Stern’s brittle comedy of highfalutin intellectual theories evolves into a feeling portrait of a gifted man coming face to...

THE STUDY OF ANIMAL LANGUAGES

Passion (or the lack of) among the academic elite is the subject of Stern’s first novel, narrated by a philosophy professor who studies the nature of knowledge while clueless about how to lead his life.

Love and academic politics at an unnamed Rhode Island college make for an uneasy marriage between recently tenured Ivan and his younger wife, Prue. Ivan, a self-proclaimed “fusty scholar” with no apparent friends and little sense of adventure or humor (except with Prue’s 7-year-old niece, May, toward whom he is lovingly protective) adores Prue, an intellectual live wire popular with peers and students. He wonders, as will readers, what about him other than sex attracts Prue—probably not his binge-eating. Ivan’s scholarship, which circles around the nature of belief and knowledge, has always been eclipsed by biolinguist Prue’s scientific research into the nature of language. She has published 20 articles to his four and has received funding to start a center for ornithology at the college. Ivan has already sensed a tension growing between them before she announces that she has not yet decided whether to accept or reject an exciting six-month research offer from the Max Planck Institute in Germany. Worse, she doesn’t tell him this while they’re alone but rather in front of her encouraging friends. Ivan seems like a stick in the mud when he complains that her absence might have a negative effect on her upcoming tenure review. Then she gives a controversial lecture questioning the ethics of her own study of animal language. Horrified by the possible damage she’s done to her career, Ivan is again unsupportive. In contrast, Prue’s visiting father, Frank, leaps to her defense in disastrous fashion. Bipolar Frank’s mental health is spiraling down because Ivan has not made Frank take his meds as Prue requested. Meanwhile, just as genuine professional success appears within reach, Ivan’s misreading of the world around him causes him to mislead Prue in increasingly foolish and serious ways.

Stern’s brittle comedy of highfalutin intellectual theories evolves into a feeling portrait of a gifted man coming face to face with his limitations.

Pub Date: Feb. 19, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-525-55743-2

Page Count: 240

Publisher: Viking

Review Posted Online: Nov. 26, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2018

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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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With frank language and patient plotting, this gangly teen crush grows into a confident adult love affair.

LOVE AND OTHER WORDS

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. 23, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2018

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