Zeidner (Layover, 1999, etc.) is writing about love gone wrong, not terrorism, but conflating the two is tricky business,...

LOVE BOMB

Given the country’s recent spate of shootings and hostage takings, readers may feel a tad squeamish while chuckling at this comedy about a wedding party taken hostage by a masked and heavily armed gunwoman.

The Nathanson-Billips nuptials are about to begin in the Haddonfield, N.J., home of bride Tess’ mother. A psychotherapist divorced from Tess’ psychiatrist father, Helen is already anxious about the wedding—rain has forced the garden party inside her cramped house and there are a number of guests who might not want to rub shoulders too closely, including ex-wives and jilted lovers. Then, a woman in a wedding dress and a gas mask arrives with a sawed-off shotgun, lots of ammo and a bomb. At first, the caterers and 55 guests assume she is part of the entertainment since Tess and groom Gabe, a biracial performance artist, like to be unconventional. But soon, the masked intruder has barricaded everyone together into one room, and she makes it obvious that her bullets are real. Still, the tone remains light, a comedy of manners about the unlikely mix locked in together: the five Jewish psychiatrists (including not only Tess’ father, but also Gabe’s Jewish maternal grandfather), Gabe’s macho/military African-American paternal grandfather, Tess’ two stepmothers and their problematic children, the African friends Tess and Gabriel made while working for Doctors Without Borders, Gabe’s actress sister and her more-famous-actor date, a catering assistant with a stalker. The novel’s strongest element is the individual hostages’ stories about failed love that emerge, both entertaining and sad. But actually, the hostage taking does not concern anyone in the wedding. In fact, the gunwoman, Crystal, has staged the event to get the attention of her former lover, Van, a member of the police SWAT team, whom she has been stalking since he unceremoniously dumped her. Unfortunately, her story is more cartoonish than satirical.

Zeidner (Layover, 1999, etc.) is writing about love gone wrong, not terrorism, but conflating the two is tricky business, sometimes affecting and comically disturbing, sometimes just a little creepy.

Pub Date: Sept. 4, 2012

ISBN: 978-0-3741-9271-6

Page Count: 272

Publisher: Sarah Crichton/Farrar, Straus and Giroux

Review Posted Online: Aug. 22, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2012

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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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A touching family drama that effectively explores the negative impact of stress on fragile relationships.

A WEEK AT THE SHORE

A middle-aged woman returns to her childhood home to care for her ailing father, confronting many painful secrets from her past.

When Mallory Aldiss gets a call from a long-ago boyfriend telling her that her elderly father has been gallivanting around town with a gun in his hand, Mallory decides it’s time to return to the small Rhode Island town that she’s been avoiding for more than a decade. Mallory’s precocious 13-year-old daughter, Joy, is thrilled that she'll get to meet her grandfather at long last, and an aunt, too, and she'll finally see the place where her mother grew up. When they arrive in Bay Bluff, it’s barely a few hours before Mallory bumps into her old flame, Jack, the only man she’s ever really loved. Gone is the rebellious young person she remembers, and in his place stands a compassionate, accomplished adult. As they try to reconnect, Mallory realizes that the same obstacle that pushed them apart decades earlier is still standing in their way: Jack blames Mallory’s father for his mother’s death. No one knows exactly how Jack’s mother died, but Jack thinks a love affair between her and Mallory’s father had something to do with it. As Jack and Mallory chase down answers, Mallory also tries to repair her rocky relationships with her two sisters and determine why her father has always been so hard on her. Told entirely from Mallory’s perspective, the novel has a haunting, nostalgic quality. Despite the complex and overlapping layers to the history of Bay Bluff and its inhabitants, the book at times trudges too slowly through Mallory’s meanderings down Memory Lane. Even so, Delinsky sometimes manages to pick up the pace, and in those moments the beauty and nuance of this complicated family tale shine through. Readers who don’t mind skimming past details that do little to advance the plot may find that the juicier nuggets and realistically rendered human connections are worth the effort.

A touching family drama that effectively explores the negative impact of stress on fragile relationships.

Pub Date: May 19, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-250-11951-3

Page Count: 416

Publisher: St. Martin's

Review Posted Online: March 2, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2020

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