Strong writing and a compelling protagonist propel Navarro’s narrative, but the novel’s problematic romantic relationship...

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You Brought Me Faith

A LIFE STORY OF SEXUAL ASSAULT, TORTURE, SLAVERY, DRUG ABUSE, AND LOVE. IT'S THE TALE OF HOW ONE WOMAN MANAGED TO COME OUT–ALIVE–ON THE OTHER SIDE.

Pretty Woman meets “Cinderella” in Navarro’s novel, which explores a troubling relationship, the first of a proposed trilogy.

Kristina Rivera, a young girl born into a large Philippine family in the 1970s, narrates her life. Her early years were full of love and happiness, but the death of Kristina’s father when she was 6 marks the beginning of a hellish descent that results in Kristina being sold into prostitution to support her family. Despite numerous brutal events—including rape, repeated beatings, cocaine addiction, and an abortion she is all but forced into—Kristina maintains a core of decency and optimism, which is seemingly rewarded when she falls in love with Alain, a French oil executive. He whisks her off her feet, eventually moving her to a lovely home in Kuala Lumpur. But Alain has secrets, and the birth of healthy twin daughters doesn’t lead Kristina to trust him or live an independent life. Navarro’s writing is self-assured; Kristina is a fully realized character surrounded by colorful, if occasionally cartoonish, characters. The relationships Kristina forms; the contrast between wealthy, modern Malaysia and the poverty of Cebu, Kristina’s home province; the tawdry clubs and bars where Kristina works: all are rendered with verve and skill. This skill also helps disguise some inconsistencies within the story. Many readers may object to Kristina and Alain’s relationship; they had sex when Kristina was in her early teens; by the time she becomes pregnant with Alain’s daughters, she is only 16 or so. While this is certainly consistent with the experience of many unfortunate girls worldwide, this reality does not make the subject easier to digest, and as this novel is the first of three, it may be a make-or-break point for many.

Strong writing and a compelling protagonist propel Navarro’s narrative, but the novel’s problematic romantic relationship may offend readers.

Pub Date: April 21, 2015

ISBN: N/A

Page Count: 552

Publisher: Claridges Publishing Ltd

Review Posted Online: May 15, 2015

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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 strongly felt, if not terribly gripping, sendoff for a Turow favorite nearly 35 years after his appearance in Presumed...

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THE LAST TRIAL

Trying his final case at 85, celebrated criminal defense lawyer Sandy Stern defends a Nobel-winning doctor and longtime friend whose cancer wonder drug saved Stern's life but subsequently led to the deaths of others.

Federal prosecutors are charging the eminent doctor, Kiril Pafko, with murder, fraud, and insider trading. An Argentine émigré like Stern, Pafko is no angel. His counselor is certain he sold stock in the company that produced the drug, g-Livia, before users' deaths were reported. The 78-year-old Nobelist is a serial adulterer whose former and current lovers have strong ties to the case. Working for one final time alongside his daughter and proficient legal partner, Marta, who has announced she will close the firm and retire along with her father following the case, Stern must deal not only with "senior moments" before Chief Judge Sonya "Sonny" Klonsky, but also his physical frailty. While taking a deep dive into the ups and downs of a complicated big-time trial, Turow (Testimony, 2017, etc.) crafts a love letter to his profession through his elegiac appreciation of Stern, who has appeared in all his Kindle County novels. The grandly mannered attorney (his favorite response is "Just so") has dedicated himself to the law at great personal cost. But had he not spent so much of his life inside courtrooms, "He never would have known himself." With its bland prosecutors, frequent focus on technical details like "double-blind clinical trials," and lack of real surprises, the novel likely will disappoint some fans of legal thrillers. But this smoothly efficient book gains timely depth through its discussion of thorny moral issues raised by a drug that can extend a cancer sufferer's life expectancy at the risk of suddenly ending it.

A strongly felt, if not terribly gripping, sendoff for a Turow favorite nearly 35 years after his appearance in Presumed Innocent.

Pub Date: May 12, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-5387-4813-8

Page Count: 448

Publisher: Grand Central Publishing

Review Posted Online: Feb. 10, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2020

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