An often engaging saga of personal mistakes and shared redemption.

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THE MAPLE LEAF

KJ’s (The Year We Roamed, 2013, etc.) novel follows two men across six decades—and across America’s racial divide.

Troy Dove and Vincent Taylor first meet as students at the Maple Leaf Elementary School in Northeast Seattle in 1972. Vincent is a white student from the neighborhood, while Troy is one of a few African-American students bussed in as part of a desegregation program. Vincent quickly admires Troy and befriends him. They briefly share such childhood moments as kickball games, discussions of first crushes, and after-school fishing trips—before their racist environment separates them. As the years go by, their lives take very different directions. Vincent finishes his time at Maple Leaf, then goes on to high school, college, an internship in London, and—for a time—a successful marriage and career. Troy, on the other hand, begins to suffer as soon as he’s transferred to an elementary school in his own impoverished neighborhood. He becomes addicted to drugs in his teenage years and cycles deeper and deeper into a life of violence and incarceration. Interwoven throughout the two men’s narratives are stories of Vincent’s aunt, Shirley, and of a compassionate woman named Dolores Moffat, who struggles to find a meaningful place for herself in the world. The novel’s scope is impressive, following multiple life stories from the racially charged 1970s, through the crack epidemic of the late ’80s, to the present day, and beyond. Following these characters through the years can sometimes be disorienting; KJ skips from one to another in quick succession, often before readers have a chance to become fully engaged with a particular person’s plight. The connections between the various narratives can also be tangential or rely too heavily on coincidence or sentimentality. That said, highly detailed portraits of Vincent and Troy emerge over the course of the novel as the author walks through their crimes, transgressions, and regrets. He fully immerses readers in the characters’ memories, as well as their healing processes.

An often engaging saga of personal mistakes and shared redemption.

Pub Date: May 23, 2014

ISBN: N/A

Page Count: 408

Publisher: CreateSpace

Review Posted Online: March 19, 2015

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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 strongly felt, if not terribly gripping, sendoff for a Turow favorite nearly 35 years after his appearance in Presumed...

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THE LAST TRIAL

Trying his final case at 85, celebrated criminal defense lawyer Sandy Stern defends a Nobel-winning doctor and longtime friend whose cancer wonder drug saved Stern's life but subsequently led to the deaths of others.

Federal prosecutors are charging the eminent doctor, Kiril Pafko, with murder, fraud, and insider trading. An Argentine émigré like Stern, Pafko is no angel. His counselor is certain he sold stock in the company that produced the drug, g-Livia, before users' deaths were reported. The 78-year-old Nobelist is a serial adulterer whose former and current lovers have strong ties to the case. Working for one final time alongside his daughter and proficient legal partner, Marta, who has announced she will close the firm and retire along with her father following the case, Stern must deal not only with "senior moments" before Chief Judge Sonya "Sonny" Klonsky, but also his physical frailty. While taking a deep dive into the ups and downs of a complicated big-time trial, Turow (Testimony, 2017, etc.) crafts a love letter to his profession through his elegiac appreciation of Stern, who has appeared in all his Kindle County novels. The grandly mannered attorney (his favorite response is "Just so") has dedicated himself to the law at great personal cost. But had he not spent so much of his life inside courtrooms, "He never would have known himself." With its bland prosecutors, frequent focus on technical details like "double-blind clinical trials," and lack of real surprises, the novel likely will disappoint some fans of legal thrillers. But this smoothly efficient book gains timely depth through its discussion of thorny moral issues raised by a drug that can extend a cancer sufferer's life expectancy at the risk of suddenly ending it.

A strongly felt, if not terribly gripping, sendoff for a Turow favorite nearly 35 years after his appearance in Presumed Innocent.

Pub Date: May 12, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-5387-4813-8

Page Count: 448

Publisher: Grand Central Publishing

Review Posted Online: Feb. 10, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2020

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