An overstuffed ode to bygone pop culture and the unattainable literary life.

LOVE MAY FAIL

When a metal head princess, a reformed junkie, a fast-talking woman of God, and a despondent retired teacher walk into a book, unpredictable chaos ensues.

In his amusing but disjointed new novel, the author of The Silver Linings Playbook (2008) channels four troubled narrators to varying effect. First we meet Portia Kane, an aging trophy wife about to shoot her porn-producer husband and his perky teen lover. Then she wisely abandons this plan and storms out, instead embarking on a quest to save her hoarder mother, her suicidal high school English teacher, and—you knew this was coming—herself (in an awkward little subplot, this involves publishing a book that gets a poor Kirkus review). The teacher, Mr. Vernon, barely survived a beating by one of his students and now lives alone in the woods with a broken spirit, a lot of wine, and a dog named Albert Camus. (Quick does his best work with Vernon, who lusts after “the noses of Jewish women” and waxes nostalgic for “late PBS painter Bob Ross.”) Portia lands on his doorstep in time to delay his death but not before she reconnects with a hometown friend’s handsome brother, who’s been crushing on her for 20 years and later chronicles their relationship in his own section. Need a breath yet? Take one now, before the nun. Our final tour guide is Sister Maeve Smith, who speaks from beyond the grave via letters to her son, aka Mr. Vernon, after she meets Portia on a plane. Call it fate, call it coincidence, call it too much plot—either way, you can’t fault Quick for being short on ideas. All his books have been optioned for movies, including this one, and they almost make more sense that way: it’s easy to imagine this quartet of busy narrators, whose similar voices sometimes fall flat on the page, brought to life beautifully by the right cast.

An overstuffed ode to bygone pop culture and the unattainable literary life.

Pub Date: June 16, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-06-228556-0

Page Count: 400

Publisher: Harper/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: March 21, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2015

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Doerr captures the sights and sounds of wartime and focuses, refreshingly, on the innate goodness of his major characters.

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  • Pulitzer Prize Winner

ALL THE LIGHT WE CANNOT SEE

Doerr presents us with two intricate stories, both of which take place during World War II; late in the novel, inevitably, they intersect.

In August 1944, Marie-Laure LeBlanc is a blind 16-year-old living in the walled port city of Saint-Malo in Brittany and hoping to escape the effects of Allied bombing. D-Day took place two months earlier, and Cherbourg, Caen and Rennes have already been liberated. She’s taken refuge in this city with her great-uncle Etienne, at first a fairly frightening figure to her. Marie-Laure’s father was a locksmith and craftsman who made scale models of cities that Marie-Laure studied so she could travel around on her own. He also crafted clever and intricate boxes, within which treasures could be hidden. Parallel to the story of Marie-Laure we meet Werner and Jutta Pfennig, a brother and sister, both orphans who have been raised in the Children’s House outside Essen, in Germany. Through flashbacks we learn that Werner had been a curious and bright child who developed an obsession with radio transmitters and receivers, both in their infancies during this period. Eventually, Werner goes to a select technical school and then, at 18, into the Wehrmacht, where his technical aptitudes are recognized and he’s put on a team trying to track down illegal radio transmissions. Etienne and Marie-Laure are responsible for some of these transmissions, but Werner is intrigued since what she’s broadcasting is innocent—she shares her passion for Jules Verne by reading aloud 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea. A further subplot involves Marie-Laure’s father’s having hidden a valuable diamond, one being tracked down by Reinhold von Rumpel, a relentless German sergeant-major.

Doerr captures the sights and sounds of wartime and focuses, refreshingly, on the innate goodness of his major characters.

Pub Date: May 6, 2014

ISBN: 978-1-4767-4658-6

Page Count: 448

Publisher: Scribner

Review Posted Online: March 6, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2014

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Why you double-crossing little double crossers! Fiendishly clever.

PRETTY THINGS

The daughter of a grifter plans to fund her mother’s cancer treatment with a revenge con.

Rich people suck, don’t they? Nina Ross found this out in her adolescence, when her romance with Benny Liebling was broken up by his status-obsessed, old-money father, who found them screwing in the guest cottage of the family’s Lake Tahoe estate. Back then, Nina had a future—but she’s since followed her con-artist mother into the family business with the help of a handsome blue-eyed Irish confederate named Lachlan. “Here’s my rule,” Nina tells him. “Only people who have too much, and only people who deserve it.” Of course, he agrees. “We take only what we need.” With her art history background, Nina is usually able to target a few expensive antiques they can lift without the rich dopes even noticing they’re gone. But now that Nina's mother is hovering at death’s door without health insurance, she’s going after the $1 million in cash Benny mentioned was in his father’s safe all those years ago. So back to Lake Tahoe it is. The older Lieblings are dead, and Benny’s in the bin, so it’s his sister Vanessa Liebling who is the target of the complicated caper. Vanessa is a terribly annoying character—“I couldn’t tell you how I went from a few dozen Instagram followers to a half-million. One day, you’re uploading photos of your dog wearing sunglasses; and the next you’re begin flown to Coachella on a private jet with four other social media It Girls…”—but, in fact, you’ll hate everyone in this book. That is surely Brown’s (Watch Me Disappear, 2017, etc.) intention as she’s the one making them natter on this way. She also makes them vomit much more than is normal, whether it’s because they’re poisoning each other or because they’re just so horrified by each other’s behavior. Definitely stay to see how it all turns out.

Why you double-crossing little double crossers! Fiendishly clever.

Pub Date: April 21, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-525-47912-3

Page Count: 496

Publisher: Random House

Review Posted Online: Jan. 13, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2020

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