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THE VIOLET HOUR

A bleak and disturbing story but one that offers a glimmer of hope.

In Hill’s debut, members of a troubled family converge to celebrate a milestone, with unexpected results.

Rheumatologist Abe Green loves sailing, but his wife, Cassandra, a sculptor, does not. When the couple and their daughter Elizabeth, newly accepted to Harvard, go sailing one day in San Francisco Bay, Abe reveals during an argument that he knows about Cassandra’s affair with a gallery owner, then leaps from the boat and swims away. Eight years later and divorced, Cassandra and her siblings, Howie and Mary, gather at their parents’ home in Maryland to celebrate their father’s 80th birthday; Elizabeth, in her final year of medical school, joins them and brings her boyfriend, Kyle, to meet her grandparents. Howard and Eunice Fabricant live above the family-owned funeral home and have raised their three children over the rooms where corpses await final preparations. On the eve of the big party, tragedy strikes, and instead of birthday festivities, the family prepares for a funeral for one of their own. As Cassandra deals with her grief, she recalls moments that have defined her life: both her fascination with dead bodies and her feelings of repulsion; her rejection of her mother’s desire that she one day assume the reins of the family business; the initial heady feelings of love for her former husband and their increasing alienation—emotions both Abe and Cassandra explore through a haze of marijuana when he shows up for the funeral. Meanwhile, Elizabeth’s pain causes her to push Kyle away and question their relationship. Although the author’s early prose is a bit florid, as the story progresses the writing becomes more subdued and more suited to the multifaceted study. Hill has produced an unusual retrospective of a family torn apart by divorce and infidelity and so keenly affected by the immediate events in their lives that they are only barely aware of what’s transpiring around them, namely Hurricane Katrina’s ravaging of the Gulf Coast.

A bleak and disturbing story but one that offers a glimmer of hope.

Pub Date: July 16, 2013

ISBN: 978-1-4767-1032-7

Page Count: 368

Publisher: Scribner

Review Posted Online: May 13, 2013

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 2013

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THE NIGHTINGALE

Still, a respectful and absorbing page-turner.

Hannah’s new novel is an homage to the extraordinary courage and endurance of Frenchwomen during World War II.

In 1995, an elderly unnamed widow is moving into an Oregon nursing home on the urging of her controlling son, Julien, a surgeon. This trajectory is interrupted when she receives an invitation to return to France to attend a ceremony honoring passeurs: people who aided the escape of others during the war. Cut to spring, 1940: Viann has said goodbye to husband Antoine, who's off to hold the Maginot line against invading Germans. She returns to tending her small farm, Le Jardin, in the Loire Valley, teaching at the local school and coping with daughter Sophie’s adolescent rebellion. Soon, that world is upended: The Germans march into Paris and refugees flee south, overrunning Viann’s land. Her long-estranged younger sister, Isabelle, who has been kicked out of multiple convent schools, is sent to Le Jardin by Julien, their father in Paris, a drunken, decidedly unpaternal Great War veteran. As the depredations increase in the occupied zone—food rationing, systematic looting, and the billeting of a German officer, Capt. Beck, at Le Jardin—Isabelle’s outspokenness is a liability. She joins the Resistance, volunteering for dangerous duty: shepherding downed Allied airmen across the Pyrenees to Spain. Code-named the Nightingale, Isabelle will rescue many before she's captured. Meanwhile, Viann’s journey from passive to active resistance is less dramatic but no less wrenching. Hannah vividly demonstrates how the Nazis, through starvation, intimidation and barbarity both casual and calculated, demoralized the French, engineering a community collapse that enabled the deportations and deaths of more than 70,000 Jews. Hannah’s proven storytelling skills are ideally suited to depicting such cataclysmic events, but her tendency to sentimentalize undermines the gravitas of this tale.

Still, a respectful and absorbing page-turner.

Pub Date: Feb. 3, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-312-57722-3

Page Count: 448

Publisher: St. Martin's

Review Posted Online: Nov. 19, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2014

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THEN SHE WAS GONE

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

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