Despite occasional moments of eloquence, the story—burdened by incensed, rambling speeches and half-realized...

A Quiet Resignation

Still harboring bitter rage at a bully from his school years, a university professor concocts an elaborate, violent plan to ruin his nemesis’ life.

Charlie Springbank tormented many people during his youth. A popular football player, he beat up many other boys and disgraced several of the girls. However, as the story’s unnamed narrator notes with glee, Charlie’s success diminished after graduation, thanks to a failed football career at Boston College and an unhappy marriage to the Boston police chief’s daughter. The narrator, meanwhile, found success and some happiness in his own marriage and career as a university professor. But, in a most unpleasant way, he’s pushed over the edge after witnessing Charlie urinate through an open window of his beloved sports car. In a series of passionate monologues interrupted only by brief dialogues, he slowly unveils a murderous scheme to destroy Charlie—and take out some of the city’s more unseemly characters—through a plan he dubs “The Masterwork.” Initially, the book calls to mind the amusing, endearing self-aggrandizement of Frederick Exley’s A Fan's Notes. Unfortunately, it morphs into a series of manifestos that mix clever, vivid turns of phrase with furious, often bizarre rants about people the narrator doesn’t like: Charlie, President Obama and “ivory tower” professors, to name just a few. The story borders on satire, with the narrator waxing poetically about everyone else’s flaws as the body count grows. Yet the more he verbally skewers Charlie and the other targets of his anger, the more the story falls victim to telling rather than showing. The author possesses a mouth-watering flair for describing food and beer, but that talent doesn’t extend to locations (Boston settings are listed without much identification beyond street names) or characters (with the exception of Charlie, they fill caricatured roles and hold vapid, stilted dialogues). While the story starts out intriguingly, the narrator’s raging displeasure and smarmy self-congratulatory attitude ultimately hold it hostage, leaving behind a tale that loves its own voice a little too much.

Despite occasional moments of eloquence, the story—burdened by incensed, rambling speeches and half-realized characters—falls short.

Pub Date: Feb. 9, 2012

ISBN: N/A

Page Count: 205

Publisher: Evergreen Umbrella

Review Posted Online: Oct. 24, 2020

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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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Heartfelt and funny, this enemies-to-lovers romance shows that the best things in life are all-inclusive and nontransferable...

THE UNHONEYMOONERS

An unlucky woman finally gets lucky in love on an all-expenses-paid trip to Hawaii.

From getting her hand stuck in a claw machine at age 6 to losing her job, Olive Torres has never felt that luck was on her side. But her fortune changes when she scores a free vacation after her identical twin sister and new brother-in-law get food poisoning at their wedding buffet and are too sick to go on their honeymoon. The only catch is that she’ll have to share the honeymoon suite with her least favorite person—Ethan Thomas, the brother of the groom. To make matters worse, Olive’s new boss and Ethan’s ex-girlfriend show up in Hawaii, forcing them both to pretend to be newlyweds so they don’t blow their cover, as their all-inclusive vacation package is nontransferable and in her sister’s name. Plus, Ethan really wants to save face in front of his ex. The story is told almost exclusively from Olive’s point of view, filtering all communication through her cynical lens until Ethan can win her over (and finally have his say in the epilogue). To get to the happily-ever-after, Ethan doesn’t have to prove to Olive that he can be a better man, only that he was never the jerk she thought he was—for instance, when she thought he was judging her for eating cheese curds, maybe he was actually thinking of asking her out. Blending witty banter with healthy adult communication, the fake newlyweds have real chemistry as they talk it out over snorkeling trips, couples massages, and a few too many tropical drinks to get to the truth—that they’re crazy about each other.

Heartfelt and funny, this enemies-to-lovers romance shows that the best things in life are all-inclusive and nontransferable as well as free.

Pub Date: May 14, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-5011-2803-5

Page Count: 416

Publisher: Gallery Books/Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: March 3, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2019

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