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DOXOLOGY

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

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 26, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2019

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THE MOST FUN WE EVER HAD

Characters flip between bottomless self-regard and pitiless self-loathing while, as late as the second-to-last chapter, yet...

Four Chicago sisters anchor a sharp, sly family story of feminine guile and guilt.

Newcomer Lombardo brews all seven deadly sins into a fun and brimming tale of an unapologetically bougie couple and their unruly daughters. In the opening scene, Liza Sorenson, daughter No. 3, flirts with a groomsman at her sister’s wedding. “There’s four of you?” he asked. “What’s that like?” Her retort: “It’s a vast hormonal hellscape. A marathon of instability and hair products.” Thus begins a story bristling with a particular kind of female intel. When Wendy, the oldest, sets her sights on a mate, she “made sure she left her mark throughout his house—soy milk in the fridge, box of tampons under the sink, surreptitious spritzes of her Bulgari musk on the sheets.” Turbulent Wendy is the novel’s best character, exuding a delectable bratty-ness. The parents—Marilyn, all pluck and busy optimism, and David, a genial family doctor—strike their offspring as impossibly happy. Lombardo levels this vision by interspersing chapters of the Sorenson parents’ early lean times with chapters about their daughters’ wobbly forays into adulthood. The central story unfurls over a single event-choked year, begun by Wendy, who unlatches a closed adoption and springs on her family the boy her stuffy married sister, Violet, gave away 15 years earlier. (The sisters improbably kept David and Marilyn clueless with a phony study-abroad scheme.) Into this churn, Lombardo adds cancer, infidelity, a heart attack, another unplanned pregnancy, a stillbirth, and an office crush for David. Meanwhile, youngest daughter Grace perpetrates a whopper, and “every day the lie was growing like mold, furring her judgment.” The writing here is silky, if occasionally overwrought. Still, the deft touches—a neighborhood fundraiser for a Little Free Library, a Twilight character as erotic touchstone—delight. The class calibrations are divine even as the utter apolitical whiteness of the Sorenson world becomes hard to fathom.

Characters flip between bottomless self-regard and pitiless self-loathing while, as late as the second-to-last chapter, yet another pleasurable tendril of sisterly malice uncurls.

Pub Date: June 25, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-385-54425-2

Page Count: 544

Publisher: Doubleday

Review Posted Online: March 3, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 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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