One person's droll yet profound dramedy is another person's too-sweet cup of tea.

READ REVIEW

STRANGERS AND COUSINS

A ramshackle manse in upstate New York will go up for sale as soon as its owners finish putting on their daughter's wedding.

The fictional town of Rundle Junction has had bad luck with pageants—in 1927, a five-day drama of "Past, Present, and Future Performed Daily by its Residents" ended in a tragedy that recalls the real Hartford, Connecticut, circus fire some years later. Though there is a monument in town, the event is largely forgotten eight decades later except in wisps of memory drifting through the mind of ancient Aunt Glad, who used to have a sister named Joy and now has a great-grandniece called Mantha, who has named her dolls Fear and Sadness. Mantha's sister, "Clementine Esther Erlend Blumenthal, firstborn child of Walter and Benita Blumenthal, soon to become Mrs. KC Diggins...her college girlfriend's wife," is on her way home with her college friends Chana and Hannah (called "the Ch/Hannahs") to put on an alternative wedding ceremony—a pageant, it seems—that her mother, Bennie, is skeptical about. Bennie has plenty on her mind besides the wedding, as she and husband Walter (called "Stalwart") are not on the same page about the ultra-Orthodox Jews who have been moving into their area, their arrival having had a dire effect on property values, public schools, etc., in other commuter towns. Notwithstanding, as soon as this wedding is over, they plan to sell and flee. Cohen (No Book but the World, 2014, etc.) delights in her quirky characters, her melodious sentences, her exuberant narrative flourishes, and her peeks into the distant future. "Tonight, while just a few feet below them Walter and Pim pee side by side into the toilet, while more than two hundred thousand miles away the moon rolls across the sky like a lost pill, the baby mice are growing. Veering toward their respective fates." She rolls out her winsome, multicultural, elaborately orchestrated plot like a magic carpet. Some readers will jump on. Others may feel their inner sourpuss stirring to life.

One person's droll yet profound dramedy is another person's too-sweet cup of tea.

Pub Date: May 14, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-59463-483-3

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Riverhead

Review Posted Online: May 27, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2019

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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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