So much fun, and educational too.

READ REVIEW

OPENING BELLE

Corporate sexism and the mortgage crisis are a laugh a minute...in this delightful comic novel, at least.

Belle Cassidy is a managing director at an investment banking firm called Feagin Dixon— she makes $700,000 a year plus an end-of-year bonus for 2007 that comes in just under $3 million. Sure, the money is great, but Belle is also a member of the Glass Ceiling Club—a group of women who have organized secretly to talk about the raging sexism of their work environment. This entails everything from ass-grabbing to frat-style office parties to the exclusion of women from top-level decision-making, including the risk management committee—a real-life fact which, according to former investment banker Sherry (Walls Within Walls, 2010), is at least partly responsible for the subprime mortgage disaster of 2008. In chapters with titles like "Herd on the Street," "Gentlemen Prefer Bonds," and "Dais of the Dicks," she evokes this luxurious yet disgusting world in juicy detail, from a mandatory softball game at a 15-acre estate in "Hedgistan, the area between New York City and Greenwich, Connecticut, where most hedge fund managers live," to the weekly chapel session at "a preschool so elite it had no name on the door, no website, no listing in the phone book," where "the billionaires sit along the front sides of the room" avoiding the "annoying millionaire parents who are pining for a playdate." To get her kids into this school, Belle has had to call in a favor from her ex-fiance, Henry Thomas Wilkins III, who soon turns up in her working life as a key player at one of her major clients. Good thing her husband, Bruce, a hunky, big-spending, nonworking dad, isn't the jealous type. While she's making you laugh, Sherry does an excellent job of explaining what exactly happened in the financial crisis and gives a rare picture of the wide range of ways women in the workplace deal with chauvinism, some as heroes, some as victims, and some as opportunists.

So much fun, and educational too.

Pub Date: Feb. 2, 2016

ISBN: 978-1-5011-1062-7

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: Oct. 28, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15, 2015

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

THEN SHE WAS GONE

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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With humor and insight, Straub creates a family worth rooting for.

ALL ADULTS HERE

When Astrid Strick witnesses a school bus run over a longtime acquaintance of hers—Barbara Baker, a woman she doesn't like very much—it's only the beginning of the shake-ups to come in her life and the lives of those she loves.

Astrid has been tootling along contentedly in the Hudson Valley town of Clapham, New York, a 68-year-old widow with three grown children. After many years of singlehood since her husband died, she's been quietly seeing Birdie Gonzalez, her hairdresser, for the past two years, and after Barbara's death she determines to tell her children about the relationship: "There was no time to waste, not in this life. There were always more school buses." Elliot, her oldest, who's in real estate, lives in Clapham with his wife, Wendy, who's Chinese American, and their twins toddlers, Aidan and Zachary, who are "such hellions that only a fool would willingly ask for more." Astrid's daughter, Porter, owns a nearby farm producing artisanal goat cheese and has just gotten pregnant through a sperm bank while having an affair with her married high school boyfriend. Nicky, the youngest Strick, is disconcertingly famous for having appeared in an era-defining movie when he was younger and now lives in Brooklyn with his French wife, Juliette, and their daughter, Cecelia, who's being shipped up to live with Astrid for a while after her friend got mixed up with a pedophile she met online. As always, Straub (Modern Lovers, 2016, etc.) draws her characters warmly, making them appealing in their self-centeredness and generosity, their insecurity and hope. The cast is realistically diverse, though in most ways it's fairly superficial; the fact that Birdie is Latina or Porter's obstetrician is African American doesn't have much impact on the story or their characters. Cecelia's new friend, August, wants to make the transition to Robin; that storyline gets more attention, with the two middle schoolers supporting each other through challenging times. The Stricks worry about work, money, sex, and gossip; Straub has a sharp eye for her characters' foibles and the details of their liberal, upper-middle-class milieu.

With humor and insight, Straub creates a family worth rooting for.

Pub Date: May 5, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-59463-469-7

Page Count: 368

Publisher: Riverhead

Review Posted Online: Feb. 10, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2020

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