FROM THE KITCHEN OF HALF TRUTH

Goodin’s debut about a woman who prefers to look at the world through rose-colored glasses and a daughter who views everything in terms of black and white blends humor and inspiration but may leave some readers feeling half-full.

Meg May recalls few specifics about her early childhood, but she does remember the whimsical details provided by her mother, Valerie. According to her mom, Meg is the daughter of a pastry chef who died in a terrible pastry-mixing accident; Meg clucked like a chicken when she was born; the small scar on Meg’s face was caused by a crab cake, which bit her; and when she was a year old, she climbed into a freezer and had to defrost in a tub of hot water for two hours. Meg believed these and many more stories until she was 8 years old and wrote about her earliest memory, which she read to her class. Humiliated by her peers’ laughter when she recounted how her mother chased running beans throughout the kitchen, thereafter Meg rejected any element of make-believe and turned toward science as an orderly, logical way to view the world. Now grown, Meg leaves her studies at Leeds University to care for Val during the final stages of her cancer, and she realizes that this may be her last chance to learn the truth about her past. But Valerie won’t even admit she’s ill, much less acknowledge that her tales are nothing more than fantasy. A story about understanding and compassion and how people often distort the truth to protect themselves and others, Goodin’s narrative contains moments of eloquence, wit and sensitivity, but it’s difficult to ignore the overall saccharine tone of the novel and its fairy-tale characters: Ewan, the pure-hearted hero who communicates with plants and animals; Meg, the beautiful young damsel in distress who finds herself slowly drawn into Ewan’s orbit; Mark, the unpleasant, regimented and controlling boyfriend who pushes Meg to confront her mother; Val, the free-spirited, generous and loving woman who lives in her own world; the members of the band Chlorine; the buffoonish, lovable dwarves—er, men—who’ve never grown up.

Somewhat enjoyable.

Pub Date: April 9, 2013

ISBN: 978-1-4022-7948-5

Page Count: 400

Publisher: Sourcebooks Landmark

Review Posted Online: Jan. 20, 2013

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2013

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Finding positivity in negative pregnancy-test results, this depiction of a marriage in crisis is nearly perfect.

ALL YOUR PERFECTS

Named for an imperfectly worded fortune cookie, Hoover's (It Ends with Us, 2016, etc.) latest compares a woman’s relationship with her husband before and after she finds out she’s infertile.

Quinn meets her future husband, Graham, in front of her soon-to-be-ex-fiance’s apartment, where Graham is about to confront him for having an affair with his girlfriend. A few years later, they are happily married but struggling to conceive. The “then and now” format—with alternating chapters moving back and forth in time—allows a hopeful romance to blossom within a dark but relatable dilemma. Back then, Quinn’s bad breakup leads her to the love of her life. In the now, she’s exhausted a laundry list of fertility options, from IVF treatments to adoption, and the silver lining is harder to find. Quinn’s bad relationship with her wealthy mother also prevents her from asking for more money to throw at the problem. But just when Quinn’s narrative starts to sound like she’s writing a long Facebook rant about her struggles, she reveals the larger issue: Ever since she and Graham have been trying to have a baby, intimacy has become a chore, and she doesn’t know how to tell him. Instead, she hopes the contents of a mystery box she’s kept since their wedding day will help her decide their fate. With a few well-timed silences, Hoover turns the fairly common problem of infertility into the more universal problem of poor communication. Graham and Quinn may or may not become parents, but if they don’t talk about their feelings, they won’t remain a couple, either.

Finding positivity in negative pregnancy-test results, this depiction of a marriage in crisis is nearly perfect.

Pub Date: July 17, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-5011-7159-8

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Atria

Review Posted Online: May 1, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 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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