A tour de force that makes readers face hard truths about the effect a person’s choices can have on her soul.

READ REVIEW

ALABASTER HOUSES

McLaughlin invites readers on a journey of the heart in this celebration of life, death and what it means to be human.

After fighting cancer for a year, teenage Amy finally starts to feel better. Then she dies in a tragic accident. Her mother Jane feels so much guilt that she lets her daughter’s death tear her life apart. One year after Amy’s death, Jane’s husband has left her and her son spends a lot of time with his dad, leaving Jane alone for days at a time. She passes these days with human-rights photographer Riva Hakim, whom is dying. Riva is also the wife of the late professor who was Amy’s biological father. While Jane has begun to deal with the guilt she feels over Amy’s death, she still has a long way to go when we first meet her. Riva, for her part, is trying to die well, and that includes forgiving the man who cheated on her as a course of habit, and opening up to a friendship with Jane as well as putting down her camera to write her memoirs. As she writes, Riva remembers the places she’s seen in the world—the trauma, tragedy and joy—and fights to see how these things have changed her. Her faith in God brings her peace during this difficult time, and she tries to lead Jane to that peace as well. As the two women journey, together and separate, they learn how to make peace with their pasts and how to go on into the future, whatever it asks of them. They learn that a dream can be a downfall, that endings are also beginnings and that what God has in store for a life may not be what the liver of that life always thought they wanted. McLaughlin’s storytelling is superb, deftly handling both women’s stories and the transitions between them, allowing readers to easily follow along. She also expertly handles emotions, making Jane and Riva’s grief, loss, anger and joy palpable.

A tour de force that makes readers face hard truths about the effect a person’s choices can have on her soul.

Pub Date: June 10, 2011

ISBN: 978-1456354626

Page Count: 344

Publisher: CreateSpace

Review Posted Online: April 14, 2011

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet

Charming, challenging, and so interesting you can hardly put it down.

Our Verdict

  • Our Verdict
  • GET IT

  • New York Times Bestseller

  • IndieBound Bestseller

SUCH A FUN AGE

The relationship between a privileged white mom and her black babysitter is strained by race-related complications.

Blogger/role model/inspirational speaker Alix Chamberlain is none too happy about moving from Manhattan to Philadelphia for her husband Peter's job as a TV newscaster. With no friends or in-laws around to help out with her almost-3-year-old, Briar, and infant, Catherine, she’ll never get anywhere on the book she’s writing unless she hires a sitter. She strikes gold when she finds Emira Tucker. Twenty-five-year-old Emira’s family and friends expect her to get going on a career, but outside the fact that she’s about to get kicked off her parents’ health insurance, she’s happy with her part-time gigs—and Briar is her "favorite little human." Then one day a double-header of racist events topples the apple cart—Emira is stopped by a security guard who thinks she's kidnapped Briar, and when Peter's program shows a segment on the unusual ways teenagers ask their dates to the prom, he blurts out "Let's hope that last one asked her father first" about a black boy hoping to go with a white girl. Alix’s combination of awkwardness and obsession with regard to Emira spins out of control and then is complicated by the reappearance of someone from her past (coincidence alert), where lies yet another racist event. Reid’s debut sparkles with sharp observations and perfect details—food, décor, clothes, social media, etc.—and she’s a dialogue genius, effortlessly incorporating toddler-ese, witty boyfriend–speak, and African American Vernacular English. For about two-thirds of the book, her evenhandedness with her varied cast of characters is impressive, but there’s a point at which any possible empathy for Alix disappears. Not only is she shallow, entitled, unknowingly racist, and a bad mother, but she has not progressed one millimeter since high school, and even then she was worse than we thought. Maybe this was intentional, but it does make things—ha ha—very black and white.

Charming, challenging, and so interesting you can hardly put it down.

Pub Date: Jan. 7, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-525-54190-5

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Putnam

Review Posted Online: Oct. 14, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 2019

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet

Offill is good company for the end of the world.

WEATHER

An ever growing list of worries, from a brother with drug problems to a climate change apocalypse, dances through the lively mind of a university librarian.

In its clever and seductive replication of the inner monologue of a woman living in this particular moment in history, Offill’s (Dept. of Speculation, 2014, etc.) third novel might be thought of as a more laconic cousin of Lucy Ellmann's Ducks, Newburyport. Here, the mind we’re embedded in is that of a librarian named Lizzie—an entertaining vantage point despite her concerns big and small. There’s the lady with the bullhorn who won’t let her walk her sensitive young son into his school building. Her brother, who has finally gotten off drugs and has a new girlfriend but still requires her constant, almost hourly, support. Her mentor, Sylvia, a national expert on climate change, who is fed up with her fans and wants Lizzie to take over answering her mail. (“These people long for immortality, but can’t wait ten minutes for a cup of coffee,” says Sylvia.) “Malodorous,” “Defacing,” “Combative,” “Humming,” “Lonely”: These are just a few of the categories in a pamphlet called Dealing With Problem Patrons that Lizzie's been given at work, Also, her knee hurts, and she’s spending a fortune on car service because she fears she's Mr. Jimmy’s only customer. Then there are the complex mixed messages of a cable show she can't stop watching: Extreme Shopper. Her husband, Ben, a video game designer and a very kind man, is getting a bit exasperated. As the new president is elected and the climate change questions pour in and the doomsday scenarios pile up, Lizzie tries to hold it together. The tension between mundane daily concerns and looming apocalypse, the "weather" of our days both real and metaphorical, is perfectly captured in Offill's brief, elegant paragraphs, filled with insight and humor.

Offill is good company for the end of the world.

Pub Date: Feb. 11, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-385-35110-2

Page Count: 224

Publisher: Knopf

Review Posted Online: Nov. 11, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2019

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet
more