Brilliant prose and piercing insights convey a dark but compelling view of human nature.

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SECOND PLACE

Riffing on D.H. Lawrence’s famously fraught visit with Mabel Dodge Luhan in New Mexico, Cusk chronicles a fictional woman’s attempt to find meaning in other people’s art.

Readers need not know anything about that literary-history byway, however, to enjoy this brooding tale. Highly praised for her recent, decidedly nonlinear Outline Trilogy, Cusk here rediscovers the joys of plot. Narrator M sets a dark tone with her opening recollection of how a meeting with the devil on a train leaving Paris opened her eyes to “the evil that usually lies undisturbed beneath the surface of things.” Then she pulls back to her encounter the day before with an exhibition of paintings by an artist she calls L that spoke of “absolute freedom” to “a young mother on the brink of rebellion.” Now, years later, divorced from her hypercritical first husband and a subsequent period of misery behind her, she is happily married to quiet, nurturing Tony and lives with him in “a place of great but subtle beauty” remote from the urban centers of whatever country this is. (Details are deliberately vague, but bravura descriptions of marshes and brambles evoke a fairy-tale landscape rather than New Mexico.) M clearly feels some dissatisfaction with this idyllic retreat since she writes to L through a mutual friend and invites him to stay in their “second place,” a ruined cottage they rebuilt as a long-term refuge for guests. After some coy back and forth, L turns up on short notice with an unannounced young girlfriend in tow, forcing M to move her 21-year-old daughter, Justine, and her boyfriend, Kurt, to the main house. L clearly knows that M wants something from him (Cusk elliptically suggests a desire to be welcomed into an imaginative life M feels inadequate to enter on her own) and is determined not to provide it. Increasingly tense interactions among the three couples form the seething undercurrent to M’s ongoing musings on art, truth, and reality. The inevitable big blowup is followed by reconciliations and relocations, capped by one of Cusk’s characteristically abrupt conclusions with a bitter letter from L.

Brilliant prose and piercing insights convey a dark but compelling view of human nature.

Pub Date: May 4, 2021

ISBN: 978-0-374-27922-6

Page Count: 192

Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux

Review Posted Online: Jan. 27, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2021

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Honestly, who needs Nantucket. It could hardly be more fun than this book.

THE HOTEL NANTUCKET

Bring on the fresh-baked gougères and the hydrangea-blue cashmere throws: A classic fictional setting—the grand hotel—gets the Hilderbrand treatment.

The beloved beach novelist’s 28th book is another tour de force, deploying all her usual tricks and tropes and clever points of view, again among them a character from the afterlife and the collective “we” of gossipy island residents. Our ghost is Grace Hadley, a teenage chambermaid who died under suspicious circumstances in a hotel fire in 1922. Grace’s lonely days are over when the historic property is purchased and reopened by a London billionaire. As Xavier Darling tells his general manager, Lizbet Keaton, their goal will be to get five out of five keys from Shelly Carpenter, an undercover hotel blogger who has not awarded top honors to any spot visited so far. A gorgeous remodel, a sterling staff, free treats in the minibar, and—of course, since this is Hilderbrand—an incredible restaurant where a disco ball drops from the ceiling every night at 9 p.m. and the chef is hotter than any dish on the menu are all in play as the first guests come streaming in. Which one is the hard-to-please Ms. Carpenter? Other addictive storylines include a rich kid cleaning rooms to expiate some mysterious, terrible thing he did this past spring, an evil beauty breaking up island marriages (instead of a gun in the drawer, there's a half-used Chanel eye shadow in Pourpre Brun), and the desperate attempts of Lizbet’s ex, who sexted with their wine rep, to win her back. One of the special services Lizbet creates for the guests of the Hotel Nantucket is a “Blue Book” containing all her recommended island itineraries. A real-life version is included as an appendix, giving the complete scoop on where to eat, drink, sunbathe, shop, and stay on the island, plus notes on which Hilderbrand novels happened where. If you’re ready to check out Chicken Box or to try the sandwiches on herb bread that lured the author to become a permanent island resident in 1993, the Elin Hilderbrand Bucket List Weekend really is a thing.

Honestly, who needs Nantucket. It could hardly be more fun than this book.

Pub Date: June 14, 2022

ISBN: 978-0-316-25867-8

Page Count: 416

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: April 27, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2022

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With captivating dialogue, angst-y characters, and a couple of steamy sex scenes, Hoover has done it again.

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REMINDERS OF HIM

After being released from prison, a young woman tries to reconnect with her 5-year-old daughter despite having killed the girl’s father.

Kenna didn’t even know she was pregnant until after she was sent to prison for murdering her boyfriend, Scotty. When her baby girl, Diem, was born, she was forced to give custody to Scotty’s parents. Now that she’s been released, Kenna is intent on getting to know her daughter, but Scotty’s parents won’t give her a chance to tell them what really happened the night their son died. Instead, they file a restraining order preventing Kenna from so much as introducing herself to Diem. Handsome, self-assured Ledger, who was Scotty’s best friend, is another key adult in Diem’s life. He’s helping her grandparents raise her, and he too blames Kenna for Scotty’s death. Even so, there’s something about her that haunts him. Kenna feels the pull, too, and seems to be seeking Ledger out despite his judgmental behavior. As Ledger gets to know Kenna and acknowledges his attraction to her, he begins to wonder if maybe he and Scotty’s parents have judged her unfairly. Even so, Ledger is afraid that if he surrenders to his feelings, Scotty’s parents will kick him out of Diem’s life. As Kenna and Ledger continue to mourn for Scotty, they also grieve the future they cannot have with each other. Told alternatively from Kenna’s and Ledger’s perspectives, the story explores the myriad ways in which snap judgments based on partial information can derail people’s lives. Built on a foundation of death and grief, this story has an undercurrent of sadness. As usual, however, the author has created compelling characters who are magnetic and sympathetic enough to pull readers in. In addition to grief, the novel also deftly explores complex issues such as guilt, self-doubt, redemption, and forgiveness.

With captivating dialogue, angst-y characters, and a couple of steamy sex scenes, Hoover has done it again.

Pub Date: Jan. 18, 2022

ISBN: 978-1-5420-2560-7

Page Count: 335

Publisher: Montlake Romance

Review Posted Online: Oct. 13, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 2021

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