A good old-fashioned read on the venerable theme of marriage.

CARNEGIE HILL

The secret lives of the board members and service staff of a stuffy old apartment building on the Upper East Side of Manhattan are full of drama.

Upon moving into the Chelmsford Arms with her rich, handsome, but oddly irritating asset manager fiance, Penelope "Pepper" Bradford takes a position on the building's board in hopes of meeting people and developing job prospects better than answering phones in her mother's friend's third-tier art gallery. She is the youngest person by far on the board, a coterie of moth-eaten old farts ruled by the ancient Patricia Cooper—"Empress Pat. The Czarina. The Duchess of Carnegie Hill"—and her crazed Pomeranian, with assistance from an elderly housekeeper who is the only African American in the building save the young gay porter, Caleb. The board's main function seems to be to preserve the all-white, no-children makeup of the building, to ensure that none but a short list of overpriced, incompetent contractors ever crosses the threshold, and to prevent tap-dancing, parakeets, and other violations of decency. Despite her early doubts, Pepper becomes close with several of her neighbors. Francis (a philosophical and literary Jewish man) and his wife, Carol, have hit a rough spot in their marriage of 50 years, as have George and Birdie (retired boss and secretary from Montreal), and serious health and mental health issues are cropping up everywhere. As Pepper prepares for her wedding to Rick—and then recovers from it—she can find little inspiration for her long-term marital prospects. The only happy couple in the building is made up of two men, the porter and the doorman, and they are so deep in the closet that nobody knows it. By the end of the book it's time for another board election; Patricia's reign of "corruption and thievery" may be over at last. She appears "holding her sleeping Pomeranian like a muff," wearing "a long red douppioni-silk coat embroidered with dragons"—ready to do battle. Will the Chelmsford Arms and its residents move at last into the 21st century? Vatner's debut novel is absorbing and comforting in its omniscient perspective and delicate handling of its carousel of characters.

A good old-fashioned read on the venerable theme of marriage.

Pub Date: Aug. 20, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-250-17476-5

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Thomas Dunne Books

Review Posted Online: April 28, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2019

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet

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

Did you like this book?

A touching family drama that effectively explores the negative impact of stress on fragile relationships.

A WEEK AT THE SHORE

A middle-aged woman returns to her childhood home to care for her ailing father, confronting many painful secrets from her past.

When Mallory Aldiss gets a call from a long-ago boyfriend telling her that her elderly father has been gallivanting around town with a gun in his hand, Mallory decides it’s time to return to the small Rhode Island town that she’s been avoiding for more than a decade. Mallory’s precocious 13-year-old daughter, Joy, is thrilled that she'll get to meet her grandfather at long last, and an aunt, too, and she'll finally see the place where her mother grew up. When they arrive in Bay Bluff, it’s barely a few hours before Mallory bumps into her old flame, Jack, the only man she’s ever really loved. Gone is the rebellious young person she remembers, and in his place stands a compassionate, accomplished adult. As they try to reconnect, Mallory realizes that the same obstacle that pushed them apart decades earlier is still standing in their way: Jack blames Mallory’s father for his mother’s death. No one knows exactly how Jack’s mother died, but Jack thinks a love affair between her and Mallory’s father had something to do with it. As Jack and Mallory chase down answers, Mallory also tries to repair her rocky relationships with her two sisters and determine why her father has always been so hard on her. Told entirely from Mallory’s perspective, the novel has a haunting, nostalgic quality. Despite the complex and overlapping layers to the history of Bay Bluff and its inhabitants, the book at times trudges too slowly through Mallory’s meanderings down Memory Lane. Even so, Delinsky sometimes manages to pick up the pace, and in those moments the beauty and nuance of this complicated family tale shine through. Readers who don’t mind skimming past details that do little to advance the plot may find that the juicier nuggets and realistically rendered human connections are worth the effort.

A touching family drama that effectively explores the negative impact of stress on fragile relationships.

Pub Date: May 19, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-250-11951-3

Page Count: 416

Publisher: St. Martin's

Review Posted Online: March 2, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2020

Did you like this book?

more