SEVEN YEARS

A monster with a full-bore obsession might have been fun to read about, but that’s not what’s on offer in this damp squib.

One man steers an erratic course between two women in this wan account of a quasi-obsession, the latest from the Swiss Stamm (On a Day Like This, 2008, etc.). 

In the framing device, Alex, a married German architect, is telling Antje, an expatriate German artist, about the Other Woman. His story begins in 1989. He’s an architecture student in Munich. In a beer garden, a friend sets him up with a young woman who’s been eyeing him. This is Ivona, from Poland, a clerk in a Catholic bookstore. She’s plain, passive, inarticulate, quite without charm, “a natural-born victim,” yet Alex, perversely, finds himself drawn to her. He spends the night with her. They don’t have sex, yet Ivona says she loves him; her unwavering devotion is her only appeal. The second time he comes close to raping her. Then she fades into the background as Alex travels to Marseilles with Sonia, another architecture student. She is everything that Ivona is not. They make love. After some twists and turns, Alex and Sonia get married; she accepts his assurance that he’s broken up with Ivona. They start their own firm; business is booming, but they can’t make a baby. Alex starts seeing Ivona again. She becomes pregnant. Alex suggests to Sonia that they raise the child together. Implausibly, she agrees. What might have been a moment of high drama passes for nothing as the narrative voice drones on. And the cold question recurs: Why should we care about these people? OK, perhaps Sonia a little. This smart, beautiful, warm-hearted woman is trapped in the wrong marriage and the wrong novel. But the almost mute Ivona is an unformed lump of clay, and Alex is a self-pitying creep who proves, in due course, a neglectful parent to little Sophie. By the end, nothing has really changed.

A monster with a full-bore obsession might have been fun to read about, but that’s not what’s on offer in this damp squib.

Pub Date: March 22, 2011

ISBN: 978-1-59051-394-1

Page Count: 272

Publisher: Other Press

Review Posted Online: Jan. 8, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2011

THEN SHE WAS GONE

Dark and unsettling, this novel’s end arrives abruptly even as readers are still moving at a breakneck speed.

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. 5, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2018

LOVE AND OTHER WORDS

With frank language and patient plotting, this gangly teen crush grows into a confident adult love affair.

Eleven years ago, he broke her heart. But he doesn’t know why she never forgave him.

Toggling between past and present, two love stories unfold simultaneously. In the first, Macy Sorensen meets and falls in love with the boy next door, Elliot Petropoulos, in the closet of her dad’s vacation home, where they hide out to discuss their favorite books. In the second, Macy is working as a doctor and engaged to a single father, and she hasn’t spoken to Elliot since their breakup. But a chance encounter forces her to confront the truth: what happened to make Macy stop speaking to Elliot? Ultimately, they’re separated not by time or physical remoteness but by emotional distance—Elliot and Macy always kept their relationship casual because they went to different schools. And as a teen, Macy has more to worry about than which girl Elliot is taking to the prom. After losing her mother at a young age, Macy is navigating her teenage years without a female role model, relying on the time-stamped notes her mother left in her father’s care for guidance. In the present day, Macy’s father is dead as well. She throws herself into her work and rarely comes up for air, not even to plan her upcoming wedding. Since Macy is still living with her fiance while grappling with her feelings for Elliot, the flashbacks offer steamy moments, tender revelations, and sweetly awkward confessions while Macy makes peace with her past and decides her future.

With frank language and patient plotting, this gangly teen crush grows into a confident adult love affair.

Pub Date: April 10, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-5011-2801-1

Page Count: 416

Publisher: Gallery Books/Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: Jan. 22, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2018

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