A perceptive, ghostly tale about two lovers struggling to find their way.

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Building It Up

The death of a close high school friend haunts a young couple in this debut novel.

Autumn Miller is working as a waitress at a restaurant in a small town, and it is her last day. She has spent the last few years saving money and has decided to go back to school. After a run-in with some terrible customers, she leaves work early but soon learns that the college has delayed her academic program until the following spring. Now that she is unemployed and won’t start school for eight more months, Autumn decides to take some money she inherited from her grandmother and buy an old farmhouse. Jensen Owens, a guy that Autumn was close to in high school, arrives in town, but she doesn’t immediately recognize him. Several years have passed, and Jensen has been drinking a lot and going from woman to woman, but something has called him back to his hometown. After reintroducing himself to Autumn, he ends up back at her place after she gets drunk at a bar one night. Autumn is in a relationship with a guy named Logan, but he is often absent, and Jensen soon takes his place. Autumn and Jensen share a traumatic memory that has linked them forever. Their good friend Jake died when they were in high school, and both Autumn and Jensen are wracked by feelings of guilt and horror concerning this tragedy. As Jensen’s battle with alcoholism comes to a head, visions of Jake start to haunt both him and Autumn. She has to decide whether she can save Jensen, should set him free, or perhaps both. Rose has written a sensitive story about fairly young people who are trying to rebuild their lives. The novel excels at showing how they wrestle with their personal demons, which in Jensen’s case have become all-consuming. The eerie, ghostly appearances of Jake add a different level to the tale, as the author tries to dissect the forces that lead people to do destructive things (“Jensen shook his head but Jake did not disappear. He would forever be eighteen years old with the same flyaway mussed brown hair”). Ruminations about feelings can slow things down a bit, but Rose has created a convincing setting with enough room for romance and a touch of the supernatural.

A perceptive, ghostly tale about two lovers struggling to find their way.

Pub Date: Sept. 25, 2015

ISBN: 978-1-5170-6140-1

Page Count: 226

Publisher: CreateSpace

Review Posted Online: July 17, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2016

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A vivid sequel that strains credulity.

THE ESCAPE ARTIST

Fremont (After Long Silence, 1999) continues—and alters—her story of how memories of the Holocaust affected her family.

At the age of 44, the author learned that her father had disowned her, declaring her “predeceased”—or dead in his eyes—in his will. It was his final insult: Her parents had stopped speaking to her after she’d published After Long Silence, which exposed them as Jewish Holocaust survivors who had posed as Catholics in Europe and America in order to hide multilayered secrets. Here, Fremont delves further into her tortured family dynamics and shows how the rift developed. One thread centers on her life after her harrowing childhood: her education at Wellesley and Boston University, the loss of her virginity to a college boyfriend before accepting her lesbianism, her stint with the Peace Corps in Lesotho, and her decades of work as a lawyer in Boston. Another strand involves her fraught relationship with her sister, Lara, and how their difficulties relate to their father, a doctor embittered after years in the Siberian gulag; and their mother, deeply enmeshed with her own sister, Zosia, who had married an Italian count and stayed in Rome to raise a child. Fremont tells these stories with novelistic flair, ending with a surprising theory about why her parents hid their Judaism. Yet she often appears insensitive to the serious problems she says Lara once faced, including suicidal depression. “The whole point of suicide, I thought, was to succeed at it,” she writes. “My sister’s completion rate was pathetic.” Key facts also differ from those in her earlier work. After Long Silence says, for example, that the author grew up “in a small city in the Midwest” while she writes here that she grew up in “upstate New York,” changes Fremont says she made for “consistency” in the new book but that muddy its narrative waters. The discrepancies may not bother readers seeking psychological insights rather than factual accuracy, but others will wonder if this book should have been labeled a fictionalized autobiography rather than a memoir.

A vivid sequel that strains credulity.

Pub Date: Feb. 11, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-982113-60-5

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Gallery Books/Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: Oct. 21, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15, 2019

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A miscellany of paternal pride (and frustration) darkened by the author’s increasing realizations of his mortality.

DAD'S MAYBE BOOK

Ruminations and reminiscences of an author—now in his 70s—about fatherhood, writing, and death.

O’Brien (July, July, 2002, etc.), who achieved considerable literary fame with both Going After Cacciato (1978) and The Things They Carried (1990), returns with an eclectic assembly of pieces that grow increasingly valedictory as the idea of mortality creeps in. (The title comes from the author’s uncertainty about his ability to assemble these pieces in a single volume.) He begins and ends with a letter: The initial one is to his first son (from 2003); the terminal one, to his two sons, both of whom are now teens (the present). Throughout the book, there are a number of recurring sections: “Home School” (lessons for his sons to accomplish), “The Magic Show” (about his long interest in magic), and “Pride” (about his feelings for his sons’ accomplishments). O’Brien also writes often about his own father. One literary figure emerges as almost a member of the family: Ernest Hemingway. The author loves Hemingway’s work (except when he doesn’t) and often gives his sons some of Papa’s most celebrated stories to read and think and write about. Near the end is a kind of stand-alone essay about Hemingway’s writings about war and death, which O’Brien realizes is Hemingway’s real subject. Other celebrated literary figures pop up in the text, including Elizabeth Bishop, Andrew Marvell, George Orwell, and Flannery O’Connor. Although O’Brien’s strong anti-war feelings are prominent throughout, his principal interest is fatherhood—specifically, at becoming a father later in his life and realizing that he will miss so much of his sons’ lives. He includes touching and amusing stories about his toddler sons, about the sadness he felt when his older son became a teen and began to distance himself, and about his anguish when his sons failed at something.

A miscellany of paternal pride (and frustration) darkened by the author’s increasing realizations of his mortality.

Pub Date: Oct. 14, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-618-03970-8

Page Count: 384

Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt

Review Posted Online: July 28, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2019

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