ANNA INCOGNITO

A razor-sharp, oddly fun but sometimes clunky romp through the American West.

A borderline recluse in California with a few mental problems embarks on a road trip to her psychologist’s wedding in this novel.

Anna Beck suffers from an uncommon condition. She has trichotillomania, a disorder that leads her to pull every hair out of her body. She also has obsessive-compulsive disorder, so accomplishing ordinary tasks can be quite difficult. Nonetheless, she possesses a witty and sardonic sense of humor and goes to great lengths to tackle her problems. As a germophobe, she finds a laundromat called the Fluffitorium disgusting, so she arranges with the owner to clean the place after it closes so she can disinfect it while free from other people contaminating the premises. As it happens, she met her psychologist, Dr. Edward Denture, at the Fluffitorium when he boldly used her reserved washing machines (“I know that’s an unusual place to meet someone who would change the course of your life, but we both had run out of underwear,” Anna muses). Now, an envelope arrives in the mail, inviting Anna to Edward’s wedding in Colorado. Six months before, she thought she was in love, or at least lust, with Edward but now he is engaged to April Fennimore-Klein. With Anna’s disorders, travel is next to impossible but she cannot fathom Edward’s getting married and wants to stop the wedding. She coerces her friend Petra into securing a car for her, and then, armed with an inordinate amount of hand sanitizer and disinfectant wipes, puts her wig on straight and heads out on the road. Things go smoothly for a while, but a bizarre, transient mother and daughter latch on to Anna, throwing her already madcap life into further disarray. The protagonist’s acerbic wit and mordant tone work well in the difficult material in Preble’s unconventional road novel. With a downstairs neighbor from Flatbush, Brooklyn, added to the mix, Anna’s small world is full of biting humor effectively used to deal with personal pain, and it keeps the story from getting too heavy. Flashbacks to sessions with Edward are handled well and have insightful moments, though Anna’s reticence to reveal things slows the tale down a bit. Unfortunately, the only other major characters, the troubled mother and daughter, are mostly an annoyance until the story is too far along for it to matter.

A razor-sharp, oddly fun but sometimes clunky romp through the American West.

Pub Date: Feb. 4, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-64307-136-7

Page Count: 272

Publisher: Mascot Books

Review Posted Online: Feb. 12, 2020

THEN SHE WAS GONE

Dark and unsettling, this novel’s end arrives abruptly even as readers are still moving at a breakneck speed.

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. 5, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2018

LOVE AND OTHER WORDS

With frank language and patient plotting, this gangly teen crush grows into a confident adult love affair.

Eleven years ago, he broke her heart. But he doesn’t know why she never forgave him.

Toggling between past and present, two love stories unfold simultaneously. In the first, Macy Sorensen meets and falls in love with the boy next door, Elliot Petropoulos, in the closet of her dad’s vacation home, where they hide out to discuss their favorite books. In the second, Macy is working as a doctor and engaged to a single father, and she hasn’t spoken to Elliot since their breakup. But a chance encounter forces her to confront the truth: what happened to make Macy stop speaking to Elliot? Ultimately, they’re separated not by time or physical remoteness but by emotional distance—Elliot and Macy always kept their relationship casual because they went to different schools. And as a teen, Macy has more to worry about than which girl Elliot is taking to the prom. After losing her mother at a young age, Macy is navigating her teenage years without a female role model, relying on the time-stamped notes her mother left in her father’s care for guidance. In the present day, Macy’s father is dead as well. She throws herself into her work and rarely comes up for air, not even to plan her upcoming wedding. Since Macy is still living with her fiance while grappling with her feelings for Elliot, the flashbacks offer steamy moments, tender revelations, and sweetly awkward confessions while Macy makes peace with her past and decides her future.

With frank language and patient plotting, this gangly teen crush grows into a confident adult love affair.

Pub Date: April 10, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-5011-2801-1

Page Count: 416

Publisher: Gallery Books/Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: Jan. 22, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2018

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