The narrator’s voice and her story are so unusually vivid it feels like Zuravleff is channeling a real person.

In early 20th-century mining country, a tough little girl digs herself out of a life without choices.

“The Pittsburg-Buffalo Company supplied Pa with a single ticket to come to Marianna in 1898, and selling all they could, floorboards to doorknobs, only raised enough for one more ticket. If Pa came alone, he wouldn’t get a house; if Ma came with him, they’d have to leave the girls behind. So Baba made up a room in their house for her precious granddaughters, and Ma and Pa promised to send for them within a year. But instead of getting their two girls back, they got me, their first American, on January 31, 1899.” Yelena Federoff is a born storyteller, raised on folktales with “Russian endings,” which are the sort where the wolf eats the bride “eyelash to toenail.” This little girl, who is pulled out of school to take care of babies and help keep house before she gets to sixth grade, learns early that real life offers few American endings, where the bride hops out unharmed. Zuravleff’s tale follows Yelena to the age of 20, by which point she has made a few decisions of her own despite the 1908 mining disaster, problematic immigration laws, the Spanish flu epidemic, the reactionary culture of the Old Believers of the Russian Orthodox Church, and plenty of “Foolish Questions,” a long-running real-life newspaper feature with sarcastic answers to stupid queries. All of this is so thoroughly kneaded into the story you won't stop to wonder at the research that yeasted this novel until you finish it. In Yelena’s voice, sprinkled with Russian words and early-20th-century idioms, a whole world comes steaming to life: the horrors of the mine, the closeness of the ethnic neighborhoods surrounding it, the babble of the schoolhouse, the smells of the kitchen, and so much more. When her little brother invents a cage with an air tank attached, so that a canary can do its job in the mine without having to die for it, it seems a metaphor for the love that kept these immigrant families going through the hardest of hardscrabble times.

The narrator’s voice and her story are so unusually vivid it feels like Zuravleff is channeling a real person.

Pub Date: June 6, 2023

ISBN: 9781949467994

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Blair

Review Posted Online: May 24, 2023

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2023


A book begging to be read on the beach, with the sun warming the sand and salt in the air: pure escapism.

Three woman who join together to rent a large space along the beach in Los Angeles for their stores—a gift shop, a bakery, and a bookstore—become fast friends as they each experience the highs, and lows, of love.

Bree is a friendly but standoffish bookstore owner who keeps everyone she knows at arm’s length, from guys she meets in bars to her friends. Mikki is a settled-in-her-routines divorced mother of two, happily a mom, gift-shop owner, and co-parent with her ex-husband, Perry. And Ashley is a young, very-much-in-love bakery owner specializing in muffins who devotes herself to giving back to the community through a nonprofit that helps community members develop skills and find jobs. When the women meet drooling over a boardwalk storefront that none of them can afford on her own, a plan is hatched to divide the space in three, and a friendship—and business partnership—is born. An impromptu celebration on the beach at sunset with champagne becomes a weekly touchpoint to their lives as they learn more about each other and themselves. Their friendship blossoms as they help each other, offering support, hard truths, and loving backup. Author Mallery has created a delightful story of friendship between three women that also offers a variety of love stories as they fall in love, make mistakes, and figure out how to be the best—albeit still flawed—versions of themselves. The men are similarly flawed and human. While the story comes down clearly on the side of all-encompassing love, Mallery has struck a careful balance: There is just enough sex to be spicy, just enough swearing to be naughty, and just enough heartbreak to avoid being cloying.

A book begging to be read on the beach, with the sun warming the sand and salt in the air: pure escapism.

Pub Date: May 31, 2022

ISBN: 978-0-778-38608-7

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Harlequin MIRA

Review Posted Online: March 15, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2022


The writing is inspired, the imaginative power near mystic, but some will wish for more plot.

This historical fever dream of a novel follows the flight of a servant girl through the Colonial American wilderness, red in tooth and claw.

As in her last novel, Matrix (2021), Groff’s imaginative journey into a distant time and place is powered by a thrumming engine of language and rhythm. “She had chosen to flee, and in so choosing, she had left behind her everything she had, her roof, her home, her country, her language, the only family she had ever known, the child Bess, who had been born into her care when she was herself a small child of four years or so, her innocence, her understanding of who she was, her dreams of who she might one day be if only she could survive this starving time." Those onrushing sentences will follow the girl, “sixteen or seventeen or perhaps eighteen years of age,” through the wilderness surrounding the desperate colony, driven by famine and plague into barbarism, through the territory of “the powhatan and pamunkey” to what she hopes will be “the settlements of frenchmen, canada,” a place she once saw pointed out on a map. The focus is on the terrors of survival, the exigencies of starvation, the challenges of locomotion, the miseries of a body wounded, infected, and pushed beyond its limit. What plot there is centers on learning the reason for her flight and how it will end, but the book must be read primarily for its sentences and the light it shines on the place of humans in the order of the world. Whether she is eating baby birds and stealing the fluff from the mother’s nest to line her boots, having a little tea party with her meager trove of possessions, temporarily living inside a tree trunk that comes with a pantry full of grubs (spiders prove less tasty), or finally coming to rest in a way neither she nor we can foresee, immersion in the girl’s experience provides a virtual vacation from civilization that readers may find deeply satisfying.

The writing is inspired, the imaginative power near mystic, but some will wish for more plot.

Pub Date: Sept. 12, 2023

ISBN: 9780593418390

Page Count: 272

Publisher: Riverhead

Review Posted Online: June 8, 2023

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2023

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