A frequently funny novel driven by a rebellious lead and strengthened by heartfelt emotion.

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MOST RATIONAL PEOPLE

In Martin’s debut novel, a woman moves cross-country to a small New England town with her husband and kids and finds herself struggling to fit in.

Melody Farrell is a Californian to her core. She’s a share-everything, no-holds-barred woman who would rather talk about rock bands than the weather. But her husband, Zack Bender, works in the financial sector and gets a job offer to move to Pebble Bay, a magazine-perfect suburban town in Massachusetts. Zack hits it off great with his colleagues and the polite, guarded residents of their new hometown. Their two toddlers have a blast with the neighborhood children. But Melody makes faux pas after faux pas: she wants dessert when other mothers barely touch a salad; she gets out for occasional walks while other mothers, who seemingly have perfect bodies, go for daily runs. Each day, it seems, Melody insults someone else and burns another bridge. As the pressure to fit in builds, so does her anger and isolation, and she starts to worry that Zack will leave her for someone more socially acceptable. Martin opens the story with an outburst from Melody and a heaping portion of humor: “Here lies Melody. She shouldn’t have said that,” Melody thinks to herself. Throughout, Martin’s protagonist makes for a brilliant narrator, as she views her mistakes with laughter as well as anxiety, which makes her human and relatable. As the novel progresses, even the initially cookie-cutter New England housewives take on distinct personalities as the author reveals them to be flawed in intricate ways. Along the way, the novel breaks down stereotypes and barriers even as it pokes fun at people of both coasts. Everyone is caught up in their own lives and the struggle for community, and everyone can be laughable, ignorant, and arrogant by turns. This novel isn’t about rebelling against small-town life or the drudgery of conformity; instead, it offers a story in which love, empathy, and family prevail, no matter which coast one calls home.

A frequently funny novel driven by a rebellious lead and strengthened by heartfelt emotion.

Pub Date: N/A

ISBN: N/A

Page Count: 292

Publisher: Dog Ear Publisher

Review Posted Online: Nov. 2, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2018

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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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A strongly felt, if not terribly gripping, sendoff for a Turow favorite nearly 35 years after his appearance in Presumed...

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THE LAST TRIAL

Trying his final case at 85, celebrated criminal defense lawyer Sandy Stern defends a Nobel-winning doctor and longtime friend whose cancer wonder drug saved Stern's life but subsequently led to the deaths of others.

Federal prosecutors are charging the eminent doctor, Kiril Pafko, with murder, fraud, and insider trading. An Argentine émigré like Stern, Pafko is no angel. His counselor is certain he sold stock in the company that produced the drug, g-Livia, before users' deaths were reported. The 78-year-old Nobelist is a serial adulterer whose former and current lovers have strong ties to the case. Working for one final time alongside his daughter and proficient legal partner, Marta, who has announced she will close the firm and retire along with her father following the case, Stern must deal not only with "senior moments" before Chief Judge Sonya "Sonny" Klonsky, but also his physical frailty. While taking a deep dive into the ups and downs of a complicated big-time trial, Turow (Testimony, 2017, etc.) crafts a love letter to his profession through his elegiac appreciation of Stern, who has appeared in all his Kindle County novels. The grandly mannered attorney (his favorite response is "Just so") has dedicated himself to the law at great personal cost. But had he not spent so much of his life inside courtrooms, "He never would have known himself." With its bland prosecutors, frequent focus on technical details like "double-blind clinical trials," and lack of real surprises, the novel likely will disappoint some fans of legal thrillers. But this smoothly efficient book gains timely depth through its discussion of thorny moral issues raised by a drug that can extend a cancer sufferer's life expectancy at the risk of suddenly ending it.

A strongly felt, if not terribly gripping, sendoff for a Turow favorite nearly 35 years after his appearance in Presumed Innocent.

Pub Date: May 12, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-5387-4813-8

Page Count: 448

Publisher: Grand Central Publishing

Review Posted Online: Feb. 10, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2020

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