A compassionate but excessively slow cancer story.

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THE SNOW WHITE EFFECT

Mills’ (The Parts That Followed, 2014, etc.) third novel uses four interweaving narratives to tell the story of mysterious medical malpractice at Kendal Slate Memorial Hospital.

Dale Reichter’s beloved wife, Cindy, suddenly develops an aggressive form of cancer after a routine hysterectomy at Kendal Slate. She dies within months of the surgery, leaving Dale devastated and suspicious of the hospital staff. Meanwhile, Emma Speck suffers from a fibroid that doctors insist is benign, but she also undergoes a straightforward hysterectomy when the fibroid becomes painful, only to develop cancerous symptoms similar to Cindy’s that she and her husband, Russell, must face together. Addison and Keith have been trying to start a family, but after multiple miscarriages, a life-threatening pregnancy, and an endometriosis diagnosis, Addison plans to have a hysterectomy that will stop her pain, even though it will also end her ability to conceive. At the same time, Dr. Richard Oakley, the chair of the surgical department at Kendal Slate, handles complaints from his patients with little sensitivity while ignoring his own mounting problems at home. All parties individually begin to investigate these routine surgeries gone horribly wrong and discover that the cancer is the result of a common surgical technique called morcellation, which breaks up growths into small pieces, which then develop into aggressive leiomyosarcoma tumors. All four lives intertwine as they find common ground in their personal battles against this alarming discovery. Mills offers an empathetic and engaging medical novel that’s deeply rooted in its characters and their experiences, illustrating the ways in which cancer can break apart but also unite families. Its focus on women, and women’s health in particular, is a crucial centerpiece. In Richard, the author successfully develops a jaded and despicable villain, counterbalancing him with the loving personae of Dale, Emma, and Addison. However, the novel could be perhaps 100 pages shorter, as all four storylines feel unnecessarily long. The lengthy individual narratives often cause the plot to lack forward movement for chapters at a time, creating an overall effect of drawn-out tedium.

A compassionate but excessively slow cancer story.

Pub Date: March 27, 2018

ISBN: N/A

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Universal Mysteries

Review Posted Online: March 5, 2018

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A tasty, if not always tasteful, tale of supernatural mayhem that fans of King and Crichton alike will enjoy.

DEVOLUTION

Are we not men? We are—well, ask Bigfoot, as Brooks does in this delightful yarn, following on his bestseller World War Z (2006).

A zombie apocalypse is one thing. A volcanic eruption is quite another, for, as the journalist who does a framing voice-over narration for Brooks’ latest puts it, when Mount Rainier popped its cork, “it was the psychological aspect, the hyperbole-fueled hysteria that had ended up killing the most people.” Maybe, but the sasquatches whom the volcano displaced contributed to the statistics, too, if only out of self-defense. Brooks places the epicenter of the Bigfoot war in a high-tech hideaway populated by the kind of people you might find in a Jurassic Park franchise: the schmo who doesn’t know how to do much of anything but tries anyway, the well-intentioned bleeding heart, the know-it-all intellectual who turns out to know the wrong things, the immigrant with a tough backstory and an instinct for survival. Indeed, the novel does double duty as a survival manual, packed full of good advice—for instance, try not to get wounded, for “injury turns you from a giver to a taker. Taking up our resources, our time to care for you.” Brooks presents a case for making room for Bigfoot in the world while peppering his narrative with timely social criticism about bad behavior on the human side of the conflict: The explosion of Rainier might have been better forecast had the president not slashed the budget of the U.S. Geological Survey, leading to “immediate suspension of the National Volcano Early Warning System,” and there’s always someone around looking to monetize the natural disaster and the sasquatch-y onslaught that follows. Brooks is a pro at building suspense even if it plays out in some rather spectacularly yucky episodes, one involving a short spear that takes its name from “the sucking sound of pulling it out of the dead man’s heart and lungs.” Grossness aside, it puts you right there on the scene.

A tasty, if not always tasteful, tale of supernatural mayhem that fans of King and Crichton alike will enjoy.

Pub Date: June 16, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-9848-2678-7

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Del Rey/Ballantine

Review Posted Online: Feb. 10, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2020

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Kin “[find] each other’s lives inscrutable” in this rich, sharp story about the way identity is formed.

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THE VANISHING HALF

Inseparable identical twin sisters ditch home together, and then one decides to vanish.

The talented Bennett fuels her fiction with secrets—first in her lauded debut, The Mothers (2016), and now in the assured and magnetic story of the Vignes sisters, light-skinned women parked on opposite sides of the color line. Desiree, the “fidgety twin,” and Stella, “a smart, careful girl,” make their break from stultifying rural Mallard, Louisiana, becoming 16-year-old runaways in 1954 New Orleans. The novel opens 14 years later as Desiree, fleeing a violent marriage in D.C., returns home with a different relative: her 8-year-old daughter, Jude. The gossips are agog: “In Mallard, nobody married dark....Marrying a dark man and dragging his blueblack child all over town was one step too far.” Desiree's decision seals Jude’s misery in this “colorstruck” place and propels a new generation of flight: Jude escapes on a track scholarship to UCLA. Tending bar as a side job in Beverly Hills, she catches a glimpse of her mother’s doppelgänger. Stella, ensconced in white society, is shedding her fur coat. Jude, so black that strangers routinely stare, is unrecognizable to her aunt. All this is expertly paced, unfurling before the book is half finished; a reader can guess what is coming. Bennett is deeply engaged in the unknowability of other people and the scourge of colorism. The scene in which Stella adopts her white persona is a tour de force of doubling and confusion. It calls up Toni Morrison’s The Bluest Eye, the book's 50-year-old antecedent. Bennett's novel plays with its characters' nagging feelings of being incomplete—for the twins without each other; for Jude’s boyfriend, Reese, who is trans and seeks surgery; for their friend Barry, who performs in drag as Bianca. Bennett keeps all these plot threads thrumming and her social commentary crisp. In the second half, Jude spars with her cousin Kennedy, Stella's daughter, a spoiled actress.

Kin “[find] each other’s lives inscrutable” in this rich, sharp story about the way identity is formed.

Pub Date: June 2, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-525-53629-1

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Riverhead

Review Posted Online: March 15, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2020

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