An enjoyable, finely written fantasy tale.

LIGHTS ON THE SEA

A fabulist debut novel tells the story of an older couple on an unexpected voyage.

Harold and Mary Rose Grapes live in the most remote house at the highest point on Brent Island. They’ve spent 35 years there mourning the loss of their son, Dylan, but now the government is evicting them from their swiftly eroding cliffside dwelling and relocating them to a retirement home. But on the night before they are to move, a massive storm blows in and tears the house from its perch: “The last section of earth supporting the house broke away from the rest of the cliff. The cable groaned and finally snapped. The yellow house, along with a section of garden attached to the foundation, began to freefall toward the white-capped sea.” Luckily, when the foundation of the house hits the ocean water below, it floats. Harold links this miracle to the “petrified air pockets” in the island’s volcanic rock. An astonished Mary Rose asks: “You think that the rock around the basement is supporting the house? It’s why we’re floating like a cork instead of sinking?” Stranded at sea without electricity, water, or much food, Harold and Mary Rose must reawaken their past ingenuity in order to survive. Contending with dangerous animals and icebergs, the Grapeses sail their house as best they can, slowly leaving behind all the things tying them to the past: their grief, their property, the island that they never left. As they move toward a mysterious light on the horizon, they discover that even in their old age, life has surprises in store for them. More importantly, they still have the capacity to amaze themselves. Reina, as translated from the Spanish by Nelson (A Love for Rebecca, 2013), writes in a lyrical prose that highlights the magic of his magical realist premise: “Pieces of paper slipped like eels hiding between boxes and broken furniture.…Sunlight fell on the thick bottom of a broken drinking glass, passing though it like the glass was a prism, its light spraying into a fan of colors.” The book is wonderfully paced and suitably tense without ever drifting into melodrama. It reads like a cozy, middle-grade fantasy novel, but for an adult audience. The ending is perhaps a bit easy, but Reina succeeds in crafting a resonant fable of life’s autumn years.

An enjoyable, finely written fantasy tale.

Pub Date: Sept. 25, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-5039-0320-3

Page Count: 272

Publisher: Amazon Crossing

Review Posted Online: Aug. 20, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2018

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Finding positivity in negative pregnancy-test results, this depiction of a marriage in crisis is nearly perfect.

ALL YOUR PERFECTS

Named for an imperfectly worded fortune cookie, Hoover's (It Ends with Us, 2016, etc.) latest compares a woman’s relationship with her husband before and after she finds out she’s infertile.

Quinn meets her future husband, Graham, in front of her soon-to-be-ex-fiance’s apartment, where Graham is about to confront him for having an affair with his girlfriend. A few years later, they are happily married but struggling to conceive. The “then and now” format—with alternating chapters moving back and forth in time—allows a hopeful romance to blossom within a dark but relatable dilemma. Back then, Quinn’s bad breakup leads her to the love of her life. In the now, she’s exhausted a laundry list of fertility options, from IVF treatments to adoption, and the silver lining is harder to find. Quinn’s bad relationship with her wealthy mother also prevents her from asking for more money to throw at the problem. But just when Quinn’s narrative starts to sound like she’s writing a long Facebook rant about her struggles, she reveals the larger issue: Ever since she and Graham have been trying to have a baby, intimacy has become a chore, and she doesn’t know how to tell him. Instead, she hopes the contents of a mystery box she’s kept since their wedding day will help her decide their fate. With a few well-timed silences, Hoover turns the fairly common problem of infertility into the more universal problem of poor communication. Graham and Quinn may or may not become parents, but if they don’t talk about their feelings, they won’t remain a couple, either.

Finding positivity in negative pregnancy-test results, this depiction of a marriage in crisis is nearly perfect.

Pub Date: July 17, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-5011-7159-8

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Atria

Review Posted Online: May 1, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 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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