Cohen is finely attuned to family dynamics here, both the quiet inner workings of Ava’s successful marriage and her genuine...

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NO BOOK BUT THE WORLD

A brother and sister with unconventional childhoods grow into adulthood, with predictably quirky results.

Ava and Fred Robbins grow up under the tutelage of their parents, June and Neel, the latter of whom had established an experimental school in upstate New York in the late 1940s. Neel is 20 years older than his wife, and they both believe in a Rousseau-ian ideal of freedom for their children as well as for the students in their school. (In fact, the title of the novel comes directly out of a quotation from Emile, Rousseau’s novel of education.) As a consequence, both Ava and Fred grow up making major choices about their own upbringings. As a child, Ava’s best friend is Kitty, whose older brother Dennis becomes enamored of Ava when she’s a coltish 14-year-old, and years later they marry. Ava’s placid domestic life is severely disrupted when she finds out that Fred has been arrested on several charges involving the disappearance and death of a 12-year-old boy named James Ferebee, whose body was recently found. Counsel for Fred is an overworked and underexperienced public defender who can scarcely be bothered with the details of the case, including finding time to visit his client in jail and get his side of the story. Growing up, Fred had always been strange and alienating, exhibiting symptoms of Asperger’s or perhaps something further on the autism spectrum, though Ava can hardly imagine him as a killer. Through substantial flashbacks to their childhoods, adolescences and early adult lives, Ava is always looking to put the family narrative into some kind of meaningful whole, though Fred’s arrest and incarceration severely challenge this attempt to find coherence.

Cohen is finely attuned to family dynamics here, both the quiet inner workings of Ava’s successful marriage and her genuine bewilderment about Fred’s fall from grace.

Pub Date: April 3, 2014

ISBN: 978-1-59448-603-6

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Riverhead

Review Posted Online: Feb. 6, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2014

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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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ANIMAL FARM

A FAIRY STORY

A modern day fable, with modern implications in a deceiving simplicity, by the author of Dickens. Dali and Others (Reynal & Hitchcock, p. 138), whose critical brilliance is well adapted to this type of satire. This tells of the revolt on a farm, against humans, when the pigs take over the intellectual superiority, training the horses, cows, sheep, etc., into acknowledging their greatness. The first hints come with the reading out of a pig who instigated the building of a windmill, so that the electric power would be theirs, the idea taken over by Napoleon who becomes topman with no maybes about it. Napoleon trains the young puppies to be his guards, dickers with humans, gradually instigates a reign of terror, and breaks the final commandment against any animal walking on two legs. The old faithful followers find themselves no better off for food and work than they were when man ruled them, learn their final disgrace when they see Napoleon and Squealer carousing with their enemies... A basic statement of the evils of dictatorship in that it not only corrupts the leaders, but deadens the intelligence and awareness of those led so that tyranny is inevitable. Mr. Orwell's animals exist in their own right, with a narrative as individual as it is apt in political parody.

Pub Date: Aug. 26, 1946

ISBN: 0452277507

Page Count: 114

Publisher: Harcourt, Brace

Review Posted Online: Nov. 2, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 1946

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