Delbanco’s writing is smooth, but bland.

SPRING AND FALL

From the prolific Delbanco (The Vagabonds, 2004, etc.), a low-wattage romance about former college sweethearts whose feelings rekindle when they meet again, by accident, 40 years later.

Lawrence is now a twice-divorced, 64-year-old professor of architecture who has recently undergone an angioplasty. Sixty-three-year-old Hermia lives alone, having raised her daughter by herself after escaping an abusive husband. In 1962, Hermia, a junior at Radcliffe, and Lawrence, a senior at Harvard, were each other’s first loves, carrying on an intense affair that ended only because neither was mature enough for permanent commitment. During the intervening 40 years, there has been no communication between them, although Hermia did Google Lawrence, so she knows the public facts of his life. Now they happen to be on the same Mediterranean cruise. Once Hermia establishes that Lawrence is a Democrat (her one non-negotiable), they cautiously step back into a relationship. Delbanco interlaces his characters’ late-life affair with the stories of their lives up to that point. He’s covering a lot of territory—spouses, jobs, geographic moves—and these sections often have the feel of summary. But Hermia’s troubled relationship with her daughter Patricia carries real weight. The girl ran away at 17 and has since contacted her mother with only sporadic cards, with no return address. Months after the cruise, Lawrence visits Hermia at the home she inherited from her father on the Cape, a house where Lawrence and Hermia had long ago spent glorious time together. As they’re settling into an affectionate, if less passion-driven, life, Lawrence experiences a new bout of heart trouble. Their love only deepens. And out of the blue, Patricia shows up. Lawrence wonders if he should depart to make way for the reconciliation, but Hermia asks him to stay.

Delbanco’s writing is smooth, but bland.

Pub Date: Oct. 19, 2006

ISBN: 0-446-57871-1

Page Count: 304

Publisher: N/A

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2006

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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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