Though the author may have bitten off more than he can chew here, his good instincts and courage make him a writer to watch.

THE SENATOR'S CHILDREN

A handsome, promising political candidate and his family are slammed by destiny and bad decisions.

In vignettes ranging from 1984 to 2010, Montemarano (The Book of Why, 2013) tells the story of David Christie and his three children—two of whom have never met. It’s a story with many dramatic and tragic turns that would be undercut if revealed in a review, so restraint will be exercised here. When it begins, Christie is running for a U.S. Senate seat from Pennsylvania, and his wife, Danielle, a theater professor at a small college, and his 16-year-old son, Nick, a charming high school football player, are standing in for him at a fundraiser in a mansion on Philadelphia’s Main Line. Danielle is putting a good face on it, but she’s sick of the whole ordeal. “Soon, she kept thinking, we can go back to normal. She didn’t like thinking that way, she knew how David hated to lose, but double digits two weeks out—it would take a miracle.” What happens next can hardly be described as a miracle, but it will catapult Christie to victory, and by 1991 he will be running against Bill Clinton and others for the Democratic presidential nomination. However, as this section of the book is titled: “Mistakes Were Made.” Montemarano's novel delivers strong, finely detailed characters and puts them in interesting, if unrelentingly painful, situations. On the downside, the texture of the national-politics setting is a little thin and predictable, some key parts of the story are never fully explained (when you finish it, tell us what happened in that car accident), and the creation of temporary unsolved mysteries by jumping back and forth in time can feel a little gimmicky.

Though the author may have bitten off more than he can chew here, his good instincts and courage make him a writer to watch.

Pub Date: Nov. 7, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-941040-79-9

Page Count: 376

Publisher: Tin House

Review Posted Online: Aug. 20, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2017

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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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