A heartbreaking, if messy, tale about a father facing the loss of his son.



A father attempts to help his sick son fulfill his dream in this literary novel.

A father who spent most of his kids’ childhoods abroad is relieved to finally be back in their lives. He is particularly interested in his middle child, Wyatt. A troublemaker from a young age, 16-year-old Wyatt—under the positive influence of his girlfriend, Emily—is finally putting his energies to positive use: producing electronic dance music. By 20, the young Canadian DJ has songs on the music charts and gets signed to a British record label. His next goal: to play the legendary but hard-to-get-into music festival in Glastonbury, England: “ ‘Maybe one day, I’ll be popular enough to play at Glasto. That’s my dream, I guess.’ His face took on a far-away look” and his father “knew where his mind was—on stage—performing in front of thousands of crazed fans, rain pouring from the sky and mud enveloping the feet of those fanatics.” But his father notices that Wyatt has been suffering from some oddly persistent back pain. When Wyatt finally gets an MRI to see if he has a slipped disc, it reveals that he has bone cancer—and it has already spread to his lungs. He is told, at 21, that he has a year to live. Soon after, he is invited to perform at Glastonbury, but will he live long enough to play the show? Compagna’s prose is crisp and often potent, as here where he describes Wyatt’s father’s tortuous wait in a hospital: “Less than an hour later a nurse guided me down a hall in silence, her shoes making no noise against the linoleum and all conversation replaced by the slow, steady sounds of respirators and monitors. From each door came a slow, steady beeping, the sound of fluids dripping.” The novel is based on a true story, and the visceral emotions that underlie the plot are palpable. As powerful as it is to watch a young man lose his future—and see a family deal with a painful tragedy—the narrative is perhaps too raw, featuring almost hagiographic depictions of Wyatt and Emily. Though touched, readers will likely wonder whether this book would have worked better simply as nonfiction.

A heartbreaking, if messy, tale about a father facing the loss of his son.

Pub Date: N/A


Page Count: -

Publisher: Manuscript

Review Posted Online: March 5, 2020

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A gut-wrenching debut.

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The #MeToo movement forces a struggling young woman to confront the abusive relationship that defines her sexual and romantic past.

At 15, Vanessa Wye falls for her English teacher at Browick, a private boarding school. Jacob Strane is 42, "big, broad, and so tall that his shoulders hunch as though his body wants to apologize for taking up so much space." Strane woos Vanessa with Nabokov's novels, Plath's poetry, and furtive caresses in his back office. "I think we're very similar, Nessa," Strane tells her during a one-on-one conference. "I can tell from the way you write that you're a dark romantic like me." Soon, Vanessa is reveling in her newfound power of attraction, pursuing sleepovers at Strane's house, and conducting what she feels is a secret affair right under the noses of the administration. More than 15 years later, at the height of the #MeToo movement, Taylor Birch, another young woman from Browick, publicly accuses Strane of sexual abuse. When a young journalist reaches out to Vanessa to corroborate Taylor's story, Vanessa's world begins to unravel. "Because even if I sometimes use the word abuse to describe certain things that were done to me, in someone else's mouth the word turns ugly and absolute....It swallows me and all the times I wanted it, begged for it," Vanessa tells herself. Russell weaves Vanessa's memories of high school together with the social media–saturated callout culture of the present moment, as Vanessa struggles to determine whether the love story she has told about herself is, in fact, a tragedy of unthinkable proportions. Russell's debut is a rich psychological study of the aftermath of abuse, and her novel asks readers both to take Vanessa's assertions of agency at face value and to determine the real, psychological harm perpetrated against her by an abusive adult. What emerges is a devastating cultural portrait of enablement and the harm we allow young women to shoulder. "The excuses we make for them are outrageous," Vanessa concludes about abusive men, "but they're nothing compared with the ones we make for ourselves."

A gut-wrenching debut.

Pub Date: March 10, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-06-294150-3

Page Count: 384

Publisher: Morrow/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Aug. 19, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2019

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Traversing topics of love, race, and class, this emotionally complex novel speaks to—and may reverberate beyond—our troubled...


A riveting, potentially redemptive story of modern American suburbia that reads almost like an ancient Greek tragedy.

When the Whitmans, a nouveau riche white family, move into a sprawling, newly built house next door to Valerie Alston-Holt, a black professor of forestry and ecology, and her musically gifted, biracial 18-year-old son, Xavier, in a modest, diverse North Carolina neighborhood of cozy ranch houses on wooded lots, it is clear from the outset things will not end well. The neighborhood itself, which serves as the novel’s narrator and chorus, tells us so. The story begins on “a Sunday afternoon in May when our neighborhood is still maintaining its tenuous peace, a loose balance between old and new, us and them,” we are informed in the book’s opening paragraph. “Later this summer when the funeral takes place, the media will speculate boldly on who’s to blame.” The exact nature of the tragedy that has been foretold and questions of blame come into focus gradually as a series of events is set inexorably in motion when the Whitmans’ cloistered 17-year-old daughter, Juniper, encounters Xavier. The two teenagers tumble into a furtive, pure-hearted romance even as Xavier’s mom and Juniper’s stepfather, Brad, a slick operator who runs a successful HVAC business and has secrets of his own, lock horns in a legal battle over a dying tree. As the novel builds toward its devastating climax, it nimbly negotiates issues of race and racism, class and gentrification, sex and sexual violence, environmental destruction and other highly charged topics. Fowler (A Well-Behaved Woman, 2018, etc.) empathetically conjures nuanced characters we won’t soon forget, expertly weaves together their stories, and imbues the plot with a sense of inevitability and urgency. In the end, she offers an opportunity for catharsis as well as a heartfelt, hopeful call to action.

Traversing topics of love, race, and class, this emotionally complex novel speaks to—and may reverberate beyond—our troubled times.

Pub Date: Feb. 4, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-250-23727-9

Page Count: 288

Publisher: St. Martin's

Review Posted Online: Oct. 1, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 2019

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