Abbott is a master of thinly veiled secrets often kept by women who rage underneath their delicate exteriors.


The owners of a ballet school have their insular and delicate world torn open.

Sisters Marie and Dara Durant own the Durant School of Dance; with matching buns, long necks, and pink tights, they exemplify the traditions of ballet. The classic girl’s dream of becoming a ballerina is the reality they’ve lived since their late mother opened the school in the 1980s. But behind the delicate tulle-clad facade of every ballerina reside the grit, pain, and stamina that drive them to push their bodies to the limit day in and day out. “Ballet was full of dark fairy tales,” Abbott writes, and one of those dark tales belongs to Dara’s husband, Charlie, who was once her mother’s prize student. Charlie now runs the school's daily operations, no longer able to dance due to his chronic pain. With Nutcracker season upon them, tension runs high at the studio. While Marie, Dara, and Charlie have survived many Nutcrackers, this year is a little different—the dark fairy tale comes to life, first in the form of a fire, “brilliant and bright…eating the floor and spitting out kindling shards in its wake.” As in many of Abbott’s thrillers, a violent catalyst sets off a series of events that brings buried emotions and hidden desires to the surface. The physicality in Abbott’s prose gives the mounting tension a heartbeat, from “the clatter of phones” to “the slap of flip-flops.” The tension arrives next in the form of Derek, the contractor hired to fix the ruined studio—“the expanse of him was overwhelming.” Derek represents every contractor horror story you’ve ever heard. He takes over the sisters' space, “an invasion and a deconstruction” that threatens to break the delicate balance that keeps the studio—and Marie’s and Dara’s lives—functioning. Derek invades their mental as well as their physical space, twisting words and promises, making beautiful things unseemly: “Some people liked to make everything dirty. Some people liked to ruin everything.” While the life of a ballerina may be “mysterious and private,” many illusions are shattered by the end. Though this story lacks some of the unquenchable energy that is Abbott’s trademark, the mesmerizing prose will keep you turning the pages.

Abbott is a master of thinly veiled secrets often kept by women who rage underneath their delicate exteriors.

Pub Date: July 6, 2021

ISBN: 978-0-593-08490-8

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Putnam

Review Posted Online: April 13, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 2021

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A flabby, fervid melodrama of a high-strung Southern family from Conroy (The Great Santini, The Lords of Discipline), whose penchant for overwriting once again obscures a genuine talent. Tom Wingo is an unemployed South Carolinian football coach whose internist wife is having an affair with a pompous cardiac man. When he hears that his fierce, beautiful twin sister Savannah, a well-known New York poet, has once again attempted suicide, he escapes his present emasculation by flying north to meet Savannah's comely psychiatrist, Susan Lowenstein. Savannah, it turns out, is catatonic, and before the suicide attempt had completely assumed the identity of a dead friend—the implication being that she couldn't stand being a Wingo anymore. Susan (a shrink with a lot of time on her hands) says to Tom, "Will you stay in New York and tell me all you know?" and he does, for nearly 600 mostly-bloated pages of flashbacks depicting The Family Wingo of swampy Colleton County: a beautiful mother, a brutal shrimper father (the Great Santini alive and kicking), and Tom and Savannah's much-admired older brother, Luke. There are enough traumas here to fall an average-sized mental ward, but the biggie centers around Luke, who uses the skills learned as a Navy SEAL in Vietnam to fight a guerrilla war against the installation of a nuclear power plant in Colleton and is killed by the authorities. It's his death that precipitates the nervous breakdown that costs Tom his job, and Savannah, almost, her life. There may be a barely-glimpsed smaller novel buried in all this succotash (Tom's marriage and life as a football coach), but it's sadly overwhelmed by the book's clumsy central narrative device (flashback ad infinitum) and Conroy's pretentious prose style: ""There are no verdicts to childhood, only consequences, and the bright freight of memory. I speak now of the sun-struck, deeply lived-in days of my past.

Pub Date: Oct. 21, 1986

ISBN: 0553381547

Page Count: 686

Publisher: Houghton Mifflin

Review Posted Online: Oct. 30, 2013

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 1986

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A tasty, if not always tasteful, tale of supernatural mayhem that fans of King and Crichton alike will enjoy.

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Are we not men? We are—well, ask Bigfoot, as Brooks does in this delightful yarn, following on his bestseller World War Z (2006).

A zombie apocalypse is one thing. A volcanic eruption is quite another, for, as the journalist who does a framing voice-over narration for Brooks’ latest puts it, when Mount Rainier popped its cork, “it was the psychological aspect, the hyperbole-fueled hysteria that had ended up killing the most people.” Maybe, but the sasquatches whom the volcano displaced contributed to the statistics, too, if only out of self-defense. Brooks places the epicenter of the Bigfoot war in a high-tech hideaway populated by the kind of people you might find in a Jurassic Park franchise: the schmo who doesn’t know how to do much of anything but tries anyway, the well-intentioned bleeding heart, the know-it-all intellectual who turns out to know the wrong things, the immigrant with a tough backstory and an instinct for survival. Indeed, the novel does double duty as a survival manual, packed full of good advice—for instance, try not to get wounded, for “injury turns you from a giver to a taker. Taking up our resources, our time to care for you.” Brooks presents a case for making room for Bigfoot in the world while peppering his narrative with timely social criticism about bad behavior on the human side of the conflict: The explosion of Rainier might have been better forecast had the president not slashed the budget of the U.S. Geological Survey, leading to “immediate suspension of the National Volcano Early Warning System,” and there’s always someone around looking to monetize the natural disaster and the sasquatch-y onslaught that follows. Brooks is a pro at building suspense even if it plays out in some rather spectacularly yucky episodes, one involving a short spear that takes its name from “the sucking sound of pulling it out of the dead man’s heart and lungs.” Grossness aside, it puts you right there on the scene.

A tasty, if not always tasteful, tale of supernatural mayhem that fans of King and Crichton alike will enjoy.

Pub Date: June 16, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-9848-2678-7

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Del Rey/Ballantine

Review Posted Online: Feb. 9, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2020

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