An empathetic family story that works best when illuminating the inner lives of its young female protagonists.



A family begins to come apart at the seams over the course of a summer in a small Australian town in the early 1980s.

Young Ada Bloom, a dreamy child prone to “looking deeply into things and making up mysteries,” finds her world turned upside down when she stumbles upon her father, Mike, in flagrante delicto with family friend Susie Layton. But Mike’s secret, which Ada shares with her beloved older sister, Tilly, only widens the cracks in the foundation of the Bloom family. Self-absorbed matriarch Martha favors cricket-star son Ben at the expense of Tilly and struggles to be a loving mother to her children while concealing her own dark secret. Tilly, desperate to escape her mother, dreams of Melbourne and her dreamy crush, Raff Cavallo. In her first novel for adults, Murray (Marsh and Me, 2019) paints a vivid picture of the complications of family life and particularly of childhood. While Murray’s adult characters can feel static, her younger protagonists, Tilly and Ada in particular, are immediately gripping. Murray deftly illustrates Tilly’s internal contradictions; at once a rebellious teenager and a young girl frightened of the future, she is startled by her own declaration that she hopes to leave her small hometown. Her spontaneous announcement feels “like a reach for the self she wanted to be, the self that had tottered forward.” Ada’s disillusionment with her father is similarly balanced by a stubborn belief in the world’s beauty and her own force of will; Mike despairs at his cynicism in the face of Ada’s “own raw little love.” Regrettably, the plot loses steam instead of building to a satisfying climax. Nevertheless, there is much here to admire.

An empathetic family story that works best when illuminating the inner lives of its young female protagonists.

Pub Date: April 7, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-947793-61-3

Page Count: 312

Publisher: Tin House

Review Posted Online: Jan. 13, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2020

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Dark and unsettling, this novel’s end arrives abruptly even as readers are still moving at a breakneck speed.


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 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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