Fans of the island-lit genre will find familiar pleasures but also unrealistic situations and cringeworthy moments.



When a novelist writer retreats to Block Island to hide, his new life gets off on the wrong foot with a big lie.

Anthony Puckett, son of a blockbuster writer of James Patterson–esque dimensions, published his first novel to acclaim so fervent it made his father jealous. Unfortunately, his sophomore effort was found to contain 1,200 words plagiarized from a little-known Irish author. (How do you steal 1,200 words from one novel and drop them unchanged into another? Don't think about this too long.) His downward spiral hits bottom when his soulless bitch of a wife puts him out of the house and cuts off communication between him and his 4-year-old son. Off he goes as "Anthony Jones" to a borrowed cabin on Block Island, where his next-door neighbor is a former attorney who graduated fourth in her class at Stanford Law but is now unhappily married to a surgical oncologist who has demanded she abandon her career to become a stay-at-home mom. In secret, she has become a popular food blogger under a false identity: an articulate, sensitive stay-at-home dad posting as Dinner by Dad. In a coincidence that the author herself labels bold, Dinner by Dad is the favorite food blog of the island native who becomes Anthony's love interest—Joy, a single mom and whoopie-pie entrepreneur with a teenager, who in turn ends up babysitting at the home of the food blogger. Novelist that he is, Anthony often identifies "plot twists" in his life as they arrive, and the final section of this book will give him plenty of material, with an apparent kidnapping, a hurricane, a sudden death, and an earthshaking backstory reveal. Moore (The Captain's Daughter, 2017, etc.) has a pretty jaded view of writers—liars, plagiarists, lukewarm mothers, and terrible fathers. This book has all the elements of an Elin Hildebrand novel—island setting, writer character, second-chance love story—without the polish and sophistication, which unfortunately cannot be pasted in via references to Virginia Woolf, Edith Wharton, etc. Editing could have deleted some of the flat-footed, sometimes-laughable dialogue and the near-silliness of the cavalcade of climactic events. Also, how many times does someone have to say they have something to tell you before you let them spit it out?

Fans of the island-lit genre will find familiar pleasures but also unrealistic situations and cringeworthy moments.

Pub Date: June 11, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-06-284006-6

Page Count: 432

Publisher: Morrow/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: March 4, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2019

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Kin “[find] each other’s lives inscrutable” in this rich, sharp story about the way identity is formed.

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Inseparable identical twin sisters ditch home together, and then one decides to vanish.

The talented Bennett fuels her fiction with secrets—first in her lauded debut, The Mothers (2016), and now in the assured and magnetic story of the Vignes sisters, light-skinned women parked on opposite sides of the color line. Desiree, the “fidgety twin,” and Stella, “a smart, careful girl,” make their break from stultifying rural Mallard, Louisiana, becoming 16-year-old runaways in 1954 New Orleans. The novel opens 14 years later as Desiree, fleeing a violent marriage in D.C., returns home with a different relative: her 8-year-old daughter, Jude. The gossips are agog: “In Mallard, nobody married dark....Marrying a dark man and dragging his blueblack child all over town was one step too far.” Desiree's decision seals Jude’s misery in this “colorstruck” place and propels a new generation of flight: Jude escapes on a track scholarship to UCLA. Tending bar as a side job in Beverly Hills, she catches a glimpse of her mother’s doppelgänger. Stella, ensconced in white society, is shedding her fur coat. Jude, so black that strangers routinely stare, is unrecognizable to her aunt. All this is expertly paced, unfurling before the book is half finished; a reader can guess what is coming. Bennett is deeply engaged in the unknowability of other people and the scourge of colorism. The scene in which Stella adopts her white persona is a tour de force of doubling and confusion. It calls up Toni Morrison’s The Bluest Eye, the book's 50-year-old antecedent. Bennett's novel plays with its characters' nagging feelings of being incomplete—for the twins without each other; for Jude’s boyfriend, Reese, who is trans and seeks surgery; for their friend Barry, who performs in drag as Bianca. Bennett keeps all these plot threads thrumming and her social commentary crisp. In the second half, Jude spars with her cousin Kennedy, Stella's daughter, a spoiled actress.

Kin “[find] each other’s lives inscrutable” in this rich, sharp story about the way identity is formed.

Pub Date: June 2, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-525-53629-1

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Riverhead

Review Posted Online: March 15, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2020

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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. 6, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2018

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