A luminous collection that mines the mundane as cannily as the fantastic and extraterrestrial.

THE MOMENT OF TENDERNESS

From the author of A Wrinkle in Time, 18 gemlike stories ranging from the small heartbreaks of childhood to the discovery of life on a new planet

In these stories, some previously published and others appearing for the first time in this collection, L’Engle explores family dynamics, loneliness, and the pains of growing up. In “Summer Camp,” children show a stunning capacity for cruelty, as when one writes an imploring letter to a lost friend only to witness that friend mocking the letter in front of their bunkmates; in “Madame, Or...” a brother finds his sister at a finishing school with a sordid underbelly and is unable to convince her to leave. L’Engle employs rhythm and repetition to great effect in multiple stories—the same gray cat seems to appear in “Gilberte Must Play Bach” and “Madame, Or...”—and sometimes even in the language of a single sentence: “The piano stood in the lamplight, lamplight shining through burnt shades, red candles in the silver candlesticks...red wax drippings on the base of the candlesticks.” Occasionally, emotional undertones flow over, as in the protagonist’s somewhat saccharine goodbye to her Southern home in “White in the Moon the Long Road Lies.” Overall, though, the stories seem to peer at strong emotions from the corner of the eye, and humor dances in and out of the tales. “A Foreign Agent” sees a mother and daughter in battle over the daughter’s glasses, which have come to represent the bridge between childhood and adulthood when the mother’s literary agent begins to pursue the daughter. On another planet, a higher life form makes a joke via code: The visitors will be “quartered—housed, that is, of course, not drawn and quartered.” While there is levity, many of these stories end with characters undecided, straddling a nostalgic past and an unsettled future. Although written largely throughout the 1940s and '50s, L’Engle’s lucid explorations of relationships make her writing equally accessible today.

A luminous collection that mines the mundane as cannily as the fantastic and extraterrestrial.

Pub Date: April 21, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-5387-1782-0

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Grand Central Publishing

Review Posted Online: Jan. 27, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2020

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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 heartfelt novel that celebrates its implausibility with a unique joie de vivre.

OONA OUT OF ORDER

What would you say to your younger self if you could give her advice?

“Wise beyond their years” is an expression we’ve all heard before. But for one Brooklyn teen, that saying becomes all too real when an unexplained event causes her to begin living her adult life in random order. On New Year’s Eve 1982, Oona Lockhart is about to turn 19. Change is on the horizon, as she must decide whether to leave school to tour with her band, Early Dawning, or quit the band to continue her studies in London. Does she follow her loving boyfriend and band mate, Dale, or does she make a stable, independent decision for herself? Almost as if standing on a precipice between past and future, Oona finds it important to tell herself: “Remember this party. Every second of it. Every person here.” When the clock strikes midnight, she opens her eyes to a reality far different from the one she'd been experiencing—and decades later. The abrupt shift sets the pace for the rest of the book—it turns out that even when you’re living life out of order, time passes just as quickly. Right as you settle in with one version of Oona, whether it be free-spirited, club-going Oona or middle-aged investor Oona, it’s almost New Year’s again. The effect is something like narrative jet lag, making it impossible to feel grounded in time. Which is, no doubt, the point. Montimore (Asleep From Day, 2018) is not afraid to wrench Oona from one season of life to another, satisfied with ending a year in a fashion as incomplete as this: “She didn’t get a chance to finish her sentence.” These vignettes, removed from linear neatness, celebrate the unpredictability and imperfect nature of life. Even when Oona has the opportunity to leave notes for the next version of herself, it doesn’t always mean she’ll follow her advice. With each temporal shift, Oona is left longing for what came before, but supporting characters like Oona’s mom, Madeleine, and confidante, Kenzie, serve as talismans that guide her back to the present. In the end, we must give credit to Oona for finding joy and even humor in her situation and to Montimore for developing a complex narrative held together by simple truths. Read this to get a bit lost, to root for a character with a strong love for herself, and to connect on a deeply human level with the fear of leading an incomplete life.

A heartfelt novel that celebrates its implausibility with a unique joie de vivre.

Pub Date: Feb. 25, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-250-23660-9

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Flatiron Books

Review Posted Online: Nov. 10, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2019

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