A readable, recognizable, tragicomic account of coping with domestic disaster.

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AUTOPSY OF A BORING WIFE

A middle-aged woman’s life comes undone with the revelation that her marriage is over.

As boring wives go, Diane Delaunais is not so much. A woman with a taste for stylish boots, she is also not shy about confronting those who upset her, from a finicky neighbor to a busybody secretary spreading lies. Nevertheless, 48-year-old Diane is a familiar figure—the long-serving partner who, after 25 years of marriage and three children, suddenly finds herself replaced by a younger model. Now, with her husband Jacques’ revelation that her solid life was in fact built on foolish assumptions, she’s taking a more sardonic view of marriage vows. Maybe they should be rewritten: “I solemnly swear to love you, blah blah blah, until I stop loving you. Or until I fall for someone else.” Quebec novelist Lavoie (Mister Roger and Me, 2010) brings a bracing, comic edge to this well-worn storyline but doesn’t avoid the predictabilities of the genre. Propped up by a therapist, her children, and her BFF Claudine (another abandoned wife), Diane goes through a recognizable range of emotions—numbness, grief, anger, acceptance. She buys new running gear and gets drunk a few times. She has a flirtation with an attractive work colleague, takes a crowbar to the furniture, adopts a three-legged cat, and makes some surprising new acquaintances. Among the ups and downs and comic set pieces, Diane must mark the major milestones of a forsaken woman’s life: reassessing the past and making the best of the future. Lavoie keeps her novel short, offering chaotic humor and snappy observation to balance the pain and loss. Diane will emerge from her crisis, spirited, open-hearted, and among friends. She will survive.

A readable, recognizable, tragicomic account of coping with domestic disaster.

Pub Date: Sept. 3, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-4870-0461-3

Page Count: 280

Publisher: Arachnide/House of Anansi Press

Review Posted Online: June 17, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2019

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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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ANIMAL FARM

A FAIRY STORY

A modern day fable, with modern implications in a deceiving simplicity, by the author of Dickens. Dali and Others (Reynal & Hitchcock, p. 138), whose critical brilliance is well adapted to this type of satire. This tells of the revolt on a farm, against humans, when the pigs take over the intellectual superiority, training the horses, cows, sheep, etc., into acknowledging their greatness. The first hints come with the reading out of a pig who instigated the building of a windmill, so that the electric power would be theirs, the idea taken over by Napoleon who becomes topman with no maybes about it. Napoleon trains the young puppies to be his guards, dickers with humans, gradually instigates a reign of terror, and breaks the final commandment against any animal walking on two legs. The old faithful followers find themselves no better off for food and work than they were when man ruled them, learn their final disgrace when they see Napoleon and Squealer carousing with their enemies... A basic statement of the evils of dictatorship in that it not only corrupts the leaders, but deadens the intelligence and awareness of those led so that tyranny is inevitable. Mr. Orwell's animals exist in their own right, with a narrative as individual as it is apt in political parody.

Pub Date: Aug. 26, 1946

ISBN: 0452277507

Page Count: 114

Publisher: Harcourt, Brace

Review Posted Online: Nov. 2, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 1946

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