A enjoyable read with little substance.


Intertwining stories chronicle the life and misspent times of a negligent mother.

Joody—she changed the spelling in school so she’d come before girls with the name’s conventional rendering—is a careless narcissist who leaves a path of emotional destruction behind her. Besides ex-boyfriends and her sister, victims include three living children and one dead baby whom she delivers at home, wraps in a blanket and stuffs in a cupboard, heading off to work after placing the placenta in the trash. “What about the baby?” her straight-arrow sister, Janet, asks. “It just kind of slipped out,” Joody replies. This tale of a dysfunctional American family comes into focus through the eyes of four narrators, including Joody herself; her sister; Joody’s confused, angry son, Bryce; and his concerned but alienated probable-father, Brent. Through each lens, readers view a slightly different aspect of this troubling but seemingly untroubled woman—a “floozy,” in her sister’s words, since “slut and whore are too harsh.” Although the technique of telling a tale from different points of view has worked for masters like Faulkner and Bierce, here it falls short. For one thing, the voices all sound the same, with comma splices being just one mannerism each narrator shares. Nevertheless, the book draws poignant if sketchy pictures of a strained relationship between the night-and-day sisters and a son and father trying to act their roles. Joody’s character is believable: Like many crazies, she has a sure instinct for self-preservation, often independent of survival for those around her. “No matter the verb, she was the object,” her sister observes. Yet for a potentially heavy subject, the book has a peculiar lightness, and Joody’s own take on the situation can be downright funny. Her sister and nerdy boyfriend, for instance, are “dweebs in heat.” Despite some entertaining lines, the book never really wades beyond the emotional shallows. To its credit, though, it doesn’t moralize about Joody’s condition. To its detriment, it doesn’t fully explore or explain it.

A enjoyable read with little substance.

Pub Date: April 22, 2011

ISBN: 978-1456336554

Page Count: 118

Publisher: CreateSpace

Review Posted Online: March 6, 2013

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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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Another artistic triumph, and surefire bestseller, for this fearless writer.


This Afghan-American author follows his debut (The Kite Runner, 2003) with a fine risk-taking novel about two victimized but courageous Afghan women.

Mariam is a bastard. Her mother was a housekeeper for a rich businessman in Herat, Afghanistan, until he impregnated and banished her. Mariam’s childhood ended abruptly when her mother hanged herself. Her father then married off the 15-year-old to Rasheed, a 40ish shoemaker in Kabul, hundreds of miles away. Rasheed is a deeply conventional man who insists that Mariam wear a burqa, though many women are going uncovered (it’s 1974). Mariam lives in fear of him, especially after numerous miscarriages. In 1987, the story switches to a neighbor, nine-year-old Laila, her playmate Tariq and her parents. It’s the eighth year of Soviet occupation—bad for the nation, but good for women, who are granted unprecedented freedoms. Kabul’s true suffering begins in 1992. The Soviets have gone, and rival warlords are tearing the city apart. Before he leaves for Pakistan, Tariq and Laila make love; soon after, her parents are killed by a rocket. The two storylines merge when Rasheed and Mariam shelter the solitary Laila. Rasheed has his own agenda; the 14-year-old will become his second wife, over Mariam’s objections, and give him an heir, but to his disgust Laila has a daughter, Aziza; in time, he’ll realize Tariq is the father. The heart of the novel is the gradual bonding between the girl-mother and the much older woman. Rasheed grows increasingly hostile, even frenzied, after an escape by the women is foiled. Relief comes when Laila gives birth to a boy, but it’s short-lived. The Taliban are in control; women must stay home; Rasheed loses his business; they have no food; Aziza is sent to an orphanage. The dramatic final section includes a murder and an execution. Despite all the pain and heartbreak, the novel is never depressing; Hosseini barrels through each grim development unflinchingly, seeking illumination.

Another artistic triumph, and surefire bestseller, for this fearless writer.

Pub Date: May 22, 2007

ISBN: 1-59448-950-5

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Riverhead

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2007

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