The depth of the characters, the questions they ask and the challenge they confront stay with the reader long after the...

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MAN IN THE WOODS

In one of the richer efforts by the veteran novelist, a compelling setup and stunning conclusion compensate for the thematic navel gazing through the middle.

Spencer returns to the scene of A Ship Made of Paper (2003), a novel that elicited some of his best reviews, bringing back writer Kate Ellis, her daughter, Ruby, and their hometown of Leyden, N.Y. Yet this novel isn’t exactly a sequel and can be read independently of the earlier work. Its protagonist is Paul Phillips, a master craftsman who refuses to compromise either his carpentry or his principles. He has become Kate’s lover and a surrogate father to Ruby after doing some work at their house. The divorced Kate, previously a newspaper reporter, is now the bestselling author of Prays Well with Others, an inspirational account of her recovering alcoholism and embrace of faith. With hints of Elizabeth Gilbert and Anne Lamott in “her kind of Christianity, one that includes a fair amount of swearing and swagger, left-of-center politics, and all the sex your average heathen would enjoy,” she has come to believe that her life has a plan, purpose and meaning, and that the love she shares with Paul is an essential part of that divine will. A Dostoyevskian complication drives the plot, as chance (or is it fate?) leads Paul to tragedy—an encounter with a stranger in the woods, a man beating his dog, that will change the lives of all concerned and upset the delicate balance that Kate and Paul have come to believe is their destiny. Ultimately, the novel’s title could refer as much to Paul, who must come to terms with the man he has become, after he did what he never believed he could. What seems to some like “a universe in which the pieces fit together beautifully” just might be “a universe where nothing is guaranteed and nothing can stop bad things from happening.”

The depth of the characters, the questions they ask and the challenge they confront stay with the reader long after the conclusion.

Pub Date: Sept. 14, 2010

ISBN: 978-0-06-146655-7

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Ecco/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: June 4, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2010

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A romantic, sad, and ultimately hopeful book that’s perfect for fans of Jojo Moyes.

GHOSTED

In Walsh’s American debut, a woman desperately tries to find out why the man she spent a whirlwind week with never called.

Sarah has just separated from her American husband and is visiting her hometown in England when she meets Eddie. He’s kind and charming, and although they only spend one week together, she falls in love. When he has to leave for a trip, she knows they’ll keep in touch—they’re already making plans for the rest of their lives. But then Eddie never calls, and Sarah’s increasingly frantic efforts to contact him are fruitless. Is he hurt? Is he dead? As her friends tell her, there’s a far greater likelihood that he’s just blowing her off—she’s been ghosted. After trying to track Eddie down at a football game, Sarah starts to become ashamed of herself—after all, she’s almost 40 years old and she’s essentially stalking a man who never called her. But as Sarah slowly learns, she and Eddie didn’t actually meet randomly—they both have a connection to an accident that happened years ago, and it may have something to do with why he disappeared. The tension quickly amps up as the secrets of Eddie’s and Sarah’s pasts are revealed, and the truth behind their connection is genuinely surprising and heartbreaking. The barriers between Sarah and Eddie seem insurmountable at times, and although their issues are resolved in a tidy manner, the emotions behind their actions are always believable. Walsh has created a deeply moving romance with an intriguing mystery and a touching portrait of grief at its heart.

A romantic, sad, and ultimately hopeful book that’s perfect for fans of Jojo Moyes.

Pub Date: July 24, 2018

ISBN: 978-0-525-52277-5

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Pamela Dorman/Viking

Review Posted Online: May 1, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2018

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An ambitious and bewitching gem of a book with mystery and passion inscribed on every page.

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THE STARLESS SEA

A withdrawn graduate student embarks on an epic quest to restore balance to the world in this long-anticipated follow-up to The Night Circus (2011).

Zachary Ezra Rawlins is a typical millennial introvert; he likes video games, escapist reading, and drinking sidecars. But when he recognizes himself in the pages of a mysterious book from the university library, he's unnerved—and determined to uncover the truth. What begins as a journey for answers turns into something much bigger, and Zachary must decide whether to trust the handsome stranger he meets at a highflying literary fundraiser in New York or to retreat back to his thesis and forget the whole affair. In a high-wire feat of metatextual derring-do, Morgenstern weaves Zachary's adventure into a stunning array of linked fables, myths, and origin stories. There are pirates and weary travelers, painters who can see the future, lovers torn asunder, a menacing Owl King, and safe harbors for all the stories of the world, far below the Earth on the golden shores of a Starless Sea. Clocking in at more than 500 pages, the novel requires patience as Morgenstern puts all the pieces in place, but it is exquisitely pleasurable to watch the gears of this epic fantasy turn once they're set in motion. As in The Night Circus, Morgenstern is at her best when she imagines worlds and rooms and parties in vivid detail, right down to the ballroom stairs "festooned with lanterns and garlands of paper dipped in gold" or a cloak carved from ice with "ships and sailors and sea monsters...lost in the drifting snow." This novel is a love letter to readers as much as an invitation: Come and see how much magic is left in the world. Fans of Neil Gaiman and V.E. Schwab, Kelly Link and Susanna Clarke will want to heed the call.

An ambitious and bewitching gem of a book with mystery and passion inscribed on every page.

Pub Date: Nov. 5, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-385-54121-3

Page Count: 512

Publisher: Doubleday

Review Posted Online: Aug. 4, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2019

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