Split between two different narrative modes, Aboulela’s latest is both engaging and perplexing.

Three members of a British Muslim women’s group travel north to the Scottish Highlands, where their individual preoccupations turn increasingly surreal, leading them to redefine their attitudes and their futures.

Talking birds, phantom children, and physical metamorphoses are just a few of the surprises in this latest novel from an Egyptian-born writer who has previously used a more realistic style to explore the dilemmas of Muslim women often stranded between cultures. Aboulela (Elsewhere, Home, 2019, etc.) does begin her new work in recognizable territory, depicting a trio of friends who share a religion and immigrant background, but gradually proceedings shift into a more fantastical place. Salma, married to Muslim-convert David and mother to four British children, has enjoyed the most freedom, yet she fantasizes about the life she might have had in Egypt and is enjoying a risky phone dialogue with Amir, the man she didn’t marry. Moni is neglecting and endangering her marriage by devoting herself exclusively to the care of her son, Adam, who has cerebral palsy. Iman, youngest and prettiest of the three, yearns for a child but has just been rejected by her third husband and is now homeless. During a week together in a remote loch-side cottage, the women pursue private paths: Iman wears peculiar costumes and communes with a fable-sprouting Hoopoe, a sacred bird; Moni befriends a silent child who suddenly begins to grow alarmingly, like Alice in Wonderland; and Salma chases Amir through the woods. All three suffer painful physical alterations and journey through testing landscapes, but their friendship, previously fraying, helps sustain them until the Hoopoe leads them back. Aboulela’s exploration of the women’s problems of choice, faith, and commitment are as immersive as ever, but her dreamscapes, while imaginative and disconcerting, seem to sit oddly, at one didactic remove from the story.

Split between two different narrative modes, Aboulela’s latest is both engaging and perplexing.

Pub Date: Feb. 11, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-8021-4915-2

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Black Cat/Grove

Review Posted Online: Nov. 10, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2019


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


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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