The concrete details of Alberto’s case resonate more than P.’s abstract spiritual odyssey.

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MY FATHERS' GHOST IS CLIMBING IN THE RAIN

A son returns from self-exile and comes to terms with his father’s past, and his own, during the military dictatorship in Argentina; the fifth, largely autobiographical novel and American debut from this Argentine writer.

It’s 2008. The author’s alter ego, whom we’ll call P., has spent the last eight years in Germany at a university, obliterating his past with huge quantities of pills. Now, at age 33, he returns to Argentina on word that his father, known as Chacho, is in the hospital, dying. P. reunites with his mother and siblings, but his mental fog only lifts as he reads through folders on his father’s desk. They contain journalistic reports of a man’s 2008 disappearance in Chacho’s hometown. The man, Alberto Burdisso, was a 60-year-old maintenance worker at the athletic club and a former schoolmate of Chacho's, whose interest in the case becomes clear with the mention of Burdisso’s sister, Alicia. Chacho had been a journalist and a teacher of journalism; also a Peronist and leftist. He had taught Alicia and gotten her involved in politics. When she was “disappeared” by the junta in 1977, Chacho felt responsible for her fate. Alberto’s own fate was sealed when the state gave him a sizable sum: reparations for his sister’s murder. The money attracted the attention of lowlifes, who threw Alberto down a well, where he died. P. recognizes there’s a symmetry between his father’s search for justice for Alberto and his own search for Chacho’s political identity. His father had been a target of the junta. When his sister reminds P. that their father self-sacrificingly searched their car for bombs before driving them to school, that opens the floodgates of memory. No more pills. P. now has a moral imperative to see that his parents’ struggle against the dictatorship must not be forgotten.

The concrete details of Alberto’s case resonate more than P.’s abstract spiritual odyssey.

Pub Date: May 21, 2013

ISBN: 978-0-307-70068-1

Page Count: 224

Publisher: Knopf

Review Posted Online: Feb. 18, 2013

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2013

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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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A heartwarming portrait of a broken heart finding a little healing magic.

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IN FIVE YEARS

After acing a job interview and accepting a marriage proposal, Dannie Kohan has had the perfect day. That is, until she awakens to find herself five years in the future with a completely different man.

Just one hour in that alternate reality shakes Dannie to her core. After all, highly ambitious Dannie and her boyfriend, David, have plotted out their lives in minute detail, and the sexy man in her dream—was it a dream?—is most certainly not in the script. Serle (The Dinner List, 2018) deftly spins these magical threads into Dannie’s perfectly structured life, leaving not only Dannie, but also the reader wondering whether Dannie time traveled or hallucinated. Her best friend, Bella, would delight in the story given that she thinks Dannie is much too straight-laced, and some spicy dreaming might push Dannie to find someone more passionate than David. Unfortunately, glamorous Bella is in Europe with her latest lover. Ever pragmatic, Dannie consults her therapist, who almost concurs that it was likely a dream, and throws herself into her work. Pleased to have landed the job at a prestigious law firm, Dannie easily loses her worries in litigation. Soon four and a half years have passed with no wedding date set, and Bella is back in the U.S. with a new man in her life. A man who turns out to be literally the man of Dannie’s dream. The sheer fact of Aaron Gregory’s existence forces Dannie to reevaluate her trust in the laws of physics as well as her decision to marry David, a decision that seems less believable with each passing day. And as the architecture of Dannie’s overplanned life disintegrates, Serle twists and twines the remnants of her dream into a surprising future.

A heartwarming portrait of a broken heart finding a little healing magic.

Pub Date: March 3, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-9821-3744-1

Page Count: 240

Publisher: Atria

Review Posted Online: Dec. 9, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2020

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