For the most part, though, a tonic account of how one woman discovers her truest self in the face of supreme disaster.

THE FIRST TIME

Fielding forgoes the criminal emphasis of her recent soccer-mom thrillers (Missing Pieces, 1997, etc.) to focus on the greatest noncriminal peril of all: an early death sentence.

It hasn't all been roses for Mattie Hart. She's never felt close to her mother or the husband who married her because she was pregnant. Now that Jake Hart is making a name in Chicago law circles, the problems continue. He can't stop chasing skirts, and his daughter Kim wants even less to do with him than most 15-year-olds. It all seems to come to a head when Jake announces that he's moving in with his latest lover, novelist Honey Novak. But Jake's desertion is only a warm-up for a far more momentous ordeal: the news that Mattie's been falling down, laughing uncontrollably, and feeling her foot go to sleep recently because she's in the early stages of ALS, the disease that struck down Lou Gehrig in his prime. What can Mattie do with the year (or, if she's lucky, two or three) she has left? Fielding acutely traces her early alternation of impulsive self-indulgence (going on a shopping spree, buying a sports car she soon won't be able to drive, arranging a fling of her own) and dull despair (the most routine tasks take longer, the simplest decisions become monstrously complicated). Along with the annoyingly banal problems she'd have to cope with even if she weren't dying, Mattie now feels a new urgency in her attempts to understand her estranged husband, whose childhood had been even more traumatic than hers. Predictably but magically, the challenge of Mattie's physical degeneration rekindles her love of life and laughter and her errant spouse. It's only in the final stages of the illness, when Mattie's state seems to require some deeper insight, that Fielding comes up short.

For the most part, though, a tonic account of how one woman discovers her truest self in the face of supreme disaster.

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 2000

ISBN: 0-7434-0705-9

Page Count: 384

Publisher: Pocket

Review Posted Online: June 24, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2000

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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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ONE DAY IN THE LIFE OF IVAN DENISOVICH

While a few weeks ago it seemed as if Praeger would have a two month lead over Dutton in their presentation of this Soviet best seller, both the "authorized" edition (Dutton's) and the "unauthorized" (Praeger's) will appear almost simultaneously. There has been considerable advance attention on what appears to be as much of a publishing cause celebre here as the original appearance of the book in Russia. Without entering into the scrimmage, or dismissing it as a plague on both your houses, we will limit ourselves to a few facts. Royalties from the "unauthorized" edition will go to the International Rescue Committee; Dutton with their contracted edition is adhering to copyright conventions. The Praeger edition has two translators and one of them is the translator of Doctor Zhivago Dutton's translator, Ralph Parker, has been stigmatized by Praeger as "an apologist for the Soviet regime". To the untutored eye, the Dutton translation seems a little more literary, the Praeger perhaps closer to the rather primitive style of the original. The book itself is an account of one day in the three thousand six hundred and fifty three days of the sentence to be served by a carpenter, Ivan Denisovich Shukhov. (Solzhenitsyn was a political prisoner.) From the unrelenting cold without, to the conditions within, from the bathhouse to the latrine to the cells where survival for more than two weeks is impossible, this records the hopeless facts of existence as faced by thousands who went on "living like this, with your eyes on the ground". The Dutton edition has an excellent introduction providing an orientation on the political background to its appearance in Russia by Marvin Kalb. All involved in its publication (translators, introducers, etc.) claim for it great "artistic" values which we cannot share, although there is no question of its importance as a political and human document and as significant and tangible evidence of the de-Stalinization program.

Pub Date: June 15, 1963

ISBN: 0451228146

Page Count: 181

Publisher: Praeger

Review Posted Online: Oct. 5, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 1963

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