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

READ REVIEW

ANNA INCOGNITO

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

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet

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

Did you like this book?

With her second novel, Ng further proves she’s a sensitive, insightful writer with a striking ability to illuminate life in...

Our Verdict

  • Our Verdict
  • GET IT

Google Rating

  • google rating
  • google rating
  • google rating
  • google rating
  • google rating
  • Kirkus Reviews'
    Best Books Of 2017

  • New York Times Bestseller

  • IndieBound Bestseller

LITTLE FIRES EVERYWHERE

This incandescent portrait of suburbia and family, creativity, and consumerism burns bright.

It’s not for nothing that Ng (Everything I Never Told You, 2014) begins her second novel, about the events leading to the burning of the home of an outwardly perfect-seeming family in Shaker Heights, Ohio, circa 1997, with two epigraphs about the planned community itself—attesting to its ability to provide its residents with “protection forever against…unwelcome change” and “a rather happy life” in Utopia. But unwelcome change is precisely what disrupts the Richardson family’s rather happy life, when Mia, a charismatic, somewhat mysterious artist, and her smart, shy 15-year-old daughter, Pearl, move to town and become tenants in a rental house Mrs. Richardson inherited from her parents. Mia and Pearl live a markedly different life from the Richardsons, an affluent couple and their four high school–age children—making art instead of money (apart from what little they need to get by); rooted in each other rather than a particular place (packing up what fits in their battered VW and moving on when “the bug” hits); and assembling a hodgepodge home from creatively repurposed, scavenged castoffs and love rather than gathering around them the symbols of a successful life in the American suburbs (a big house, a large family, gleaming appliances, chic clothes, many cars). What really sets Mia and Pearl apart and sets in motion the events leading to the “little fires everywhere” that will consume the Richardsons’ secure, stable world, however, is the way they hew to their own rules. In a place like Shaker Heights, a town built on plans and rules, and for a family like the Richardsons, who have structured their lives according to them, disdain for conformity acts as an accelerant, setting fire to the dormant sparks within them. The ultimate effect is cataclysmic. As in Everything I Never Told You, Ng conjures a sense of place and displacement and shows a remarkable ability to see—and reveal—a story from different perspectives. The characters she creates here are wonderfully appealing, and watching their paths connect—like little trails of flame leading inexorably toward one another to create a big inferno—is mesmerizing, casting into new light ideas about creativity and consumerism, parenthood and privilege.

With her second novel, Ng further proves she’s a sensitive, insightful writer with a striking ability to illuminate life in America.

Pub Date: Sept. 12, 2017

ISBN: 978-0-7352-2429-2

Page Count: 384

Publisher: Penguin Press

Review Posted Online: June 20, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2017

Did you like this book?

more