ONCE IN A BLUE MOON LODGE

A people lover’s book. Characters grow and change; family and friends support each other. Predictable, but comfortably so,...

This sequel to Landvik’s debut novel (Patty-Jane’s House of Curl, 1996) reads easily as a stand-alone. A light read—not deep, but definitely wide—the story follows Ione Rolvaag’s family (and friends) for two decades.

The Rolvaag family, from matriarch Ione on down to her great-grandchildren, lives, laughs, and loves at Blue Moon Lodge. In a nutshell, Ione gets a second chance at the love of a lifetime. Her daughter-in-law, Patty Jane, can’t marry the man she loves because her legal husband, Thor, has returned, brain damaged, after a 15-year absence. Nora, Patty Jane’s (and Thor’s) daughter, has a one-night stand that leaves her more than surprised (three guesses), but in this basically optimistic tale, she finds love, too. And her kids, and those of her half brother, turn out well, so happiness overrides the sad events that are spattered throughout. Nora’s newly acquired Blue Moon Lodge in rural Minnesota is the focal point for the action, a cozy place where friends and family gather. The novel’s lengthy time frame slows forward momentum. There’s no definitive plotline, just four generations living, loving, learning, and struggling through the occasional hard times over a span of 20 years. It’s a story about family—but chock full of other characters, too, and much dialogue. There is a charm and warmth to this hopeful tale in which love is the glue that holds people together. There is no apparent main character; each shares the spotlight in a short scene before the curtain drops and another’s stage is set. Landvik’s love for her characters is evident; she introduces multiple peripheral people, who serve as color in the backdrop of a close-knit family, and she has clearly thought deeply about the people she puts on the page. She even provides a detailed epilogue to show where life takes them after the book is closed.

A people lover’s book. Characters grow and change; family and friends support each other. Predictable, but comfortably so, this refreshingly simple family tale provides a comfy diversion from the everyday world.

Pub Date: April 11, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-5179-0269-8

Page Count: 312

Publisher: Univ. of Minnesota

Review Posted Online: Jan. 22, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2017

THEN SHE WAS GONE

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

LOVE AND OTHER WORDS

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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