A timely, ambitious, and uneven effort from an excellent contemporary writer.

DOXOLOGY

The author of Nicotine (2016) and Mislaid (2015) takes readers from CBGB to Washington, D.C.

In 1986, when life at home in the suburbs becomes too stifling, Pam gets on a bus and heads for New York. She's one-half of a truly terrible band when she meets Joe. Her new friend waits tables at a diner and plays bass. Daniel is as obsessed with obscure music as Pam and Joe, but he's more interested in producing than playing. The threesome remains an odd but fully functional unit even after Daniel and Pam start having sex and fall in love, even after Pam has a baby, even after Joe becomes an indie darling. There is no shortage of fiction chronicling young people finding themselves through the punk scene on the Lower East Side, but Zink’s version of this coming-of-age tale is distinctive because her superpower as an author is crafting weirdos and misfits without being excessively charmed by her creations. Pam and Daniel are both flawed and capable of recognizing their flaws. Joe is guileless and incapable of self-analysis, which makes him both intensely lovable and totally eager to play the archetypal rock star. The bonds among this chosen family are beginning to strain when 9/11 happens. After this turning point, the narrative focus begins to shift to Pam and Daniel’s daughter and widen to take in more of the political landscape. Flora’s passion for the environment leads her to a position with Jill Stein’s campaign. There’s something refreshing about Zink’s willingness to name names. When she writes about the last presidential election, she doesn’t create a character who looks a lot like Donald Trump; she writes about Donald Trump. At the same time, it’s an open question how much people who are bombarded by news about Donald Trump all day, every day, want to see his name in a novel. How many people still angry and despondent over 2016 want to relive it through the eyes of a Green Party staffer? More critically, fiction set behind the scenes in Washington doesn’t feel all that compelling when everyone in the real Washington—from politicians to speechwriters to low-level staffers—has an Instagram account.

A timely, ambitious, and uneven effort from an excellent contemporary writer.

Pub Date: Aug. 27, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-06-287778-9

Page Count: 416

Publisher: Ecco/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: May 27, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2019

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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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ANIMAL FARM

A FAIRY STORY

A modern day fable, with modern implications in a deceiving simplicity, by the author of Dickens. Dali and Others (Reynal & Hitchcock, p. 138), whose critical brilliance is well adapted to this type of satire. This tells of the revolt on a farm, against humans, when the pigs take over the intellectual superiority, training the horses, cows, sheep, etc., into acknowledging their greatness. The first hints come with the reading out of a pig who instigated the building of a windmill, so that the electric power would be theirs, the idea taken over by Napoleon who becomes topman with no maybes about it. Napoleon trains the young puppies to be his guards, dickers with humans, gradually instigates a reign of terror, and breaks the final commandment against any animal walking on two legs. The old faithful followers find themselves no better off for food and work than they were when man ruled them, learn their final disgrace when they see Napoleon and Squealer carousing with their enemies... A basic statement of the evils of dictatorship in that it not only corrupts the leaders, but deadens the intelligence and awareness of those led so that tyranny is inevitable. Mr. Orwell's animals exist in their own right, with a narrative as individual as it is apt in political parody.

Pub Date: Aug. 26, 1946

ISBN: 0452277507

Page Count: 114

Publisher: Harcourt, Brace

Review Posted Online: Nov. 2, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 1946

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