O’Connor’s lengthy, indulgent portrait of a marriage forefronts the robust, devoted woman who kept the show on the road.



Nora Barnacle, lifelong partner to James Joyce and model for Molly Bloom in Ulysses, moves center stage in a story of loyal love tested over years of poverty and effort.

Young Nora, a bold, freethinking, uneducated girl from a poor Galway background, narrates this biographical saga in evocative Irish tones, offering a more-or-less conventional account of the role of the supportive wife to a genius. The novel opens in Dublin on June 16, 1904—her first date with Jim Joyce, later to be commemorated as Bloomsday, the day during which Ulysses takes place. The attraction between the couple is explicitly sexual, and within months they leave Ireland together for Switzerland, where Joyce has been promised a teaching job. So begins their peripatetic life moving from Zurich to Trieste to Rome, back to Trieste, and eventually to Paris. Unmarried for decades since Joyce won’t be bound by any church, the pair struggles with the culture shock of Europe (the food, the weather) and their own poverty. But Nora suffers more: She's lonely, living in the wake of a charismatic, mercurial husband who drinks too much, abandons her often, hates his work, and loses himself in his writing. This is a woman’s story of craving female friendship, tending children, and supporting a wayward wanderer while always loving—and being loved by—him. Slowly Joyce begins to win the fight for publication and acknowledgement, but literature is largely the background to this domestic portrait of mutual dependency sometimes overwhelmed by its emphasis on family dramas. O’Connor’s Joyce is “a man the same as any other, with all a man’s frauds and faults,” according to Nora. She emerges as his rock, the prose to his poetry.

O’Connor’s lengthy, indulgent portrait of a marriage forefronts the robust, devoted woman who kept the show on the road.

Pub Date: Jan. 5, 2021

ISBN: 978-0-06-299172-0

Page Count: 496

Publisher: Harper Perennial/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Sept. 16, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1, 2020

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Light on suspense but still a solid page-turner.


When a devoted husband and father disappears, his wife and daughter set out to find him.

Hannah Hall is deeply in love with her husband of one year, Owen Michaels. She’s also determined to win over his 16-year-old daughter, Bailey, who has made it very clear that she’s not thrilled with her new stepmother. Despite the drama, the family is mostly a happy one. They live in a lovely houseboat in Sausalito; Hannah is a woodturner whose handmade furniture brings in high-dollar clientele; and Owen works for The Shop, a successful tech firm. Their lives are shattered, however, when Hannah receives a note saying “Protect her” and can’t reach Owen by phone. Then there’s the bag full of cash Bailey finds in her school locker and the shocking news that The Shop’s CEO has been taken into custody. Hannah learns that the FBI has been investigating the firm for about a year regarding some hot new software they took to market before it was fully functional, falsifying their financial statements. Hannah refuses to believe her husband is involved in the fraud, and a U.S. marshal assigned to the case claims Owen isn’t a suspect. Hannah doesn’t know whom to trust, though, and she and Bailey resolve to root out the clues that might lead to Owen. They must also learn to trust one another. Hannah’s narrative alternates past and present, detailing her early days with Owen alongside her current hunt for him, and author Dave throws in a touch of danger and a few surprises. But what really drives the story is the evolving nature of Hannah and Bailey’s relationship, which is by turns poignant and frustrating but always realistic.

Light on suspense but still a solid page-turner.

Pub Date: May 4, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-5011-7134-5

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: Feb. 10, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2021

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For devoted Hannah fans in search of a good cry.


The miseries of the Depression and Dust Bowl years shape the destiny of a Texas family.

“Hope is a coin I carry: an American penny, given to me by a man I came to love. There were times in my journey when I felt as if that penny and the hope it represented were the only things that kept me going.” We meet Elsa Wolcott in Dalhart, Texas, in 1921, on the eve of her 25th birthday, and wind up with her in California in 1936 in a saga of almost unrelieved woe. Despised by her shallow parents and sisters for being sickly and unattractive—“too tall, too thin, too pale, too unsure of herself”—Elsa escapes their cruelty when a single night of abandon leads to pregnancy and forced marriage to the son of Italian immigrant farmers. Though she finds some joy working the land, tending the animals, and learning her way around Mama Rose's kitchen, her marriage is never happy, the pleasures of early motherhood are brief, and soon the disastrous droughts of the 1930s drive all the farmers of the area to despair and starvation. Elsa's search for a better life for her children takes them out west to California, where things turn out to be even worse. While she never overcomes her low self-esteem about her looks, Elsa displays an iron core of character and courage as she faces dust storms, floods, hunger riots, homelessness, poverty, the misery of migrant labor, bigotry, union busting, violent goons, and more. The pedantic aims of the novel are hard to ignore as Hannah embodies her history lesson in what feels like a series of sepia-toned postcards depicting melodramatic scenes and clichéd emotions.

For devoted Hannah fans in search of a good cry.

Pub Date: Feb. 9, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-2501-7860-2

Page Count: 464

Publisher: St. Martin's

Review Posted Online: Nov. 18, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2020

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