A sprawling, ambitious novel overshadowed by unnecessary, awkward digressions.

A FALSE START

In Allis’ debut novel, one woman’s journey out of an abusive marriage begins when the Twin Towers fall.

On Sept. 11, 2001, Kathy Stockton is in her Upper East Side home preparing to meet Jessica, her brother’s widow, for the first time; her brother died in a freak accident days earlier. She gets a phone call telling her that Jessica is in the hospital after hitting her head while trying to prevent a woman from being hit by a car. Kathy races to the hospital and learns that the woman she thinks is Jessica has injuries unrelated to her fall, “consistent with…repeated beatings.” Kathy takes the amnesiac woman back to her luxurious brownstone to recover, and the woman realizes that her name is actually Anissa Brogdon. She saved Jessica from getting run over, and paramedics thought Jessica’s identification was hers; Anissa’s abusive husband, Tennessee plastic surgeon Foley Brogdon, had taken her own wallet, purse and even her shoes to ensure she would remain in their hotel room near the Twin Towers while he attended a conference. Despite his abuse, Anissa immediately demands to call him—until Kathy shares that she too was a victim of violence from her own, now-deceased husband.  Kathy realizes that the events of 9/11 have given Anissa an opportunity to recreate her life. She whisks Anissa away to Georgia, where she helps her start anew, but will she ever be able to escape Foley? Allis’ novel is extremely ambitious, taking on 9/11 and including a wide range of characters. At its best, it’s a suspenseful story about women helping other women to survive domestic violence. Unfortunately, the quality of the prose doesn’t match its ambition. There are graphic, clichéd sex scenes (“the dance that men and women have danced together to the beat of the erotic musical tempo of their bodies thrashing down through the ages”), and the plot relies heavily on convenient coincidences. For example, Anissa had Jessica’s purse at the accident scene because she’d grabbed it to yank Jessica out of traffic—but wouldn’t Jessica have been carrying some kind of photo ID? The novel also repeatedly diverges from the plot to describe the geopolitical reverberations of the terrorist attacks, and every time a character enters a new house, there’s a distracting, detailed description of home furnishings that wouldn’t be out of place in Elle Décor.

A sprawling, ambitious novel overshadowed by unnecessary, awkward digressions.

Pub Date: Feb. 4, 2014

ISBN: N/A

Page Count: 352

Publisher: T.S.W. Publishing

Review Posted Online: March 14, 2014

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A tasty, if not always tasteful, tale of supernatural mayhem that fans of King and Crichton alike will enjoy.

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DEVOLUTION

Are we not men? We are—well, ask Bigfoot, as Brooks does in this delightful yarn, following on his bestseller World War Z (2006).

A zombie apocalypse is one thing. A volcanic eruption is quite another, for, as the journalist who does a framing voice-over narration for Brooks’ latest puts it, when Mount Rainier popped its cork, “it was the psychological aspect, the hyperbole-fueled hysteria that had ended up killing the most people.” Maybe, but the sasquatches whom the volcano displaced contributed to the statistics, too, if only out of self-defense. Brooks places the epicenter of the Bigfoot war in a high-tech hideaway populated by the kind of people you might find in a Jurassic Park franchise: the schmo who doesn’t know how to do much of anything but tries anyway, the well-intentioned bleeding heart, the know-it-all intellectual who turns out to know the wrong things, the immigrant with a tough backstory and an instinct for survival. Indeed, the novel does double duty as a survival manual, packed full of good advice—for instance, try not to get wounded, for “injury turns you from a giver to a taker. Taking up our resources, our time to care for you.” Brooks presents a case for making room for Bigfoot in the world while peppering his narrative with timely social criticism about bad behavior on the human side of the conflict: The explosion of Rainier might have been better forecast had the president not slashed the budget of the U.S. Geological Survey, leading to “immediate suspension of the National Volcano Early Warning System,” and there’s always someone around looking to monetize the natural disaster and the sasquatch-y onslaught that follows. Brooks is a pro at building suspense even if it plays out in some rather spectacularly yucky episodes, one involving a short spear that takes its name from “the sucking sound of pulling it out of the dead man’s heart and lungs.” Grossness aside, it puts you right there on the scene.

A tasty, if not always tasteful, tale of supernatural mayhem that fans of King and Crichton alike will enjoy.

Pub Date: June 16, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-9848-2678-7

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Del Rey/Ballantine

Review Posted Online: Feb. 10, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2020

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Packed with riveting drama and painful truths, this book powerfully illustrates the devastation of abuse—and the strength of...

IT ENDS WITH US

Hoover’s (November 9, 2015, etc.) latest tackles the difficult subject of domestic violence with romantic tenderness and emotional heft.

At first glance, the couple is edgy but cute: Lily Bloom runs a flower shop for people who hate flowers; Ryle Kincaid is a surgeon who says he never wants to get married or have kids. They meet on a rooftop in Boston on the night Ryle loses a patient and Lily attends her abusive father’s funeral. The provocative opening takes a dark turn when Lily receives a warning about Ryle’s intentions from his sister, who becomes Lily’s employee and close friend. Lily swears she’ll never end up in another abusive home, but when Ryle starts to show all the same warning signs that her mother ignored, Lily learns just how hard it is to say goodbye. When Ryle is not in the throes of a jealous rage, his redeeming qualities return, and Lily can justify his behavior: “I think we needed what happened on the stairwell to happen so that I would know his past and we’d be able to work on it together,” she tells herself. Lily marries Ryle hoping the good will outweigh the bad, and the mother-daughter dynamics evolve beautifully as Lily reflects on her childhood with fresh eyes. Diary entries fancifully addressed to TV host Ellen DeGeneres serve as flashbacks to Lily’s teenage years, when she met her first love, Atlas Corrigan, a homeless boy she found squatting in a neighbor’s house. When Atlas turns up in Boston, now a successful chef, he begs Lily to leave Ryle. Despite the better option right in front of her, an unexpected complication forces Lily to cut ties with Atlas, confront Ryle, and try to end the cycle of abuse before it’s too late. The relationships are portrayed with compassion and honesty, and the author’s note at the end that explains Hoover’s personal connection to the subject matter is a must-read.

Packed with riveting drama and painful truths, this book powerfully illustrates the devastation of abuse—and the strength of the survivors.

Pub Date: Aug. 2, 2016

ISBN: 978-1-5011-1036-8

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Atria

Review Posted Online: May 31, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2016

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