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FLYING SOLO

A charming and easygoing look at all kinds of love and the beauty of independence, featuring supremely likable characters.

A woman returns to her hometown of Calcasset, Maine, to clean out her recently deceased great-aunt’s house—but runs into a few surprises along the way.

When Laurie Sassalyn’s beloved great-aunt Dot dies at the age of 93, Laurie takes on the job of cleaning out her house. Even as a child, Laurie idolized Dot and the life she lived as a single, adventurous woman. Dot traveled, never got married, and (most important to Laurie, who grew up with four brothers and a constant stream of noise) had a silent house. Now that Laurie’s almost 40, she’s re-created Dot’s life for herself in Seattle, where she lives in peace, enjoying her job as a freelance nature writer and spending her free time with her many friends. Cleaning out Dot’s house is a big task, but Laurie thinks Dot deserves the respect of having someone go through her stuff instead of just trashing everything. Alongside the many books and boxes full of old photos, Laurie finds something surprising—a wooden duck, carefully kept in a cedar chest. Laurie can sense that this duck was important to Dot, and she enlists the help of a “bereavement declutterer” to help her discern its value. She also reconnects with librarian Nick Cooper, the high school boyfriend she dumped when she realized that he wanted to stay in Calcasset. Nick and Laurie have both changed over the years—he’s been married and divorced, and she’s broken off an engagement—but what hasn’t changed is their deep connection. Nick and Laurie grow closer as they search for answers about the mysterious duck—especially when their search leads them to what might be the world’s first wooden duck heist. As Laurie’s feelings for Nick grow, she starts to wonder if her friend June is right when she says, “You don’t have to be single to be independent. And you don’t have to be married to be loved.” As in her debut, Evvie Drake Starts Over (2019), Holmes displays a gift for warm, richly drawn characters and situations that are as cozy as a steaming cup of tea. Laurie is refreshing as a heroine who is entering her 40s, a size 18, and completely comfortable with her life as an unmarried, child-free woman. There are no dramatics or big fights between her and Nick—just a believable adult relationship with real-world obstacles.

A charming and easygoing look at all kinds of love and the beauty of independence, featuring supremely likable characters.

Pub Date: June 14, 2022

ISBN: 978-0-52561-927-7

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Ballantine

Review Posted Online: April 26, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2022

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THE WOMEN

A dramatic, vividly detailed reconstruction of a little-known aspect of the Vietnam War.

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A young woman’s experience as a nurse in Vietnam casts a deep shadow over her life.

When we learn that the farewell party in the opening scene is for Frances “Frankie” McGrath’s older brother—“a golden boy, a wild child who could make the hardest heart soften”—who is leaving to serve in Vietnam in 1966, we feel pretty certain that poor Finley McGrath is marked for death. Still, it’s a surprise when the fateful doorbell rings less than 20 pages later. His death inspires his sister to enlist as an Army nurse, and this turn of events is just the beginning of a roller coaster of a plot that’s impressive and engrossing if at times a bit formulaic. Hannah renders the experiences of the young women who served in Vietnam in all-encompassing detail. The first half of the book, set in gore-drenched hospital wards, mildewed dorm rooms, and boozy officers’ clubs, is an exciting read, tracking the transformation of virginal, uptight Frankie into a crack surgical nurse and woman of the world. Her tensely platonic romance with a married surgeon ends when his broken, unbreathing body is airlifted out by helicopter; she throws her pent-up passion into a wild affair with a soldier who happens to be her dead brother’s best friend. In the second part of the book, after the war, Frankie seems to experience every possible bad break. A drawback of the story is that none of the secondary characters in her life are fully three-dimensional: Her dismissive, chauvinistic father and tight-lipped, pill-popping mother, her fellow nurses, and her various love interests are more plot devices than people. You’ll wish you could have gone to Vegas and placed a bet on the ending—while it’s against all the odds, you’ll see it coming from a mile away.

A dramatic, vividly detailed reconstruction of a little-known aspect of the Vietnam War.

Pub Date: Feb. 6, 2024

ISBN: 9781250178633

Page Count: 480

Publisher: St. Martin's

Review Posted Online: Nov. 4, 2023

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2023

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SWAN SONG

Though Hilderbrand threatens to kill all our darlings with this last laugh, her acknowledgments say it’s just “for now.”

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A stranger comes to town, and a beloved storyteller plays this creative-writing standby for all it’s worth.

Hilderbrand fans, a vast and devoted legion, will remember Blond Sharon, the notorious island gossip. In what is purportedly the last of the Nantucket novels, Blond Sharon decides to pursue her lifelong dream of fiction writing. In the collective opinion of the island—aka the “cobblestone telegraph”—she’s qualified. “Well, we think, she’s certainly demonstrated her keen interest in other people’s stories, the seedier and more salacious, the better.” Blond Sharon’s first assignment in her online creative writing class is to create a two-person character study, and Hilderbrand has her write up the two who arrive on the ferry in an opening scene of the book, using the same descriptors Hilderbrand has. Amusingly, the class is totally unimpressed. “‘I found it predictable,’ Willow said. ‘Like maybe Sharon used ChatGPT with the prompt “Write a character study about two women getting off the ferry, one prep and one punk.”’” Blond Sharon abandons these characters, but Hilderbrand thankfully does not. They are Kacy Kapenash, daughter of retiring police chief Ed Kapenash (the other swan song referred to by the title), and her new friend Coco Coyle, who has given up her bartending job in the Virgin Islands to become a “personal concierge” for the other strangers-who-have-come-to-town. These are the Richardsons, Bull and Leslee, a wild and wealthy couple who have purchased a $22 million beachfront property and plan to take Nantucket by storm. As the book opens, their house has burned down during an end-of-summer party on their yacht, and Coco is missing, feared both responsible for the fire and dead. Though it’s the last weekend of his tenure, Chief Ed refuses to let the incoming chief, Zara Washington, take this one over. The investigation goes forward in parallel with a review of the summer’s intrigues, love affairs, and festivities. Whatever else you can say about Leslee Richardson, she knows how to throw a party, and Hilderbrand is just the writer to design her invitations, menus, themes, playlists, and outfits. And that hot tub!

Though Hilderbrand threatens to kill all our darlings with this last laugh, her acknowledgments say it’s just “for now.”

Pub Date: June 11, 2024

ISBN: 9780316258876

Page Count: 384

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: March 9, 2024

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2024

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