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LOST AND WANTED

Brimming with wit and intelligence and devoted to things that matter: life, love, death, and the mysteries of the cosmos.

A physicist at MIT receives a text from her dead best friend.

"In the first few months after Charlie died, I began hearing from her much more frequently," Helen Clapp explains at the outset of Freudenberger's (The Newlyweds, 2012, etc.) third novel. Charlie Boyce and Helen met freshman year at Harvard. Though they were "an upper-middle-class black girl from Brookline"—Charlie—"and a work-study white science nerd from Pasadena"—Helen—their friendship took flight, powered by in-jokes, catchphrases, shared ambitions, and theories about life. After graduation, Charlie moved to LA and became a screenwriter, married a surfer, had a little girl. Helen stayed in Boston and became famous as one of the authors of the Clapp-Jonnal model "for quark gluon plasma as a dual black hole in five-dimensional space-time." She wrote two bestselling science books and gained an endowed chair at MIT; her 7-year-old son, Jack, whose father was an anonymous sperm donor, became the "love of [her] life." As the novel begins, Charlie has just died of lupus. Though they hadn't spoken for over a year, Helen is now receiving texts from Charlie's cellphone, which her husband hasn't been able to find since she died. Strangely, they seem like they could only have been written by...Charlie? Meanwhile, said husband and daughter come to stay with Charlie's parents in Boston; also back in town is Neel Jonnal, Helen's college boyfriend and collaborator, now with a fiancee. Complications ensue, though not the predictable soap-opera ones you'd imagine. Freudenberger is good at explaining physics, but her real genius is in the depiction of relationships. Each one in the novel, whether between adults, adults and children, or among children, is unique, finely calibrated, and real. The title is a line from a poem by W.H. Auden which doesn't fully hit until the end of the book, when it takes on heart-rending poignancy.

Brimming with wit and intelligence and devoted to things that matter: life, love, death, and the mysteries of the cosmos.

Pub Date: April 2, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-385-35268-0

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Knopf

Review Posted Online: Dec. 10, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2019

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THEN SHE WAS GONE

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. 5, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2018

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THE GREAT ALONE

A tour de force.

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  • New York Times Bestseller

In 1974, a troubled Vietnam vet inherits a house from a fallen comrade and moves his family to Alaska.

After years as a prisoner of war, Ernt Allbright returned home to his wife, Cora, and daughter, Leni, a violent, difficult, restless man. The family moved so frequently that 13-year-old Leni went to five schools in four years. But when they move to Alaska, still very wild and sparsely populated, Ernt finds a landscape as raw as he is. As Leni soon realizes, “Everyone up here had two stories: the life before and the life now. If you wanted to pray to a weirdo god or live in a school bus or marry a goose, no one in Alaska was going to say crap to you.” There are many great things about this book—one of them is its constant stream of memorably formulated insights about Alaska. Another key example is delivered by Large Marge, a former prosecutor in Washington, D.C., who now runs the general store for the community of around 30 brave souls who live in Kaneq year-round. As she cautions the Allbrights, “Alaska herself can be Sleeping Beauty one minute and a bitch with a sawed-off shotgun the next. There’s a saying: Up here you can make one mistake. The second one will kill you.” Hannah’s (The Nightingale, 2015, etc.) follow-up to her series of blockbuster bestsellers will thrill her fans with its combination of Greek tragedy, Romeo and Juliet–like coming-of-age story, and domestic potboiler. She re-creates in magical detail the lives of Alaska's homesteaders in both of the state's seasons (they really only have two) and is just as specific and authentic in her depiction of the spiritual wounds of post-Vietnam America.

A tour de force.

Pub Date: Feb. 6, 2018

ISBN: 978-0-312-57723-0

Page Count: 448

Publisher: St. Martin's

Review Posted Online: Oct. 30, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15, 2017

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