In the novel's concluding section, "Alma's" only son, Clark, in effect reversing his family's enthrallment by Hollywood, drops out of his mother's glamorous orbit and into fundamentalist Colorado commune and toward a violent destiny all too reminiscent of recent years' headlines. It all feels more than a bit hurried, and the impression of a crash course in modern US history is intensified by long, momentum-stopping catalogues in which the fruits of Updike's obviously diligent research are numbingly displayed. Still, this is Updike—and there's much to admire in the deep and thoughtful characterizations (especially of the tormented Clarence and confused Teddy), impish humor (the summary descriptions of Essie's films are a hoot), and dependably precise and fluent prose. On balance, a more than commendable effort from an established master whose preeminence has much to do with his exuberant willingness to keep trying new things.

Pub Date: Jan. 1, 1996

ISBN: 0-679-44640-0

Page Count: 528

Publisher: Knopf

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 1995

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A romantic, sad, and ultimately hopeful book that’s perfect for fans of Jojo Moyes.


In Walsh’s American debut, a woman desperately tries to find out why the man she spent a whirlwind week with never called.

Sarah has just separated from her American husband and is visiting her hometown in England when she meets Eddie. He’s kind and charming, and although they only spend one week together, she falls in love. When he has to leave for a trip, she knows they’ll keep in touch—they’re already making plans for the rest of their lives. But then Eddie never calls, and Sarah’s increasingly frantic efforts to contact him are fruitless. Is he hurt? Is he dead? As her friends tell her, there’s a far greater likelihood that he’s just blowing her off—she’s been ghosted. After trying to track Eddie down at a football game, Sarah starts to become ashamed of herself—after all, she’s almost 40 years old and she’s essentially stalking a man who never called her. But as Sarah slowly learns, she and Eddie didn’t actually meet randomly—they both have a connection to an accident that happened years ago, and it may have something to do with why he disappeared. The tension quickly amps up as the secrets of Eddie’s and Sarah’s pasts are revealed, and the truth behind their connection is genuinely surprising and heartbreaking. The barriers between Sarah and Eddie seem insurmountable at times, and although their issues are resolved in a tidy manner, the emotions behind their actions are always believable. Walsh has created a deeply moving romance with an intriguing mystery and a touching portrait of grief at its heart.

A romantic, sad, and ultimately hopeful book that’s perfect for fans of Jojo Moyes.

Pub Date: July 24, 2018

ISBN: 978-0-525-52277-5

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Pamela Dorman/Viking

Review Posted Online: May 1, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2018

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An ambitious and bewitching gem of a book with mystery and passion inscribed on every page.

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A withdrawn graduate student embarks on an epic quest to restore balance to the world in this long-anticipated follow-up to The Night Circus (2011).

Zachary Ezra Rawlins is a typical millennial introvert; he likes video games, escapist reading, and drinking sidecars. But when he recognizes himself in the pages of a mysterious book from the university library, he's unnerved—and determined to uncover the truth. What begins as a journey for answers turns into something much bigger, and Zachary must decide whether to trust the handsome stranger he meets at a highflying literary fundraiser in New York or to retreat back to his thesis and forget the whole affair. In a high-wire feat of metatextual derring-do, Morgenstern weaves Zachary's adventure into a stunning array of linked fables, myths, and origin stories. There are pirates and weary travelers, painters who can see the future, lovers torn asunder, a menacing Owl King, and safe harbors for all the stories of the world, far below the Earth on the golden shores of a Starless Sea. Clocking in at more than 500 pages, the novel requires patience as Morgenstern puts all the pieces in place, but it is exquisitely pleasurable to watch the gears of this epic fantasy turn once they're set in motion. As in The Night Circus, Morgenstern is at her best when she imagines worlds and rooms and parties in vivid detail, right down to the ballroom stairs "festooned with lanterns and garlands of paper dipped in gold" or a cloak carved from ice with "ships and sailors and sea monsters...lost in the drifting snow." This novel is a love letter to readers as much as an invitation: Come and see how much magic is left in the world. Fans of Neil Gaiman and V.E. Schwab, Kelly Link and Susanna Clarke will want to heed the call.

An ambitious and bewitching gem of a book with mystery and passion inscribed on every page.

Pub Date: Nov. 5, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-385-54121-3

Page Count: 512

Publisher: Doubleday

Review Posted Online: Aug. 4, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2019

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