by Julianna Baggott ‧ RELEASE DATE: Aug. 18, 2015
Moments of heartbreak balance moments of hilarity in Baggott’s ambitious portrait of a family created from equal parts...
The life of Harriet Wolf, beloved (though reclusive) author of a series of fanciful novels, is clouded in mystery, and the rumored existence of the manuscript for a final volume provides grist for the mills of academics, fans, and family members alike.
Baggott has written an often whimsical account of long-term damages set in motion by good intentions. Told in four unique, alternating voices—that of Harriet, her daughter, Eleanor, and her two granddaughters, Ruth and Tilton—Baggott’s (Burn, 2014) gradual revelation of the meandering course of the enigmatic author’s life is part fairy tale, part psychological autopsy. Overcoming an early and erroneous banishment to the Maryland School for Feeble Minded Children, Harriet’s tenacity in creating a charmed and charming life for herself, on paper if not in the flesh, is recounted in a series of episodes that span the 20th century. Her descendants’ stories range from the bleak to the bizarre, but all take place on the stage Harriet created, and it's her legacy of secrecy and fierce familial loyalty that curses and blesses them all. What’s hidden in Harriet’s saga is as important as what’s visible, and Baggott’s tale is sprinkled with promises, secrets, pacts, and more than one case of agoraphobia. When a medical crisis reunites Eleanor, Ruth, and Tilton, the weight of Harriet’s prescience is felt while it falls to her family to puzzle out how to continue to live and love in a real world that is not as enchanting as that of her novels.Moments of heartbreak balance moments of hilarity in Baggott’s ambitious portrait of a family created from equal parts secrecy and love.
Pub Date: Aug. 18, 2015
Page Count: 336
Publisher: Little, Brown
Review Posted Online: June 3, 2015
Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2015
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by Kristin Hannah ‧ RELEASE DATE: Feb. 6, 2018
A tour de force.
In 1974, a troubled Vietnam vet inherits a house from a fallen comrade and moves his family to Alaska.
After years as a prisoner of war, Ernt Allbright returned home to his wife, Cora, and daughter, Leni, a violent, difficult, restless man. The family moved so frequently that 13-year-old Leni went to five schools in four years. But when they move to Alaska, still very wild and sparsely populated, Ernt finds a landscape as raw as he is. As Leni soon realizes, “Everyone up here had two stories: the life before and the life now. If you wanted to pray to a weirdo god or live in a school bus or marry a goose, no one in Alaska was going to say crap to you.” There are many great things about this book—one of them is its constant stream of memorably formulated insights about Alaska. Another key example is delivered by Large Marge, a former prosecutor in Washington, D.C., who now runs the general store for the community of around 30 brave souls who live in Kaneq year-round. As she cautions the Allbrights, “Alaska herself can be Sleeping Beauty one minute and a bitch with a sawed-off shotgun the next. There’s a saying: Up here you can make one mistake. The second one will kill you.” Hannah’s (The Nightingale, 2015, etc.) follow-up to her series of blockbuster bestsellers will thrill her fans with its combination of Greek tragedy, Romeo and Juliet–like coming-of-age story, and domestic potboiler. She re-creates in magical detail the lives of Alaska's homesteaders in both of the state's seasons (they really only have two) and is just as specific and authentic in her depiction of the spiritual wounds of post-Vietnam America.A tour de force.
Pub Date: Feb. 6, 2018
Page Count: 448
Publisher: St. Martin's
Review Posted Online: Oct. 30, 2017
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15, 2017
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by Lisa Jewell ‧ RELEASE DATE: April 24, 2018
Dark and unsettling, this novel’s end arrives abruptly even as readers are still moving at a breakneck speed.
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
Page Count: 368
Review Posted Online: Feb. 5, 2018
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2018
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