A masterful exploration of all kinds of love—romance, family, and friendship—that will make even a cynic cry.

ALWAYS THE LAST TO KNOW

Secrets are revealed and old wounds are healed as a family attempts to deal with a medical emergency.

Barb Frost knew her marriage wasn’t perfect. She and John had been married for 50 years, but she was unhappy and thinking about leaving, keeping herself busy as first selectman of their small Connecticut town. But then John has a stroke. Barb and John’s daughters rush to the hospital to see him—responsible architect and mom Juliet has always been Barb’s favorite while freedom-loving artist Sadie was her father’s girl. Things are bad enough, but then Barb gets the shock of her life when she goes through John’s phone—and finds out he’s been having an affair. Barb tries to keep the secret from her daughters, knowing it would upset them, but the girls have struggles of their own. Juliet is dealing with secret panic attacks and feels like she can’t handle being a perfect wife, mom, and career woman. Sadie, who moves back home from New York City to help care for her dad, now has to confront Noah Pelletier, her high school sweetheart and the man she’s never been able to forget. He wanted to marry her and stay in their idyllic small town, but she wanted to explore the art world in New York—but now, she’s not so sure that was the right decision. Higgins handles difficult topics with aplomb, mining even the darkest subjects (infidelity, infertility, mortality) with a sense of humor. She resists painting her characters with broad strokes, allowing readers to see the humanity in each person. Sadie and Noah’s love story is angst-filled enough to warrant its own steamy romance novel, but the most touching relationships are the ones Barb has with her daughters and her best friend, Caro, who is Barb’s constant companion as she deals with the fallout of John’s stroke. As Barb puts it, love doesn’t “have to be romantic to encircle you in its arms.”

A masterful exploration of all kinds of love—romance, family, and friendship—that will make even a cynic cry.

Pub Date: June 9, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-451-48945-6

Page Count: 400

Publisher: Berkley

Review Posted Online: March 15, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2020

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If novelists are auditioning to play God, Hilderbrand gets the part.

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GOLDEN GIRL

From the greenroom of the afterlife—make that Benjamin Moore "Parsley Snips" green—a newly dead Nantucket novelist watches life unfold without her.

In her 27th novel, Hilderbrand gives herself an alter ego—beloved beach-novel author Vivian Howe—sends her out for a morning jog, and immediately kills her off. A hit-and-run driver leaves Vivi dead by the side of the road, where her son's best friend discovers her body—or was he responsible for the accident? Vivi doesn't know, nor does she know yet that her daughter Willa is pregnant, or that her daughter Carson is having a terribly ill-advised affair, or that her son, Leo, has a gnawing secret, or that her ex is getting tired of the girl he dumped her for. She will discover all this and more as she watches one last summer on Nantucket play out under the tutelage of Martha, her "Person," who receives her in the boho-chic waiting room of the Beyond. Hermès-scarved Martha explains that Vivi will have three nudges—three chances to change the course of events on Earth and prevent her bereaved loved ones from making life-altering mistakes. She will also get to watch the publication of what will be her last novel, titled Golden Girl, natch, and learn the answers to two questions: Will the secret about her own life she buried in this novel come to light (who cares, really—she's dead now), and will it hit No. 1 on the New York Times bestseller list (now there's an interesting question). She'll also get to see that one of her biggest wrongs is posthumously righted and that her kids have learned her most important lesson. As Willa says to Carson, "You know how she treats the characters in her books? She gives them flaws, she portrays them doing horrible things—but the reader loves them anyway. Because Mom loves them. Because they’re human.”

If novelists are auditioning to play God, Hilderbrand gets the part.

Pub Date: June 1, 2021

ISBN: 978-0-31642008-2

Page Count: 384

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: May 5, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2021

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Unlike baseball, basketball has contributed little to world literature. Call this Exhibit A.

SOOLEY

Legal eagle and mystery maven Grisham shifts gears with a novel about roundball.

What possessed Grisham to stop writing about murder in the Spanish moss–dripping milieus of the Deep South is anyone’s guess, and why he elected to write about basketball, one might imagine, speaks to some deep passion for the game. The depth of that love doesn’t quite emerge in these pages, flat of affect, told almost as if a by-the-numbers biography of an actual player. As it is, Grisham invents an all-too-believable hero in Samuel Sooleymon, who plays his way out of South Sudan, a nation wrought by sectarian violence—Sooley is a Dinka, Grisham instructs, of “the largest ethnic class in the country,” pitted against other ethnic groups—and mired in poverty despite the relative opulence of the capital city of Juba, with its “tall buildings, vibrancy, and well-dressed people.” A hard-charging but heart-of-gold coach changes his life when he arrives at the university there, having been dismissed earlier as a “nonshooting guard.” Soon enough Sooley is sinking three-pointers with alarming precision, which lands him a spot on an American college team. Much of the later portion of Grisham’s novel bounces between Sooley’s on-court exploits, jaw-dropping as they are, and his efforts to bring his embattled family, now refugees from civil war, to join him in the U.S.; explains Grisham, again, “Beatrice and her children were Dinka, the largest tribe in South Sudan, and their strongman was supposedly in control of most of the country,” though evidently not the part where they lived. Alas, Sooley, beloved of all, bound for a glorious career in the NBA, falls into the bad company that sudden wealth and fame can bring, and it all comes crashing down in a morality play that has only the virtue of bringing this tired narrative to an end.

Unlike baseball, basketball has contributed little to world literature. Call this Exhibit A.

Pub Date: April 27, 2021

ISBN: 978-0-385-54768-0

Page Count: 368

Publisher: Doubleday

Review Posted Online: March 3, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2021

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