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ELIZABETH'S MOUNTAIN

A compelling slice-of-life story, told from two points of view in two different time periods.

Guarino’s novel charts the lives and loves of a grandmother and her granddaughter.

Elizabeth turns 90 surrounded by her family in the home she cherishes. No longer able to live alone without a helper, she now cohabitates with her granddaughter, Amanda, who moved in with Elizabeth after breaking up with her ex. Amanda insists that she’s fine being alone, just working and spending time with her grandmother, but Elizabeth doesn’t want her granddaughter to close her heart to the possibilities that life brings. So begins a story split into two separate narrative threads that follow Elizabeth’s early adulthood in the 1950s and Amanda’s life in the present. In many ways, their stories mirror each other, beginning with Elizabeth’s loss of her fiance and Amanda’s breakup. In 1953, Elizabeth is involved in an accident; in the hospital, she is fortunate to meet the handsome Dr. Joseph Paterson. During her hospital stay, the two develop a close bond, and after a chance reunion some months later, Joe asks her to dinner, beginning a love story for the ages. (“Dr. Paterson chuckled. ‘So you’re free then?’ ‘Free as in tonight or free as in unattached?’ ‘Both.’”) In the present day, Amanda attends a work conference where she happens to meet a passionate attorney named Jesse Taylor, and the two hit it off almost immediately. Life still has curveballs in store for both women, but Elizabeth’s strength and passion and Amanda’s drive (along with the courage she gets from her grandmother) should see them both through. In this modestly scaled novel, the romantic subplot is just the icing on the cake—the real story is about both Elizabeth and Amanda finding their happiness. Guarino’s use of alternating perspectives makes the parallels between the women’s lives even more pronounced and keeps the story moving at a quick pace, never lingering on any particular scene. Though the narrative is relatively brief, the author doesn’t skimp on providing depth for her characters, giving them both love interests and emotional backstories that firmly establish Amanda and Elizabeth as their own separate characters, despite their similarities.

A compelling slice-of-life story, told from two points of view in two different time periods.

Pub Date: March 27, 2024

ISBN: 9781685133924

Page Count: 287

Publisher: N/A

Review Posted Online: March 29, 2024

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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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