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A busy plot, rendered in listless prose and populated by one-dimensional characters.

A middle-aged woman anticipates new freedom, only to have troubles land on her with a vengeance, in McFadden’s follow-up to The Richest Season (2008).

Claire, 45, is ready to get out of Jersey. She’s winding up 25 years of teaching, has taken up serious study of photography and is engaged to marry Rick, a golf-loving hedonist with an Arizona townhouse. Then Claire’s estranged daughter Amy, 23, returns home, her weight problem apparently worse than ever—until she gives birth just as her mother is about to leave for a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity: a career-making photography workshop in Cape Cod. Claire is now stuck with a resentful daughter, a newborn granddaughter, Rose, whose paternity Amy won’t discuss, and elderly parents who rely mostly on her, since out-of-state brother Eugene is too busy with his own career and family. Claire’s father Joe has Parkinson’s, and her mother Fanny, increasingly addled at 77, can’t cope. The workshop and the wedding must wait, but what is she going to do about John, the freelance writer who’s supposed to be renting her house while she’s in Provincetown? He finds another place, but he wants to use her photographs in an article on New Jersey’s abandoned canal system; working with John, Claire finds herself dangerously attracted. Then she gets another chance at the workshop, and with Amy, Rose and her parents (sprung from assisted living) in tow, Claire heads for Cape Cod. There, Joe tries to reconnect with a wartime love, Ava. Upset that Joe has never come clean with her about Ava, Fanny seeks solace in Buddhism and romance with local restaurateur Dominick. Provincetown also happens to be home base for John, who is working to publicize the plight of endangered whales and seals. The ever-escalating complications are fun, but this story of second chances smacks of middle-aged wish-fulfillment: There’s even a scene in which Rick and John fight over Claire.

A busy plot, rendered in listless prose and populated by one-dimensional characters.

Pub Date: July 7, 2009

ISBN: 978-1-4013-0148-4

Page Count: 400

Publisher: Hyperion

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 2009

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Still, a respectful and absorbing page-turner.

Hannah’s new novel is an homage to the extraordinary courage and endurance of Frenchwomen during World War II.

In 1995, an elderly unnamed widow is moving into an Oregon nursing home on the urging of her controlling son, Julien, a surgeon. This trajectory is interrupted when she receives an invitation to return to France to attend a ceremony honoring passeurs: people who aided the escape of others during the war. Cut to spring, 1940: Viann has said goodbye to husband Antoine, who's off to hold the Maginot line against invading Germans. She returns to tending her small farm, Le Jardin, in the Loire Valley, teaching at the local school and coping with daughter Sophie’s adolescent rebellion. Soon, that world is upended: The Germans march into Paris and refugees flee south, overrunning Viann’s land. Her long-estranged younger sister, Isabelle, who has been kicked out of multiple convent schools, is sent to Le Jardin by Julien, their father in Paris, a drunken, decidedly unpaternal Great War veteran. As the depredations increase in the occupied zone—food rationing, systematic looting, and the billeting of a German officer, Capt. Beck, at Le Jardin—Isabelle’s outspokenness is a liability. She joins the Resistance, volunteering for dangerous duty: shepherding downed Allied airmen across the Pyrenees to Spain. Code-named the Nightingale, Isabelle will rescue many before she's captured. Meanwhile, Viann’s journey from passive to active resistance is less dramatic but no less wrenching. Hannah vividly demonstrates how the Nazis, through starvation, intimidation and barbarity both casual and calculated, demoralized the French, engineering a community collapse that enabled the deportations and deaths of more than 70,000 Jews. Hannah’s proven storytelling skills are ideally suited to depicting such cataclysmic events, but her tendency to sentimentalize undermines the gravitas of this tale.

Still, a respectful and absorbing page-turner.

Pub Date: Feb. 3, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-312-57722-3

Page Count: 448

Publisher: St. Martin's

Review Posted Online: Nov. 19, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2014

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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. 5, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2018

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