An upbeat and thoughtful blend of romance and politics.

LOVE, ACROSS THE DIVIDE

In Ford’s debut novel, an unwed woman has her sights set on political office and searches for a powerful partner to help get her there. 

Soon after U.S. Rep. White (R-Florida) secures another term, he taps his campaign manager, Megan Thompson, to be his 2018 successor, and he offers her a job as his aide in Washington, D.C., in charge of energy and environmental legislation. However, the fact that she’s a single woman—she recently called off a wedding when she discovered that her fiance cheated on her with her best friend—could be off-putting to voters, especially social conservatives. So White arranges for Megan to go on a dating tour to find a “strategic power match,” though she largely finds disappointment instead. Eventually, though, she meets Brock Tolbert, a spokesman for the National Rifle Association who’s charming, well-connected, and handsome—politically perfect. Meanwhile, she sees her new roommate, Andrew Croswell, as the bane of her existence; she thinks that he’s a smug, opinionated, “liberal libido killer.” He works for a group that’s lobbying for a more robust approach to climate change. Although his and Megan’s relationship begins in mutual acrimony, their enmity soon eases into friendly détente and then sweetly flirts with something deeper—and less platonic. Author Ford pulls off an impressive trick, artfully combining two seemingly incongruent genres in a companionably lighthearted romance and an astute political commentary on transcending partisanship. The author has a refreshing talent for humanizing ideological conflict, and both Megan and Andrew turn out to be far more complex than their political leanings would suggest. The plot occasionally loses its steam and slows to a meandering stroll, and the novel as whole would benefit from a shorter page count. Also, Andrew is initially presented as so insufferably shrill, that it isn’t easy for Ford, or the reader, to get rid of that first impression. However, this is a subtly ambitious work that doesn’t shy away from contentious subjects, such as same-sex marriage and climate change, and it squarely confronts the most controversial topic of the day—the presidency of Donald Trump. 

An upbeat and thoughtful blend of romance and politics. 

Pub Date: July 15, 2018

ISBN: N/A

Page Count: 448

Publisher: CreateSpace

Review Posted Online: June 20, 2018

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Unrelenting gloom relieved only occasionally by wrenching trauma; somehow, though, Hannah’s storytelling chops keep the...

FLY AWAY

Hannah’s sequel to Firefly Lane (2008) demonstrates that those who ignore family history are often condemned to repeat it.

When we last left Kate and Tully, the best friends portrayed in Firefly Lane, the friendship was on rocky ground. Now Kate has died of cancer, and Tully, whose once-stellar TV talk show career is in free fall, is wracked with guilt over her failure to be there for Kate until her very last days. Kate’s death has cemented the distrust between her husband, Johnny, and daughter Marah, who expresses her grief by cutting herself and dropping out of college to hang out with goth poet Paxton. Told mostly in flashbacks by Tully, Johnny, Marah and Tully’s long-estranged mother, Dorothy, aka Cloud, the story piles up disasters like the derailment of a high-speed train. Increasingly addicted to prescription sedatives and alcohol, Tully crashes her car and now hovers near death, attended by Kate’s spirit, as the other characters gather to see what their shortsightedness has wrought. We learn that Tully had tried to parent Marah after her father no longer could. Her hard-drinking decline was triggered by Johnny’s anger at her for keeping Marah and Paxton’s liaison secret. Johnny realizes that he only exacerbated Marah’s depression by uprooting the family from their Seattle home. Unexpectedly, Cloud, who rebuffed Tully’s every attempt to reconcile, also appears at her daughter’s bedside. Sixty-nine years old and finally sober, Cloud details for the first time the abusive childhood, complete with commitments to mental hospitals and electroshock treatments, that led to her life as a junkie lowlife and punching bag for trailer-trash men. Although powerful, Cloud’s largely peripheral story deflects focus away from the main conflict, as if Hannah was loath to tackle the intractable thicket in which she mired her main characters.

Unrelenting gloom relieved only occasionally by wrenching trauma; somehow, though, Hannah’s storytelling chops keep the pages turning even as readers begin to resent being drawn into this masochistic morass.

Pub Date: April 23, 2013

ISBN: 978-0-312-57721-6

Page Count: 416

Publisher: St. Martin's

Review Posted Online: Feb. 18, 2013

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 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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