An intelligent account of a town succumbing to mass hysteria—but much too gradual in its pace.

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SOMETHING MIGHT HAPPEN

Myerson’s fifth novel (after Laura Blundy, 2000, etc.) is a portrait of the fears and confusions ignited when a brutal murder takes place in a small English town.

Nothing was ever the same in town after Lennie was found dead in the garage. A wife and mother of two, she was last seen leaving a PTA meeting in her hometown in the north of England. The next day the police found her mutilated corpse (the heart had been cut out). Tess, a local physician, was Lennie’s longtime neighbor and best friend, and, in the aftermath of the crime, she helps look after Lennie’s husband, Alex, and the children while he attends to the official duties of identifying the body and meeting with the police. Tess and her boyfriend Mick are also questioned by the police, who seem just as dumbfounded by the case as do most of Lennie’s friends. One of the investigators is Ted Lacey, a “family liaison” specially assigned to take testimony from relatives and friends. In the course of her meetings with Lacey, Tess becomes more and more attracted to him, and eventually the two begin a secret affair. It’s hard to keep secrets in a town consumed with suspicions, but Ted and Tess manage—until Tess’s young daughter Rosa disappears while Tess is away at a rendezvous with Ted. Is this the work of a serial killer, or has the girl simply run away from home? And why is Darren Sims, a simple-minded farmboy who never hurt a fly now going about town bragging that he and Lennie were lovers? If Miss Marple ever made it to Peyton Place, she’d be able to sort out the loose ends in no time. But she’s nowhere to be seen here.

An intelligent account of a town succumbing to mass hysteria—but much too gradual in its pace.

Pub Date: Oct. 22, 2003

ISBN: 0-316-77984-9

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: June 24, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2003

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A gut-wrenching debut.

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MY DARK VANESSA

The #MeToo movement forces a struggling young woman to confront the abusive relationship that defines her sexual and romantic past.

At 15, Vanessa Wye falls for her English teacher at Browick, a private boarding school. Jacob Strane is 42, "big, broad, and so tall that his shoulders hunch as though his body wants to apologize for taking up so much space." Strane woos Vanessa with Nabokov's novels, Plath's poetry, and furtive caresses in his back office. "I think we're very similar, Nessa," Strane tells her during a one-on-one conference. "I can tell from the way you write that you're a dark romantic like me." Soon, Vanessa is reveling in her newfound power of attraction, pursuing sleepovers at Strane's house, and conducting what she feels is a secret affair right under the noses of the administration. More than 15 years later, at the height of the #MeToo movement, Taylor Birch, another young woman from Browick, publicly accuses Strane of sexual abuse. When a young journalist reaches out to Vanessa to corroborate Taylor's story, Vanessa's world begins to unravel. "Because even if I sometimes use the word abuse to describe certain things that were done to me, in someone else's mouth the word turns ugly and absolute....It swallows me and all the times I wanted it, begged for it," Vanessa tells herself. Russell weaves Vanessa's memories of high school together with the social media–saturated callout culture of the present moment, as Vanessa struggles to determine whether the love story she has told about herself is, in fact, a tragedy of unthinkable proportions. Russell's debut is a rich psychological study of the aftermath of abuse, and her novel asks readers both to take Vanessa's assertions of agency at face value and to determine the real, psychological harm perpetrated against her by an abusive adult. What emerges is a devastating cultural portrait of enablement and the harm we allow young women to shoulder. "The excuses we make for them are outrageous," Vanessa concludes about abusive men, "but they're nothing compared with the ones we make for ourselves."

A gut-wrenching debut.

Pub Date: March 10, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-06-294150-3

Page Count: 384

Publisher: Morrow/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Aug. 19, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2019

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Traversing topics of love, race, and class, this emotionally complex novel speaks to—and may reverberate beyond—our troubled...

A GOOD NEIGHBORHOOD

A riveting, potentially redemptive story of modern American suburbia that reads almost like an ancient Greek tragedy.

When the Whitmans, a nouveau riche white family, move into a sprawling, newly built house next door to Valerie Alston-Holt, a black professor of forestry and ecology, and her musically gifted, biracial 18-year-old son, Xavier, in a modest, diverse North Carolina neighborhood of cozy ranch houses on wooded lots, it is clear from the outset things will not end well. The neighborhood itself, which serves as the novel’s narrator and chorus, tells us so. The story begins on “a Sunday afternoon in May when our neighborhood is still maintaining its tenuous peace, a loose balance between old and new, us and them,” we are informed in the book’s opening paragraph. “Later this summer when the funeral takes place, the media will speculate boldly on who’s to blame.” The exact nature of the tragedy that has been foretold and questions of blame come into focus gradually as a series of events is set inexorably in motion when the Whitmans’ cloistered 17-year-old daughter, Juniper, encounters Xavier. The two teenagers tumble into a furtive, pure-hearted romance even as Xavier’s mom and Juniper’s stepfather, Brad, a slick operator who runs a successful HVAC business and has secrets of his own, lock horns in a legal battle over a dying tree. As the novel builds toward its devastating climax, it nimbly negotiates issues of race and racism, class and gentrification, sex and sexual violence, environmental destruction and other highly charged topics. Fowler (A Well-Behaved Woman, 2018, etc.) empathetically conjures nuanced characters we won’t soon forget, expertly weaves together their stories, and imbues the plot with a sense of inevitability and urgency. In the end, she offers an opportunity for catharsis as well as a heartfelt, hopeful call to action.

Traversing topics of love, race, and class, this emotionally complex novel speaks to—and may reverberate beyond—our troubled times.

Pub Date: Feb. 4, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-250-23727-9

Page Count: 288

Publisher: St. Martin's

Review Posted Online: Oct. 1, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 2019

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