While not always surprising, this ’60s family tale remains strikingly memorable.

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A debut literary novel focuses on an American teenager’s journey of self-discovery.

It is 1968 in East Lansing, Michigan, and Sally Tallman is a high school student with an odd hobby. Sally likes to inhabit the lives of other people. She will mimic her chosen target to a refined point, even telling strangers that she has someone else’s name. Sally’s peculiar passion helps her distance herself from the realities of her home life. Her father is a World War II veteran whose career as a journalist has been put on hold thanks to a vague illness. Her mother is deeply immersed in the creation of homemade clothing, paintings, and any other crafty pursuit that catches her fancy. Then there is Sally. She may be a steadfast babysitter and a whiz at Latin, but who is she really? Readers learn more about Sally as she copes with events like the suicide of a classmate and the emergence of family secrets. The Tallmans also allow a troubled girl named Beth to live with them. Beth brings her own difficulties to the table, not the least of which involve one of Sally’s neighbors, a religious man who runs a church out of his house. While it may take readers a few pages to adjust to Sally and her ambition to be other people, Hunter’s text paints an intricately detailed picture. With the Detroit Tigers in the World Series and intriguing characters, like a girl who is described as little more than “human wallpaper,” Sally’s world is an entertainingly distinct one. But some aspects can be drawn out. Sally’s long obsession with an accomplished twirler named Barbie Robert comes with the takeaway that perhaps this successful teen’s life isn’t as perfect as it seems. Although the novel ultimately delivers an obvious conclusion, the heroine’s odyssey is unforgettable, enlivened by Fanta, Jet Star 88s, and a close look at a not so distant time.

While not always surprising, this ’60s family tale remains strikingly memorable.

Pub Date: Dec. 17, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-950730-30-8

Page Count: 292

Publisher: Unsolicited Press

Review Posted Online: April 13, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2020


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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