An engaging and articulate family saga with a likable protagonist.



A debut novel traces the rise and fall of an early postwar suburban subdivision, as told through three generations of a family that called the sprawling development home.

The fictional Arboria Park, carved out of farmland and apple orchards, was built in 1951 to accommodate the burgeoning population as American troops returned from war and began producing the baby boomer generation. The book opens in 1960, by which time the suburban complex has grown to about 500 houses, including modest private homes and smaller town house–style units often rented to members of the military stationed at a nearby Air Force base. Stacy Halloran, 5 years old in 1960, is the youngest of four siblings and the primary narrator of a story that spans more than 50 years. A fascination with houses leads to her early and continued study of the neighborhood. “I love houses,” she tells her father. “They’re interesting. I want to draw every house here.” Wall uses Stacy to relate the history of suburban development. Ultimately, she begins a movement to protest the intended demolition of Arboria Park in the early 2000s. Each of the Halloran siblings faces individual crises and rebellions—Mary deals with an unhappy, short-lived shotgun marriage; Tommy leaves home to become an actor; Matt, who is gay, seeks acceptance in his community; and Stacy struggles to find love and her own purpose in life. The Halloran family—and Aboria Park itself—effectively serves as a composite of a changing America as it moves through the second half of the 20th century, roiled by the Vietnam War, counterculture music, casual sex, increased drug use, and a grudging acceptance of racial intermarriage. Contemporary songs form a backdrop to the engrossing narrative, exemplified by the “punk house,” where young, local players congregate and perform. But Wall’s ambitious tale with multiple characters sometimes lacks dramatic tension. And about a third of the way through the novel, in 1979, the author turns the first-person narration temporarily over to Autumn, Mary’s daughter. By 1980, Stacy, an appealing heroine, is back at the helm. The switch is a bit discordant, but it ultimately gives readers a personal view of a new generation of angst.

An engaging and articulate family saga with a likable protagonist.

Pub Date: May 2, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-63152-167-6

Page Count: 256

Publisher: She Writes Press

Review Posted Online: June 5, 2017

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Dark and unsettling, this novel’s end arrives abruptly even as readers are still moving at a breakneck speed.


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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Why you double-crossing little double crossers! Fiendishly clever.


The daughter of a grifter plans to fund her mother’s cancer treatment with a revenge con.

Rich people suck, don’t they? Nina Ross found this out in her adolescence, when her romance with Benny Liebling was broken up by his status-obsessed, old-money father, who found them screwing in the guest cottage of the family’s Lake Tahoe estate. Back then, Nina had a future—but she’s since followed her con-artist mother into the family business with the help of a handsome blue-eyed Irish confederate named Lachlan. “Here’s my rule,” Nina tells him. “Only people who have too much, and only people who deserve it.” Of course, he agrees. “We take only what we need.” With her art history background, Nina is usually able to target a few expensive antiques they can lift without the rich dopes even noticing they’re gone. But now that Nina's mother is hovering at death’s door without health insurance, she’s going after the $1 million in cash Benny mentioned was in his father’s safe all those years ago. So back to Lake Tahoe it is. The older Lieblings are dead, and Benny’s in the bin, so it’s his sister Vanessa Liebling who is the target of the complicated caper. Vanessa is a terribly annoying character—“I couldn’t tell you how I went from a few dozen Instagram followers to a half-million. One day, you’re uploading photos of your dog wearing sunglasses; and the next you’re begin flown to Coachella on a private jet with four other social media It Girls…”—but, in fact, you’ll hate everyone in this book. That is surely Brown’s (Watch Me Disappear, 2017, etc.) intention as she’s the one making them natter on this way. She also makes them vomit much more than is normal, whether it’s because they’re poisoning each other or because they’re just so horrified by each other’s behavior. Definitely stay to see how it all turns out.

Why you double-crossing little double crossers! Fiendishly clever.

Pub Date: April 21, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-525-47912-3

Page Count: 496

Publisher: Random House

Review Posted Online: Jan. 13, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2020

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