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A SCHOOL OF DAUGHTERS

An intensely emotional and engaging tale of marriage, separation, and growth.

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A woman struggles with responding to her husband’s infidelity.

In this debut contemporary novel, MacKenzie writes from the perspective of Kate René Willoughby, who discovers that after 22 years of marriage, her wealthy lawyer husband, Brian, is cheating on her. Kate, who has relocated to an Arizona ranch at Brian’s urging after many years spent living with him in Alaska, investigates his deceptions, both emotional and financial, as she attempts to decide whether or not to end her marriage. Kate’s story moves between the present and the past as she deals with the fallout from Brian’s adultery, remembers growing up with an abusive father, and takes comfort in the critters who surround her on the ranch (“I try to live in the here and now, to be grateful. For the roof over my head, the food I’m not eating, for the animals who force me out of bed each morning and keep me in a routine, who keep me alive”). When she finally makes a decision about Brian, Kate finds support within her community of friends and family as she learns to trust her own judgment and rediscovers her strengths. MacKenzie is a strong writer. Her evocative use of metaphors (“Like that innocent tarantula, I’m being consumed from the inside—by my husband’s love for another woman, by the words I hear him saying to her, by visions of skin against skin”), combined with the steady revelation of Brian’s secrets and deceits, will keep readers engaged even as Kate’s indecision about whether to leave is repetitive and drawn out far longer than necessary. Kate’s first-person narration gives readers a deep look into her thoughts, and fans of character-driven fiction will appreciate the intimacy of her portrayal and the power of her emotions. MacKenzie also does an effective job of incorporating the many animal characters into the story, allowing them to reveal Kate’s struggle without turning them into stand-ins for humans. The protagonist bears a strong resemblance to the author, beginning with their same first and middle names. Kate also shares many of the personal and professional experiences MacKenzie includes in her bio, making it difficult to separate the character from the author.

An intensely emotional and engaging tale of marriage, separation, and growth.

Pub Date: N/A

ISBN: 978-1-73-542210-7

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Red Lace Books

Review Posted Online: May 10, 2021

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  • New York Times Bestseller

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THE WOMEN

A dramatic, vividly detailed reconstruction of a little-known aspect of the Vietnam War.

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A young woman’s experience as a nurse in Vietnam casts a deep shadow over her life.

When we learn that the farewell party in the opening scene is for Frances “Frankie” McGrath’s older brother—“a golden boy, a wild child who could make the hardest heart soften”—who is leaving to serve in Vietnam in 1966, we feel pretty certain that poor Finley McGrath is marked for death. Still, it’s a surprise when the fateful doorbell rings less than 20 pages later. His death inspires his sister to enlist as an Army nurse, and this turn of events is just the beginning of a roller coaster of a plot that’s impressive and engrossing if at times a bit formulaic. Hannah renders the experiences of the young women who served in Vietnam in all-encompassing detail. The first half of the book, set in gore-drenched hospital wards, mildewed dorm rooms, and boozy officers’ clubs, is an exciting read, tracking the transformation of virginal, uptight Frankie into a crack surgical nurse and woman of the world. Her tensely platonic romance with a married surgeon ends when his broken, unbreathing body is airlifted out by helicopter; she throws her pent-up passion into a wild affair with a soldier who happens to be her dead brother’s best friend. In the second part of the book, after the war, Frankie seems to experience every possible bad break. A drawback of the story is that none of the secondary characters in her life are fully three-dimensional: Her dismissive, chauvinistic father and tight-lipped, pill-popping mother, her fellow nurses, and her various love interests are more plot devices than people. You’ll wish you could have gone to Vegas and placed a bet on the ending—while it’s against all the odds, you’ll see it coming from a mile away.

A dramatic, vividly detailed reconstruction of a little-known aspect of the Vietnam War.

Pub Date: Feb. 6, 2024

ISBN: 9781250178633

Page Count: 480

Publisher: St. Martin's

Review Posted Online: Nov. 4, 2023

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2023

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SWAN SONG

Though Hilderbrand threatens to kill all our darlings with this last laugh, her acknowledgments say it’s just “for now.”

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A stranger comes to town, and a beloved storyteller plays this creative-writing standby for all it’s worth.

Hilderbrand fans, a vast and devoted legion, will remember Blond Sharon, the notorious island gossip. In what is purportedly the last of the Nantucket novels, Blond Sharon decides to pursue her lifelong dream of fiction writing. In the collective opinion of the island—aka the “cobblestone telegraph”—she’s qualified. “Well, we think, she’s certainly demonstrated her keen interest in other people’s stories, the seedier and more salacious, the better.” Blond Sharon’s first assignment in her online creative writing class is to create a two-person character study, and Hilderbrand has her write up the two who arrive on the ferry in an opening scene of the book, using the same descriptors Hilderbrand has. Amusingly, the class is totally unimpressed. “‘I found it predictable,’ Willow said. ‘Like maybe Sharon used ChatGPT with the prompt “Write a character study about two women getting off the ferry, one prep and one punk.”’” Blond Sharon abandons these characters, but Hilderbrand thankfully does not. They are Kacy Kapenash, daughter of retiring police chief Ed Kapenash (the other swan song referred to by the title), and her new friend Coco Coyle, who has given up her bartending job in the Virgin Islands to become a “personal concierge” for the other strangers-who-have-come-to-town. These are the Richardsons, Bull and Leslee, a wild and wealthy couple who have purchased a $22 million beachfront property and plan to take Nantucket by storm. As the book opens, their house has burned down during an end-of-summer party on their yacht, and Coco is missing, feared both responsible for the fire and dead. Though it’s the last weekend of his tenure, Chief Ed refuses to let the incoming chief, Zara Washington, take this one over. The investigation goes forward in parallel with a review of the summer’s intrigues, love affairs, and festivities. Whatever else you can say about Leslee Richardson, she knows how to throw a party, and Hilderbrand is just the writer to design her invitations, menus, themes, playlists, and outfits. And that hot tub!

Though Hilderbrand threatens to kill all our darlings with this last laugh, her acknowledgments say it’s just “for now.”

Pub Date: June 11, 2024

ISBN: 9780316258876

Page Count: 384

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: March 9, 2024

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2024

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