A story about survival that is heartbreakingly honest and wryly funny, perfect for fans of Jojo Moyes and Elizabeth Berg.

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HOW TO WALK AWAY

A woman faces a new life after surviving a plane crash in this moving story from Center (Happiness for Beginners, 2015, etc.).

Margaret Jacobsen has always been afraid of flying—which is why she’s extra hesitant to get in a plane flown by her pilot-in-training boyfriend, Chip, on Valentine’s Day. When Chip proposes in the air, Margaret has everything she’s ever wanted: an MBA, a great job lined up, and now the fiance of her dreams. But then Margaret’s biggest nightmare becomes a reality: The plane crashes. Chip walks away without a scratch while Margaret has severe burns on her neck and a spinal cord injury. Suddenly, everything about Margaret’s life has changed: Her job offer is rescinded, Chip can’t cope with her injuries, and she may never walk again. Now, Margaret has only her family to depend on—her well-meaning but controlling mother, her loving father, and her black-sheep sister, Kitty, who returns to town after years of estrangement. As her family members try in their own ways to motivate Margaret, she also has to get through physical therapy with Ian, the world’s grumpiest Scottish physical therapist. He has a prickly exterior, but Margaret slowly begins to realize that there may be more to him than she initially thought. A story that could be either uncompromisingly bleak or unbearably saccharine is neither in Center’s hands; Margaret faces her challenges with a sense of humor that feels natural. She has days when the reality of her changed life hits her and she can’t get out of bed, and she has moments where she and Kitty laugh so hard they cry. What she ultimately learns is that while her life may be much different than she expected and she may never be fully healed, as Ian puts it, “It’s the trying that heals you.” Margaret learns to take control of her own life in the wake of loss and change, trying to form a life she wants instead of a life everyone else wants for her. Center’s characters, especially Margaret and Kitty, leap off the page with their unique voices, and their relationships evolve slowly and satisfyingly. Although this is largely the story of Margaret learning to make the most of her life, it’s also a touching and believable love story with plenty of romantic-comedy flourishes.

A story about survival that is heartbreakingly honest and wryly funny, perfect for fans of Jojo Moyes and Elizabeth Berg.

Pub Date: May 15, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-250-14906-0

Page Count: 320

Publisher: St. Martin's

Review Posted Online: March 5, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2018

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Kin “[find] each other’s lives inscrutable” in this rich, sharp story about the way identity is formed.

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THE VANISHING HALF

Inseparable identical twin sisters ditch home together, and then one decides to vanish.

The talented Bennett fuels her fiction with secrets—first in her lauded debut, The Mothers (2016), and now in the assured and magnetic story of the Vignes sisters, light-skinned women parked on opposite sides of the color line. Desiree, the “fidgety twin,” and Stella, “a smart, careful girl,” make their break from stultifying rural Mallard, Louisiana, becoming 16-year-old runaways in 1954 New Orleans. The novel opens 14 years later as Desiree, fleeing a violent marriage in D.C., returns home with a different relative: her 8-year-old daughter, Jude. The gossips are agog: “In Mallard, nobody married dark....Marrying a dark man and dragging his blueblack child all over town was one step too far.” Desiree's decision seals Jude’s misery in this “colorstruck” place and propels a new generation of flight: Jude escapes on a track scholarship to UCLA. Tending bar as a side job in Beverly Hills, she catches a glimpse of her mother’s doppelgänger. Stella, ensconced in white society, is shedding her fur coat. Jude, so black that strangers routinely stare, is unrecognizable to her aunt. All this is expertly paced, unfurling before the book is half finished; a reader can guess what is coming. Bennett is deeply engaged in the unknowability of other people and the scourge of colorism. The scene in which Stella adopts her white persona is a tour de force of doubling and confusion. It calls up Toni Morrison’s The Bluest Eye, the book's 50-year-old antecedent. Bennett's novel plays with its characters' nagging feelings of being incomplete—for the twins without each other; for Jude’s boyfriend, Reese, who is trans and seeks surgery; for their friend Barry, who performs in drag as Bianca. Bennett keeps all these plot threads thrumming and her social commentary crisp. In the second half, Jude spars with her cousin Kennedy, Stella's daughter, a spoiled actress.

Kin “[find] each other’s lives inscrutable” in this rich, sharp story about the way identity is formed.

Pub Date: June 2, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-525-53629-1

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Riverhead

Review Posted Online: March 15, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2020

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More Hallmarkiana, from a shameless expert in the genre.

THE RESCUE

High-stakes weepmeister Sparks (A Walk to Remember, 1999, etc.) opts for a happy ending his fourth time out. His writing has improved—though it's still the equivalent of paint-by-numbers—and he makes use this time of at least a vestige of credible psychology.

That vestige involves the deep dark secret—it has something to do with his father's death when son Taylor was nine—that haunts kind, good 36-year-old local contractor Taylor McAden and makes him withdraw from relationships whenever they start getting serious enough to maybe get permanent. He's done this twice before, and now he does it again with pretty and sweet single mother Denise Holton, age 29, who's moved from Atlanta to Taylor's town of Edenton, North Carolina, in order to devote her time more fully to training her four-year-old son Kyle to overcome the peculiar impediment he has that keeps him from achieving normal language acquisition. Okay? When Denise has a car accident in a bad storm, she's rescued by volunteer fireman Taylor—who also rescues little Kyle after he wanders away from his injured mom in the storm. Love blooms in the weeks that follow—until Taylor suddenly begins putting on the brakes. What is it that holds him back, when there just isn't any question but that he loves Denise and vice versa-not to mention that he's "great" with Kyle, just like a father? It will require a couple of near-death experiences (as fireman Taylor bravely risks his life to save others); emotional steadiness from the intelligent, good, true Denise; and the terrible death of a dear and devoted friend before Taylor will come to the point at last of confiding to Denise the terrible memory of how his father died—and the guilt that's been its legacy to Taylor. The psychological dam broken, love will at last be able to flow.

More Hallmarkiana, from a shameless expert in the genre.

Pub Date: Sept. 19, 2000

ISBN: 0-446-52550-2

Page Count: 352

Publisher: N/A

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2000

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