LOSING JULIA

Former Time journalist Hull’s first novel paints a generic portrait of young love and trench warfare, framed by a bracingly unsentimental depiction of old age. The story moves forward simultaneously on three fronts, all chronicled in the diary of American veteran Patrick Delaney. At age 81, he recalls his experiences as a soldier during WWI, when his best friend, Daniel, died horribly after an assault on the German lines; and his brief, enchanted affair with Daniel’s lover, Julia, whom he met in France in 1928 while attending the dedication of a memorial monument. The battle scenes are adequate, but contemporary writers who venture into this arena must suffer comparison to Pat Barker’s breathtaking trilogy (The Ghost Road, 1995, etc.), and Hull falls short in both imaginative empathy and literary skill. Patrick’s account of his liaison with Julia, conducted as his unloved wife and cherished three-year-old son await him in a Paris hotel, fails to convince us that she’s as fabulous as he thinks. However—and this is a big however—the diary’s 1980 portions, chronicling Patrick’s life in a nursing home, have all the specificity and emotional weight the historical segments lack. Compare the bite of —The older I get, the more out of place I feel, like a weekend guest still loitering around the cottage on Sunday night because he’s got no place else to go— with the blandness of —How perfect she looked . . . with the kind of face you instinctively want to touch and kiss.— The lovelorn noodlings of Patrick and Julia aren—t nearly as interesting as the blunt, bitter depiction of physical decay and psychic regret that plague nearly every inhabitant of the Great Oaks Home for Assisted Living. A death scene there would have been a lot more realistic—and challenging—than the phonily romantic one Hull provides. Pretty stale stuff, but those perfectly pitched nursing-home scenes linger in the memory.

Pub Date: Feb. 15, 2000

ISBN: 0-385-33375-7

Page Count: 368

Publisher: Delacorte

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15, 2000

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Reid’s tome on married life is as uplifting as it is brutally honest—a must-read for anyone who is in (or hopes to be in) a...

AFTER I DO

An unhappily married couple spends a year apart in Reid’s (Forever, Interrupted, 2013) novel about second chances.

When we meet Lauren, she and her husband, Ryan, are having a meltdown trying to find their car in the parking lot at Dodger Stadium after a game. Through a series of flashbacks, Lauren reveals how the two of them went from being inseparable to being insufferable in each other’s eyes—and in desperate need of a break. Both their courtship and their fights seem so ordinary—they met in college; he doesn’t like Greek food—that the most heartbreaking part of their pending separation is deciding who will get custody of their good-natured dog. It’s not until Ryan moves out that the juicy details emerge. Lauren surreptitiously logs into his email one day, in a fit of missing him, and discovers a bunch of emails to her that he had saved but not sent. Liberated by Ryan’s candor, Lauren saves her replies for him to find, and the two of them read each other’s unfiltered thoughts as they go about their separate lives. Neither character holds anything back, which makes the healing process more complex, and more compelling, than simply getting revenge or getting one’s groove back. Meanwhile, as Lauren spends more time with her family and friends, she explores the example set for her by her parents and learns that there are many ways to be happy. It’s never clear until the final pages whether living alone will bring Lauren and Ryan back together or force them apart forever. But when the year is up, the resolution is neither sappy nor cynical; it’s arrived at after an honest assessment of what each partner can’t live with and can’t live without.

Reid’s tome on married life is as uplifting as it is brutally honest—a must-read for anyone who is in (or hopes to be in) a committed relationship.

Pub Date: July 1, 2014

ISBN: 978-1-4767-1284-0

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Washington Square/Pocket

Review Posted Online: April 10, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2014

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Entertaining and unpredictable; Reid makes a compelling argument for happiness in every life.

MAYBE IN ANOTHER LIFE

Reid’s latest (After I Do, 2014, etc.) explores two parallel universes in which a young woman hopes to find her soul mate and change her life for the better.

After ending an affair with a married man, Hannah Martin is reunited with her high school sweetheart, Ethan, at a bar in Los Angeles. Should she go home with her friends and catch up with him later, or should they stay out and have another drink? It doesn’t seem like either decision would have earth-shattering consequences, but Reid has a knack for finding skeletons in unexpected closets. Two vastly different scenarios play out in alternating chapters: in one, Hannah and Ethan reconnect as if no time has passed; in the other, Hannah lands in the hospital alone after a freak accident that marks the first of many surprising plot twists. Hannah’s best friend, Gabby, believes in soul mates, and though Hannah has trouble making decisions—even when picking a snack from a vending machine—she and Gabby discover how their belief systems can alter their world as much as their choices. “Believing in fate is like living on cruise control,” Hannah says. What follows is a thoughtful analysis of free will versus fate in which Hannah finds that disasters can bring unexpected blessings, blessings can bring unexpected disasters, and that most people are willing to bring Hannah her favorite cinnamon rolls. “Because even when it looks like she’s made a terrible mistake,” Hannah’s mother observes, “things will always work out for Hannah.” The larger question becomes whether Hannah’s choices will ultimately affect her happiness—and it’s one that’s answered on a hopeful note as Hannah tries to do the right thing in every situation she faces.

Entertaining and unpredictable; Reid makes a compelling argument for happiness in every life.

Pub Date: July 7, 2015

ISBN: 978-1-4767-7688-0

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Washington Square/Pocket

Review Posted Online: April 15, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 2015

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