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Family secrets bubble to the surface in this deeply felt comedy.

On her wedding day, a bride locks herself in her bedroom.

Margie and Matti are supposed to be getting married, but Margie has locked the door to her bedroom and won’t respond to anyone who tries to speak with her. Matti and his parents gather outside along with Margie’s mom, Nadia, her cousin, Ilan, and her grandmother. “Well,” says Arieh, Matti’s father, “not to worry. So she won’t talk. She doesn’t have to. The bride does not have to talk, as far as I recall.” But Margie won’t unlock the door, either, and the hours are passing. The caterer keeps calling, and soon the wedding guests will begin to assemble. Matalon (The Sound of Our Steps, 2015, etc.), an award-winning Israeli writer who died in 2017, describes Margie’s situation with great humor as well as pathos. At first, Matti is desperate to get that door open. “Margie!” he shouts. “Do you even care what I’m going through with this whole mess you’ve made?” But as the hours pass, Matti himself starts to feel more and more ambivalent about their wedding. Margie slips an ambiguous poem under the door, but it does little to clarify things—in fact, throughout the book, Margie is the one character who remains silent. Everyone else, meanwhile, is in an uproar. The chaos is reminiscent of My Big Fat Greek Wedding, but Jewish, and backwards: This bride doesn’t want to go through with things. Matti’s parents call an organization known as “Reluctant Brides,” which sends over a psychologist. Darker undertones become visible; apparently Margie had a younger sister, Natalie, who disappeared years earlier. Matalon’s last novel is a whirlwind of family chaos and comedy, humor but also great feeling. If the comedy occasionally slips too far into caricature, there’s enough charm here to make up for that, and more besides.

Family secrets bubble to the surface in this deeply felt comedy.

Pub Date: Oct. 1, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-939931-75-7

Page Count: 128

Publisher: New Vessel Press

Review Posted Online: June 30, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2019

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Still, a respectful and absorbing page-turner.

Hannah’s new novel is an homage to the extraordinary courage and endurance of Frenchwomen during World War II.

In 1995, an elderly unnamed widow is moving into an Oregon nursing home on the urging of her controlling son, Julien, a surgeon. This trajectory is interrupted when she receives an invitation to return to France to attend a ceremony honoring passeurs: people who aided the escape of others during the war. Cut to spring, 1940: Viann has said goodbye to husband Antoine, who's off to hold the Maginot line against invading Germans. She returns to tending her small farm, Le Jardin, in the Loire Valley, teaching at the local school and coping with daughter Sophie’s adolescent rebellion. Soon, that world is upended: The Germans march into Paris and refugees flee south, overrunning Viann’s land. Her long-estranged younger sister, Isabelle, who has been kicked out of multiple convent schools, is sent to Le Jardin by Julien, their father in Paris, a drunken, decidedly unpaternal Great War veteran. As the depredations increase in the occupied zone—food rationing, systematic looting, and the billeting of a German officer, Capt. Beck, at Le Jardin—Isabelle’s outspokenness is a liability. She joins the Resistance, volunteering for dangerous duty: shepherding downed Allied airmen across the Pyrenees to Spain. Code-named the Nightingale, Isabelle will rescue many before she's captured. Meanwhile, Viann’s journey from passive to active resistance is less dramatic but no less wrenching. Hannah vividly demonstrates how the Nazis, through starvation, intimidation and barbarity both casual and calculated, demoralized the French, engineering a community collapse that enabled the deportations and deaths of more than 70,000 Jews. Hannah’s proven storytelling skills are ideally suited to depicting such cataclysmic events, but her tendency to sentimentalize undermines the gravitas of this tale.

Still, a respectful and absorbing page-turner.

Pub Date: Feb. 3, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-312-57722-3

Page Count: 448

Publisher: St. Martin's

Review Posted Online: Nov. 19, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2014

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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

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