A memorable collection that, although occasionally predictable, sheds light on a little-explored section of America.

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THE BOXFORD STORIES

A SHORT STORY COLLECTION

In this debut collection of short stories, Carson explores the daily lives, loves and frustrations of two tight-knit Mormon families in 1970s Maryland.

The first story of the collection, “The Gilded Door,” introduces the small town of Boxford in 1974. When the local theater begins showing XXX-rated movies, the local Mormon ladies are shocked. They decide to present wholesome entertainment two days a month to prove to the theater’s owner that he can make money without showing porno; however, as Ada Runyon discovers, few things are more predictable than carnal desire. The next story, “ ’Atta Boy” (which won the 2006 Association for Mormon Letters’ award for short fiction), follows Latham, Ada’s husband, a history professor who longs to be the next president of the local Mormon church. Latham spends a day wringing his hands and waiting for the phone call that will change his life, but he discovers nothing more than bitterness and the realization of his own inadequacy. Although these two stories present a multifaceted view of what it means to be Mormon, they don’t quite do justice to the rest of the collection. They present a much more simplistic view of Mormons vs. non-Mormons than the other stories, which use ambiguity to their advantage. Standouts include “Gypsy Holiday,” in which Ada’s anxiety over family friends not coming to Thanksgiving devolves into a stark admission of her loneliness and inability to connect with outsiders; “A Little Five-Minute Thrown-Together Something,” which lays bare the squirming insecurities of teenage crushes; and “Flirting Lessons,” which sees Ada’s teenage daughter, Ginni, taking a cross-country road trip with two friends that leads to panic when one goes missing. These stories are unexpected in their subtlety as they explore the reality of what it means to be Mormon—and human. From Ada—who notices that her friend Ruthalin is “reaching the huge-and-miserable stage weeks earlier with baby #10 than she had back with baby #6”—to Latham, who knows he’s stereotyped as “Joe Mormon,” to the young woman who doesn’t “want to be caught fussing with her hair, since she’d figured out, by now, that she was not the kind of person anybody would want to look at,” the characters here must confront the unhappiness and disappointment of life as well as their own uncertain feelings toward their faith.

A memorable collection that, although occasionally predictable, sheds light on a little-explored section of America.

Pub Date: N/A

ISBN: N/A

Page Count: -

Publisher: Ribbon Wand Press

Review Posted Online: Oct. 20, 2014

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

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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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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