An engaging and suspenseful look at how the patriarchy shaped women’s lives in the 1950s and continues to do so today.

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RECIPE FOR A PERFECT WIFE

A wife in 2018 discovers letters and a cookbook from her house’s previous inhabitant—and realizes that their lives might not be so different.

Alice Hale doesn’t want to move from her tiny Manhattan apartment to a fixer-upper in the suburbs. But her husband has long wanted to move out of the city, and Alice, recently out of a job, feels like she doesn’t have a reason to say no. The free time may even give her more of a chance to start her novel-writing career. But when Alice discovers a cookbook and letters left behind by the house’s previous owner, Nellie Murdoch, she gets more inspiration than she bargained for. Alice pores over Nellie’s letters to her mother (mysteriously never mailed) to learn the minutiae of her life as a slightly bored housewife—the cooking, cleaning, and Tupperware parties. Alice even enjoys testing out the cookbook, making vintage recipes like Baked Alaska. But as readers see in chapters from Nellie’s point of view, her life wasn’t just a parade of fancy desserts and dinner parties—she was harshly controlled by her cruel and physically abusive husband. Nellie spent as much time hiding her bruises as she did making a home, being sure to keep the sordid details of her life a secret. Meanwhile, Alice is keeping a few secrets of her own from her husband. He doesn’t know that she was really fired from her last job or that she has no desire to get pregnant with the child he wants to have immediately. But as Nellie gains the courage to take control of her life, so does Alice—even if both of them might have to resort to dramatic measures. Brown (The Life Lucy Knew, 2018, etc.) skillfully alternates between Alice’s modern world and Nellie’s in the 1950s. With plentiful historical details (including recipes and depressingly hilarious marriage advice), the pages devoted to Nellie come to life. As both women both start to feel even more stifled in their marriages, Brown ratchets up the tension and pulls off a surprising—but satisfying—ending.

An engaging and suspenseful look at how the patriarchy shaped women’s lives in the 1950s and continues to do so today.

Pub Date: Jan. 21, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-5247-4493-9

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Dutton

Review Posted Online: Oct. 14, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 2019

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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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ANIMAL FARM

A FAIRY STORY

A modern day fable, with modern implications in a deceiving simplicity, by the author of Dickens. Dali and Others (Reynal & Hitchcock, p. 138), whose critical brilliance is well adapted to this type of satire. This tells of the revolt on a farm, against humans, when the pigs take over the intellectual superiority, training the horses, cows, sheep, etc., into acknowledging their greatness. The first hints come with the reading out of a pig who instigated the building of a windmill, so that the electric power would be theirs, the idea taken over by Napoleon who becomes topman with no maybes about it. Napoleon trains the young puppies to be his guards, dickers with humans, gradually instigates a reign of terror, and breaks the final commandment against any animal walking on two legs. The old faithful followers find themselves no better off for food and work than they were when man ruled them, learn their final disgrace when they see Napoleon and Squealer carousing with their enemies... A basic statement of the evils of dictatorship in that it not only corrupts the leaders, but deadens the intelligence and awareness of those led so that tyranny is inevitable. Mr. Orwell's animals exist in their own right, with a narrative as individual as it is apt in political parody.

Pub Date: Aug. 26, 1946

ISBN: 0452277507

Page Count: 114

Publisher: Harcourt, Brace

Review Posted Online: Nov. 2, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 1946

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