A complex, melancholy tale of a woman on the brink.

NERVOUS SYSTEM

A woman considers her lifelong obsessions with illness, death, and the universe.

The second novel translated into English by Chilean author Meruane concerns Ella, an astrophysics scholar whose efforts to finish her dissertation on black holes are perpetually foiled. Her health is one reason for that: She’s suffering from back pain whose cause proves difficult to diagnose but presses her into palliative chemotherapy. Her loved ones' health is another: Her husband, an anthropologist, was badly injured in an explosion near a dig where he was working; her father, a renowned doctor, is in decline. These predicaments prompt Ella to remember her mother’s death, shortly after Ella was born, and remembering only stokes her feelings of complicity in her loss. (Her older brother isn’t shy about assigning blame: “Did you forget you killed her?” he tells Ella.) For all the family drama at play here, though, the novel is less a morbid domestic tale and more a postmodern meditation on how illness and loss forge connections as enduring as a happy marriage or healthy children; if Don DeLillo wrote a family saga, it might read like this. Astrophysics gives Ella an occupation, but the business of stars and the vacuum of outer space also establishes a chilly mood, putting her anxieties at a remove. (“The ancients thought that sadness came from a malign alignment of the stars.”) Meruane is an engaging, lyrical writer, often injecting her sentences with peculiar triplets of words that evoke Ella’s scattered consciousness: “Fingers that entered her dry open lip-full mouth…”; “She had lost house head hummingbirds.” The iciness of Meruane's style somewhat blunts the impact of the climax, but her command of Ella’s anxiety, bordering on despair, makes it a fair trade-off.

A complex, melancholy tale of a woman on the brink.

Pub Date: May 18, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-64445-055-0

Page Count: 176

Publisher: Graywolf

Review Posted Online: March 3, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2021

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet

If novelists are auditioning to play God, Hilderbrand gets the part.

Reader Votes

  • Readers Vote
  • 29

Our Verdict

  • Our Verdict
  • GET IT

  • New York Times Bestseller

GOLDEN GIRL

From the greenroom of the afterlife—make that Benjamin Moore "Parsley Snips" green—a newly dead Nantucket novelist watches life unfold without her.

In her 27th novel, Hilderbrand gives herself an alter ego—beloved beach-novel author Vivian Howe—sends her out for a morning jog, and immediately kills her off. A hit-and-run driver leaves Vivi dead by the side of the road, where her son's best friend discovers her body—or was he responsible for the accident? Vivi doesn't know, nor does she know yet that her daughter Willa is pregnant, or that her daughter Carson is having a terribly ill-advised affair, or that her son, Leo, has a gnawing secret, or that her ex is getting tired of the girl he dumped her for. She will discover all this and more as she watches one last summer on Nantucket play out under the tutelage of Martha, her "Person," who receives her in the boho-chic waiting room of the Beyond. Hermès-scarved Martha explains that Vivi will have three nudges—three chances to change the course of events on Earth and prevent her bereaved loved ones from making life-altering mistakes. She will also get to watch the publication of what will be her last novel, titled Golden Girl, natch, and learn the answers to two questions: Will the secret about her own life she buried in this novel come to light (who cares, really—she's dead now), and will it hit No. 1 on the New York Times bestseller list (now there's an interesting question). She'll also get to see that one of her biggest wrongs is posthumously righted and that her kids have learned her most important lesson. As Willa says to Carson, "You know how she treats the characters in her books? She gives them flaws, she portrays them doing horrible things—but the reader loves them anyway. Because Mom loves them. Because they’re human.”

If novelists are auditioning to play God, Hilderbrand gets the part.

Pub Date: June 1, 2021

ISBN: 978-0-31642008-2

Page Count: 384

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: May 5, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2021

Did you like this book?

Light on suspense but still a solid page-turner.

Reader Votes

  • Readers Vote
  • 56

Our Verdict

  • Our Verdict
  • GET IT

  • New York Times Bestseller

  • IndieBound Bestseller

THE LAST THING HE TOLD ME

When a devoted husband and father disappears, his wife and daughter set out to find him.

Hannah Hall is deeply in love with her husband of one year, Owen Michaels. She’s also determined to win over his 16-year-old daughter, Bailey, who has made it very clear that she’s not thrilled with her new stepmother. Despite the drama, the family is mostly a happy one. They live in a lovely houseboat in Sausalito; Hannah is a woodturner whose handmade furniture brings in high-dollar clientele; and Owen works for The Shop, a successful tech firm. Their lives are shattered, however, when Hannah receives a note saying “Protect her” and can’t reach Owen by phone. Then there’s the bag full of cash Bailey finds in her school locker and the shocking news that The Shop’s CEO has been taken into custody. Hannah learns that the FBI has been investigating the firm for about a year regarding some hot new software they took to market before it was fully functional, falsifying their financial statements. Hannah refuses to believe her husband is involved in the fraud, and a U.S. marshal assigned to the case claims Owen isn’t a suspect. Hannah doesn’t know whom to trust, though, and she and Bailey resolve to root out the clues that might lead to Owen. They must also learn to trust one another. Hannah’s narrative alternates past and present, detailing her early days with Owen alongside her current hunt for him, and author Dave throws in a touch of danger and a few surprises. But what really drives the story is the evolving nature of Hannah and Bailey’s relationship, which is by turns poignant and frustrating but always realistic.

Light on suspense but still a solid page-turner.

Pub Date: May 4, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-5011-7134-5

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: Feb. 10, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2021

Did you like this book?

more