An elegant comedy and an auspicious debut.

CRAZY RICH ASIANS

Jane Austen, or maybe Edith Wharton, goes to Singapore, turning in this lively, entertaining novel of manners.

You’ve got to like any novel set in Asia that includes, among many splendid one-liners, this amah’s admonition: “Don’t you know there are children starving in America?” Of varying ethnicities but resolutely members of the 1 percent or aspiring, one way or another, to be so, Kwan’s characters are urban sophisticates par excellence, many of them familiar with the poshest districts of London, Paris, New York and Hong Kong. Many of them are also adrift, with soulless consumerism replacing society: It’s Less Than Zero without all the coke. When socialite Astrid, for instance, is in a mood, as she so often is, she goes shopping in boutiques haunted by “the wives of Persian Gulf sheikhs, Malay sultans, and the Indonesian Chinese oligarchs.” Not half-bad company, but then Astrid moves in a rarefied circle around the richest of the rich. At its center is 32-year-old Nicholas Young, whose ABC girlfriend—American-born Chinese, that is—Rachel Chu, has come to Singapore to meet the family. To Nick’s credit, she is taken aback by just how phenomenally wealthy they are. “It’s like any big family,” Nick assures her. “I have loudmouth uncles, eccentric aunts, obnoxious cousins, the whole nine yards.” Well, and then some. Rachel discovers that the position of being Nick’s intended isn’t an easy one—not only are there other would-be plutocrats gunning for the spot, but the family also doesn’t make things easy, either. A diverse set of characters and a light, unstrained touch move Kwan’s story along. Yet, even though one feels for Rachel, there’s a point—right about at the spot where one of her new girlfriends is showing off the yoga studio inside daddy’s new jet—that one gets the feeling that Ho Chi Minh might have had a point after all.

An elegant comedy and an auspicious debut.

Pub Date: June 11, 2013

ISBN: 978-0-385-53697-4

Page Count: 416

Publisher: Doubleday

Review Posted Online: May 18, 2013

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 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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THE GREAT ALONE

In 1974, a troubled Vietnam vet inherits a house from a fallen comrade and moves his family to Alaska.

After years as a prisoner of war, Ernt Allbright returned home to his wife, Cora, and daughter, Leni, a violent, difficult, restless man. The family moved so frequently that 13-year-old Leni went to five schools in four years. But when they move to Alaska, still very wild and sparsely populated, Ernt finds a landscape as raw as he is. As Leni soon realizes, “Everyone up here had two stories: the life before and the life now. If you wanted to pray to a weirdo god or live in a school bus or marry a goose, no one in Alaska was going to say crap to you.” There are many great things about this book—one of them is its constant stream of memorably formulated insights about Alaska. Another key example is delivered by Large Marge, a former prosecutor in Washington, D.C., who now runs the general store for the community of around 30 brave souls who live in Kaneq year-round. As she cautions the Allbrights, “Alaska herself can be Sleeping Beauty one minute and a bitch with a sawed-off shotgun the next. There’s a saying: Up here you can make one mistake. The second one will kill you.” Hannah’s (The Nightingale, 2015, etc.) follow-up to her series of blockbuster bestsellers will thrill her fans with its combination of Greek tragedy, Romeo and Juliet–like coming-of-age story, and domestic potboiler. She re-creates in magical detail the lives of Alaska's homesteaders in both of the state's seasons (they really only have two) and is just as specific and authentic in her depiction of the spiritual wounds of post-Vietnam America.

A tour de force.

Pub Date: Feb. 6, 2018

ISBN: 978-0-312-57723-0

Page Count: 448

Publisher: St. Martin's

Review Posted Online: Oct. 31, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15, 2017

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