A battle hymn as novel about sinking your teeth into the available options for self-determination and ripping them to shreds.


A new mother who fears she's going through a frightening and exhilarating transformation leans into the feral side of motherhood.

In this myth-steeped debut, an unnamed artist and mother, not having had a solid night's sleep since her son was born more than two years earlier, has begun waking enraged in the night. Her oblivious tech-bro husband travels for work, "rendering her a de-facto single mom" while he enjoys nightly room service, abundant quiet, and a bed to himself, and she tries to adjust to life at home with their child after having made the ambivalent decision to leave her "dream job" as director of a community gallery. In the wake of creating another human with her body (not to mention sleep deprivation and lack of child care), her impulse to create in other ways has been quashed, her mind wiped clean of ideas as she watches grad school friends, who have both children and the necessary support to advance their careers, ascend, with write-ups in the Times, biennials, residencies, and guest teaching invitations. When she confesses to her husband that she thinks she may be turning into a dog, he laughs off her concerns about the changes she's experiencing—coarse hair sprouting from the back of her neck, lengthening canines, a pilonidal cyst that suspiciously resembles a tail. She self-deprecatingly calls herself "Nightbitch," which plants the germ for a new self she incrementally invents and increasingly embodies, with considerable help from a mysterious library book called A Field Guide to Magical Women. Though at points this novel can read as if ticking boxes from a list of notes cribbed from an internet moms' group, it remains a darkly funny, often insightful dive into the competitive relationship and mutually generative potential between art and motherhood and the animalism underlying procreation and child-rearing. It is both a lament for and, at times, a satire of discontented, primarily White, heterosexual cis women who, without sufficient familial or community support, seek out often toxic and sometimes predatory online communities, where their propensities for a certain kind of American middle-class girl-boss elitism are honed toward "mom shaming" and multilevel marketing scams. Disconnected from family and without a strong sense of cultural belonging, even when Nightbitch seeks to create something truly original, like the MLM moms slinging leggings with appropriated patterns, she also colonizes, longing for and profiting from "the things [she] never had."

A battle hymn as novel about sinking your teeth into the available options for self-determination and ripping them to shreds.

Pub Date: July 20, 2021

ISBN: 978-0-385-54681-2

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Doubleday

Review Posted Online: June 2, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2021

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A flabby, fervid melodrama of a high-strung Southern family from Conroy (The Great Santini, The Lords of Discipline), whose penchant for overwriting once again obscures a genuine talent. Tom Wingo is an unemployed South Carolinian football coach whose internist wife is having an affair with a pompous cardiac man. When he hears that his fierce, beautiful twin sister Savannah, a well-known New York poet, has once again attempted suicide, he escapes his present emasculation by flying north to meet Savannah's comely psychiatrist, Susan Lowenstein. Savannah, it turns out, is catatonic, and before the suicide attempt had completely assumed the identity of a dead friend—the implication being that she couldn't stand being a Wingo anymore. Susan (a shrink with a lot of time on her hands) says to Tom, "Will you stay in New York and tell me all you know?" and he does, for nearly 600 mostly-bloated pages of flashbacks depicting The Family Wingo of swampy Colleton County: a beautiful mother, a brutal shrimper father (the Great Santini alive and kicking), and Tom and Savannah's much-admired older brother, Luke. There are enough traumas here to fall an average-sized mental ward, but the biggie centers around Luke, who uses the skills learned as a Navy SEAL in Vietnam to fight a guerrilla war against the installation of a nuclear power plant in Colleton and is killed by the authorities. It's his death that precipitates the nervous breakdown that costs Tom his job, and Savannah, almost, her life. There may be a barely-glimpsed smaller novel buried in all this succotash (Tom's marriage and life as a football coach), but it's sadly overwhelmed by the book's clumsy central narrative device (flashback ad infinitum) and Conroy's pretentious prose style: ""There are no verdicts to childhood, only consequences, and the bright freight of memory. I speak now of the sun-struck, deeply lived-in days of my past.

Pub Date: Oct. 21, 1986

ISBN: 0553381547

Page Count: 686

Publisher: Houghton Mifflin

Review Posted Online: Oct. 30, 2013

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 1986

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A book begging to be read on the beach, with the sun warming the sand and salt in the air: pure escapism.


Three woman who join together to rent a large space along the beach in Los Angeles for their stores—a gift shop, a bakery, and a bookstore—become fast friends as they each experience the highs, and lows, of love.

Bree is a friendly but standoffish bookstore owner who keeps everyone she knows at arm’s length, from guys she meets in bars to her friends. Mikki is a settled-in-her-routines divorced mother of two, happily a mom, gift-shop owner, and co-parent with her ex-husband, Perry. And Ashley is a young, very-much-in-love bakery owner specializing in muffins who devotes herself to giving back to the community through a nonprofit that helps community members develop skills and find jobs. When the women meet drooling over a boardwalk storefront that none of them can afford on her own, a plan is hatched to divide the space in three, and a friendship—and business partnership—is born. An impromptu celebration on the beach at sunset with champagne becomes a weekly touchpoint to their lives as they learn more about each other and themselves. Their friendship blossoms as they help each other, offering support, hard truths, and loving backup. Author Mallery has created a delightful story of friendship between three women that also offers a variety of love stories as they fall in love, make mistakes, and figure out how to be the best—albeit still flawed—versions of themselves. The men are similarly flawed and human. While the story comes down clearly on the side of all-encompassing love, Mallery has struck a careful balance: There is just enough sex to be spicy, just enough swearing to be naughty, and just enough heartbreak to avoid being cloying.

A book begging to be read on the beach, with the sun warming the sand and salt in the air: pure escapism.

Pub Date: May 31, 2022

ISBN: 978-0-778-38608-7

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Harlequin MIRA

Review Posted Online: March 16, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2022

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