An entertaining and ultimately tender book.

THE HOUSE ON FRIPP ISLAND

A summer vacation to the beaches of South Carolina reunites childhood friends Lisa and Poppy and their families, but when the week ends in tragedy, the survivors are left to untangle the secrets snarled just beneath the surface of their seemingly ordinary lives.

Lisa and Scott Daly are rich and unhappy. Married almost 20 years, they've settled into a routine of petty irritations that contains neither passion nor interest in each other’s lives. When they win an all-expenses-paid vacation to Fripp Island, South Carolina, at Scott’s company’s Christmas party, Lisa jumps at the chance to invite her best friend, Poppy, who has stayed in their hometown of Wheeling, West Virginia, and lives the kind of working-class life Lisa escaped with her marriage to Scott. From the first it's apparent that the families have brought their problems with them to the island. Lisa feels certain Scott is having an affair, one that he seems to be pursuing even on his family vacation. Poppy’s husband, John, is recovering from a nagging back injury, but his reliance on pain medicine has Poppy up every night counting his pills. Poppy’s oldest child, Ryan, an awkward but handsome boy primed to leave for college in the fall, spends more and more time immersed in mysterious projects, and Lisa’s 14-year-old daughter, Rae, is a seething mass of hormones and fragile teenage ego. The younger girls, Poppy’s Alex and Lisa’s Kimmy, are at crossroads of their own, poised in the fraught territory between childhood and the first of their teenage years. Throw into the mix a handyman on the sex-offender registry and his long-distance-runner wife—the improbably named Keats and Roxie Firestone—and the mood of the week is a mix of emotional turmoil with the occasional golden moment of beachfront reconciliation. However, the opening chapter is narrated by the ghost of one member of these two families, describing the moment of their murder during that vacation from the vantage of 20 years in the future. With that in mind, the reader is primed to pick up all the tantalizing clues Kauffman weaves through her sometimes exposition-heavy prose. Our assumptions about whose tensions, desires, rages, and shy longings might erupt into murder are provoked and reversed right up until the final pages, when the mystery of Fripp Island is revealed.

An entertaining and ultimately tender book.

Pub Date: June 2, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-358-04152-8

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Mariner/Houghton Mifflin Harcourt

Review Posted Online: April 13, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 2020

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A warm and winning "When Harry Met Sally…" update that hits all the perfect notes.

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PEOPLE WE MEET ON VACATION

A travel writer has one last shot at reconnecting with the best friend she just might be in love with.

Poppy and Alex couldn't be more different. She loves wearing bright colors while he prefers khakis and a T-shirt. She likes just about everything while he’s a bit more discerning. And yet, their opposites-attract friendship works because they love each other…in a totally platonic way. Probably. Even though they have their own separate lives (Poppy lives in New York City and is a travel writer with a popular Instagram account; Alex is a high school teacher in their tiny Ohio hometown), they still manage to get together each summer for one fabulous vacation. They grow closer every year, but Poppy doesn’t let herself linger on her feelings for Alex—she doesn’t want to ruin their friendship or the way she can be fully herself with him. They continue to date other people, even bringing their serious partners on their summer vacations…but then, after a falling-out, they stop speaking. When Poppy finds herself facing a serious bout of ennui, unhappy with her glamorous job and the life she’s been dreaming of forever, she thinks back to the last time she was truly happy: her last vacation with Alex. And so, though they haven’t spoken in two years, she asks him to take another vacation with her. She’s determined to bridge the gap that’s formed between them and become best friends again, but to do that, she’ll have to be honest with Alex—and herself—about her true feelings. In chapters that jump around in time, Henry shows readers the progression (and dissolution) of Poppy and Alex’s friendship. Their slow-burn love story hits on beloved romance tropes (such as there unexpectedly being only one bed on the reconciliation trip Poppy plans) while still feeling entirely fresh. Henry’s biggest strength is in the sparkling, often laugh-out-loud-funny dialogue, particularly the banter-filled conversations between Poppy and Alex. But there’s depth to the story, too—Poppy’s feeling of dissatisfaction with a life that should be making her happy as well as her unresolved feelings toward the difficult parts of her childhood make her a sympathetic and relatable character. The end result is a story that pays homage to classic romantic comedies while having a point of view all its own.

A warm and winning "When Harry Met Sally…" update that hits all the perfect notes.

Pub Date: May 11, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-9848-0675-8

Page Count: 384

Publisher: Berkley

Review Posted Online: March 3, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2021

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Light on suspense but still a solid page-turner.

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THE LAST THING HE TOLD ME

When a devoted husband and father disappears, his wife and daughter set out to find him.

Hannah Hall is deeply in love with her husband of one year, Owen Michaels. She’s also determined to win over his 16-year-old daughter, Bailey, who has made it very clear that she’s not thrilled with her new stepmother. Despite the drama, the family is mostly a happy one. They live in a lovely houseboat in Sausalito; Hannah is a woodturner whose handmade furniture brings in high-dollar clientele; and Owen works for The Shop, a successful tech firm. Their lives are shattered, however, when Hannah receives a note saying “Protect her” and can’t reach Owen by phone. Then there’s the bag full of cash Bailey finds in her school locker and the shocking news that The Shop’s CEO has been taken into custody. Hannah learns that the FBI has been investigating the firm for about a year regarding some hot new software they took to market before it was fully functional, falsifying their financial statements. Hannah refuses to believe her husband is involved in the fraud, and a U.S. marshal assigned to the case claims Owen isn’t a suspect. Hannah doesn’t know whom to trust, though, and she and Bailey resolve to root out the clues that might lead to Owen. They must also learn to trust one another. Hannah’s narrative alternates past and present, detailing her early days with Owen alongside her current hunt for him, and author Dave throws in a touch of danger and a few surprises. But what really drives the story is the evolving nature of Hannah and Bailey’s relationship, which is by turns poignant and frustrating but always realistic.

Light on suspense but still a solid page-turner.

Pub Date: May 4, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-5011-7134-5

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: Feb. 10, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2021

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