McCleary’s richly drawn characters face intriguing challenges, yet the tale lacks momentum.

LEAVING HAVEN

Georgia and Alice have seen each other through the tribulations of marriage and motherhood, becoming the best of friends, but can their relationship survive the deepest betrayal?

McCleary’s (A Simple Thing, 2012, etc.) novel opens with Georgia Bing abandoning her newborn son in the hospital. The events leading to that act are told in multiple flashbacks, alternating between Alice’s and Georgia’s perspectives, a strategy that unfortunately slows the action to a sluggish pace. A successful baker, Georgia is happily married to John, a brilliant chef, whose smoldering eyes caught her attention at first glance. Raised by a vivacious but neglectful single mom, Alice found love and security with Duncan, a lawyer who recently quit his posh partnership to work for a nonprofit. Desperate for a second child, Georgia has tried every fertility treatment. Alice is keenly aware of the sad irony that Georgia, a woman so perfect for motherhood that she could be a baby whisperer, cannot conceive. After learning that Georgia’s younger sister is pregnant and cannot donate an egg, Alice offers Georgia her own eggs, a gift that sets a course for joy and heartbreak. Meanwhile, Alice’s and Georgia’s teenage daughters are embroiled in a bullying incident, which Duncan does not worry about and Georgia (with her high-risk pregnancy) should not worry about. So, Alice begins to navigate the murky waters of teenage drama, and she finds herself confiding in a man who offers a sympathetic ear. Supportive conversations lead to irresistible attraction. Soon, Alice has put everything in jeopardy, and she can’t even turn to Georgia for help. Nor can Georgia turn to Alice when she discovers something that challenges her ability to love the child she tried so hard to conceive.

McCleary’s richly drawn characters face intriguing challenges, yet the tale lacks momentum.

Pub Date: Oct. 1, 2013

ISBN: 978-0-06-210626-1

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Morrow/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: July 1, 2013

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2013

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

THEN SHE WAS GONE

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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A touching family drama that effectively explores the negative impact of stress on fragile relationships.

A WEEK AT THE SHORE

A middle-aged woman returns to her childhood home to care for her ailing father, confronting many painful secrets from her past.

When Mallory Aldiss gets a call from a long-ago boyfriend telling her that her elderly father has been gallivanting around town with a gun in his hand, Mallory decides it’s time to return to the small Rhode Island town that she’s been avoiding for more than a decade. Mallory’s precocious 13-year-old daughter, Joy, is thrilled that she'll get to meet her grandfather at long last, and an aunt, too, and she'll finally see the place where her mother grew up. When they arrive in Bay Bluff, it’s barely a few hours before Mallory bumps into her old flame, Jack, the only man she’s ever really loved. Gone is the rebellious young person she remembers, and in his place stands a compassionate, accomplished adult. As they try to reconnect, Mallory realizes that the same obstacle that pushed them apart decades earlier is still standing in their way: Jack blames Mallory’s father for his mother’s death. No one knows exactly how Jack’s mother died, but Jack thinks a love affair between her and Mallory’s father had something to do with it. As Jack and Mallory chase down answers, Mallory also tries to repair her rocky relationships with her two sisters and determine why her father has always been so hard on her. Told entirely from Mallory’s perspective, the novel has a haunting, nostalgic quality. Despite the complex and overlapping layers to the history of Bay Bluff and its inhabitants, the book at times trudges too slowly through Mallory’s meanderings down Memory Lane. Even so, Delinsky sometimes manages to pick up the pace, and in those moments the beauty and nuance of this complicated family tale shine through. Readers who don’t mind skimming past details that do little to advance the plot may find that the juicier nuggets and realistically rendered human connections are worth the effort.

A touching family drama that effectively explores the negative impact of stress on fragile relationships.

Pub Date: May 19, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-250-11951-3

Page Count: 416

Publisher: St. Martin's

Review Posted Online: March 2, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2020

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