Since much of the nuanced wit is perhaps lost in translation, what remains is a decorative but aimless family chronicle....

From German author Hagena, the story of a young German woman whose inheritance of her grandmother’s house leads her to plumb her family’s past. This book was an international best-seller.

In Bulloch’s translation from the German, nature imagery is colorfully transcribed, which is fortunate, since Hagena’s descriptions of the lake, forest and gardens surrounding the ancestral apple farm of the Deelwater family are among this novel’s principal charms. Bertha, the matriarch, who survived her husband, Hinnerk, by many years—most of them in a state of steadily worsening dementia—has died, willing portions of her estate to her three daughters, Inga, Harriet and Christa, and, unexpectedly, bequeathing the farmhouse to Christa’s daughter, Iris, the narrator. As Iris, a librarian, takes time off to decide whether or not to keep the house, her recollections and encounters with denizens of the tiny lakeside village of Bootshaven shape the novel. Family secrets are mulled over as Iris’ consciousness, searching for clarity, circles back repeatedly to crucial events she witnessed as a child. Herr Lexow, elderly caretaker of the farm, confesses that he might have fathered Inga during World War II while Hinnerk was off at his job as a prison camp commandant. (Hinnerk’s checkered past with the Nazi Party is not a major aspect of the novel—the primary focus is on the women’s comparatively sheltered lives.) Whimsy abounds, striking a discordant note with the overall meditative tone of the book—for some reason, Iris’ wardrobe is limited to old ball gowns once belonging to her aunts; she and Bertha’s lawyer, Max, meet cute while swimming naked in the lake; and Aunt Inga, born during an electrical storm, cannot touch anyone without shocking them. Aunt Harriet, now a devotee of an Indian guru, had her heart broken, and the child born of this liaison, Rosmarie, died under circumstances not fully elucidated until the novel’s climax.

Since much of the nuanced wit is perhaps lost in translation, what remains is a decorative but aimless family chronicle. Matriarch Bertha’s decline is, however, viscerally felt and vividly detailed.

Pub Date: Feb. 4, 2014

ISBN: 978-0-06-229347-3

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Morrow/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Dec. 16, 2013

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2014


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. 5, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2018


With frank language and patient plotting, this gangly teen crush grows into a confident adult love affair.

Eleven years ago, he broke her heart. But he doesn’t know why she never forgave him.

Toggling between past and present, two love stories unfold simultaneously. In the first, Macy Sorensen meets and falls in love with the boy next door, Elliot Petropoulos, in the closet of her dad’s vacation home, where they hide out to discuss their favorite books. In the second, Macy is working as a doctor and engaged to a single father, and she hasn’t spoken to Elliot since their breakup. But a chance encounter forces her to confront the truth: what happened to make Macy stop speaking to Elliot? Ultimately, they’re separated not by time or physical remoteness but by emotional distance—Elliot and Macy always kept their relationship casual because they went to different schools. And as a teen, Macy has more to worry about than which girl Elliot is taking to the prom. After losing her mother at a young age, Macy is navigating her teenage years without a female role model, relying on the time-stamped notes her mother left in her father’s care for guidance. In the present day, Macy’s father is dead as well. She throws herself into her work and rarely comes up for air, not even to plan her upcoming wedding. Since Macy is still living with her fiance while grappling with her feelings for Elliot, the flashbacks offer steamy moments, tender revelations, and sweetly awkward confessions while Macy makes peace with her past and decides her future.

With frank language and patient plotting, this gangly teen crush grows into a confident adult love affair.

Pub Date: April 10, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-5011-2801-1

Page Count: 416

Publisher: Gallery Books/Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: Jan. 22, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2018

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