A finely crafted tale about grief and mother-daughter relationships.

READ REVIEW

SOPHIE LAST SEEN

A debut thriller tells the story of a woman’s reinvigorated search for her long-missing daughter.

Jesse Albright last saw her daughter, Sophie, six years ago near a circular rack in the kids’ section of the mall clothing store Zone. Every week since the 10-year-old went missing, Jesse has returned to the same spot with the irrational hope that she might find her child: “She’d always told her daughter that if they ever got separated, she should go back to the last place they had been together.” The intervening six years have been hard on Jesse, who frequently talks out loud to her missing daughter even when other people are around to hear it. She’s lost her husband and now toils at a used bookstore, where Star Silverman, who was Sophie’s best friend, has just begun working as well. Star grasps that Jesse is uncomfortable around her and that the woman is having an affair with a married realtor. The teenager also knows about another missing girl whom private investigator Kentucky “Tuck” Barnes has come to town to find. Star has her own guilt surrounding Sophie’s disappearance, and when she and Jesse begin to finally share clues, the girl’s case starts suddenly to seem a little less cold than before. Adelstein’s prose is sharp and haunted, and her traumatized characters are not shy about sharing their grim imaginings of what happened to Sophie. “Her decomposed body is lying in some ditch,” the surly Star tells another teen. “Or her bones are in a Hefty bag in some hand-dug grave after she was forced to commit vile sex acts on some pervert.” Some of the aspects of the plot, like 10-year-old Sophie’s deep interest in bird-watching, strain credulity a bit, but the characters are generally quite convincing, and the narrative is highly engaging. The devastation wrought by Sophie’s absence infects nearly every interaction. The relationship that forms between Jesse and Star—which becomes based on more than simply Sophie’s disappearance—turns out to be nearly as compelling as the mystery itself.

A finely crafted tale about grief and mother-daughter relationships.

Pub Date: Nov. 20, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-948051-18-7

Page Count: 306

Publisher: Red Adept Publishing

Review Posted Online: Jan. 14, 2019

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet

Kin “[find] each other’s lives inscrutable” in this rich, sharp story about the way identity is formed.

Our Verdict

  • Our Verdict
  • GET IT

  • New York Times Bestseller

  • IndieBound Bestseller

THE VANISHING HALF

Inseparable identical twin sisters ditch home together, and then one decides to vanish.

The talented Bennett fuels her fiction with secrets—first in her lauded debut, The Mothers (2016), and now in the assured and magnetic story of the Vignes sisters, light-skinned women parked on opposite sides of the color line. Desiree, the “fidgety twin,” and Stella, “a smart, careful girl,” make their break from stultifying rural Mallard, Louisiana, becoming 16-year-old runaways in 1954 New Orleans. The novel opens 14 years later as Desiree, fleeing a violent marriage in D.C., returns home with a different relative: her 8-year-old daughter, Jude. The gossips are agog: “In Mallard, nobody married dark....Marrying a dark man and dragging his blueblack child all over town was one step too far.” Desiree's decision seals Jude’s misery in this “colorstruck” place and propels a new generation of flight: Jude escapes on a track scholarship to UCLA. Tending bar as a side job in Beverly Hills, she catches a glimpse of her mother’s doppelgänger. Stella, ensconced in white society, is shedding her fur coat. Jude, so black that strangers routinely stare, is unrecognizable to her aunt. All this is expertly paced, unfurling before the book is half finished; a reader can guess what is coming. Bennett is deeply engaged in the unknowability of other people and the scourge of colorism. The scene in which Stella adopts her white persona is a tour de force of doubling and confusion. It calls up Toni Morrison’s The Bluest Eye, the book's 50-year-old antecedent. Bennett's novel plays with its characters' nagging feelings of being incomplete—for the twins without each other; for Jude’s boyfriend, Reese, who is trans and seeks surgery; for their friend Barry, who performs in drag as Bianca. Bennett keeps all these plot threads thrumming and her social commentary crisp. In the second half, Jude spars with her cousin Kennedy, Stella's daughter, a spoiled actress.

Kin “[find] each other’s lives inscrutable” in this rich, sharp story about the way identity is formed.

Pub Date: June 2, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-525-53629-1

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Riverhead

Review Posted Online: March 15, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2020

Did you like this book?

More Hallmarkiana, from a shameless expert in the genre.

THE RESCUE

High-stakes weepmeister Sparks (A Walk to Remember, 1999, etc.) opts for a happy ending his fourth time out. His writing has improved—though it's still the equivalent of paint-by-numbers—and he makes use this time of at least a vestige of credible psychology.

That vestige involves the deep dark secret—it has something to do with his father's death when son Taylor was nine—that haunts kind, good 36-year-old local contractor Taylor McAden and makes him withdraw from relationships whenever they start getting serious enough to maybe get permanent. He's done this twice before, and now he does it again with pretty and sweet single mother Denise Holton, age 29, who's moved from Atlanta to Taylor's town of Edenton, North Carolina, in order to devote her time more fully to training her four-year-old son Kyle to overcome the peculiar impediment he has that keeps him from achieving normal language acquisition. Okay? When Denise has a car accident in a bad storm, she's rescued by volunteer fireman Taylor—who also rescues little Kyle after he wanders away from his injured mom in the storm. Love blooms in the weeks that follow—until Taylor suddenly begins putting on the brakes. What is it that holds him back, when there just isn't any question but that he loves Denise and vice versa-not to mention that he's "great" with Kyle, just like a father? It will require a couple of near-death experiences (as fireman Taylor bravely risks his life to save others); emotional steadiness from the intelligent, good, true Denise; and the terrible death of a dear and devoted friend before Taylor will come to the point at last of confiding to Denise the terrible memory of how his father died—and the guilt that's been its legacy to Taylor. The psychological dam broken, love will at last be able to flow.

More Hallmarkiana, from a shameless expert in the genre.

Pub Date: Sept. 19, 2000

ISBN: 0-446-52550-2

Page Count: 352

Publisher: N/A

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2000

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet
more