A touching study rich with introspection and finely crafted relationships.


In Wachtel’s (My Mother’s Shoes, 2011, etc.) novel, suffering crosses generations, from a teenager in anguished love to an enfeebled survivor of Auschwitz.

“During all events in our lives, both great and small, the moment always passes too swiftly. Something like a dream,” muses Joshua, one of the novel’s conflicted principal characters, as he reflects on past loss. Dreams and memories linger over events both great and small in the lives of two families in upstate New York. Joshua, the middle-aged single father to diffident Adam, is haunted by a moment that ended one life and began another. “I knew the dream had vanished the minute my son uttered his first cry,” he remembers. His father, David, “cries more than he speaks,” forever unable to escape the events of the Holocaust—both those that changed everything in an instant and those that made several years feel like “several lifetimes in the nether world.” In another household, tax attorney Virginia contends with one daughter, Meghan, about to leave for college and another, Christine, who is just past college age. The relationship between Christine, a tattooed sculptor with purple-streaked hair, and her mother is laden with grievances and misunderstanding. Christine manifests her torment through bodily harm, while her mother begins to see a young boy who may be an illusion, a dream himself. Wachtel’s novel is a poignant exploration of the struggles—whether unique, universal, historical or ephemeral, whether happenstance or deliberate—that ebb and flow throughout life. There is a practically visceral ache behind each character’s meditations. (That sensation is particularly harrowing in David’s recollections of his experiences during and just after the war, which shift events to Poland and Prague.) Yet in spite of it all, there is also a sense that, no matter how many dreams and illusions haunt us, life is a transient gift deserving of gratitude. “I’ve been suffering from a tear in the spirit, but still I am in perfect health,” Joshua says. His words reflect what the events around him make clear: Tears in the spirit mend, and being alive means persistent struggle and survival.

A touching study rich with introspection and finely crafted relationships.

Pub Date: Oct. 10, 2014

ISBN: 978-1500785529

Page Count: 350

Publisher: CreateSpace

Review Posted Online: Dec. 24, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2015

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet

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. 6, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2018

Did you like this book?


While a few weeks ago it seemed as if Praeger would have a two month lead over Dutton in their presentation of this Soviet best seller, both the "authorized" edition (Dutton's) and the "unauthorized" (Praeger's) will appear almost simultaneously. There has been considerable advance attention on what appears to be as much of a publishing cause celebre here as the original appearance of the book in Russia. Without entering into the scrimmage, or dismissing it as a plague on both your houses, we will limit ourselves to a few facts. Royalties from the "unauthorized" edition will go to the International Rescue Committee; Dutton with their contracted edition is adhering to copyright conventions. The Praeger edition has two translators and one of them is the translator of Doctor Zhivago Dutton's translator, Ralph Parker, has been stigmatized by Praeger as "an apologist for the Soviet regime". To the untutored eye, the Dutton translation seems a little more literary, the Praeger perhaps closer to the rather primitive style of the original. The book itself is an account of one day in the three thousand six hundred and fifty three days of the sentence to be served by a carpenter, Ivan Denisovich Shukhov. (Solzhenitsyn was a political prisoner.) From the unrelenting cold without, to the conditions within, from the bathhouse to the latrine to the cells where survival for more than two weeks is impossible, this records the hopeless facts of existence as faced by thousands who went on "living like this, with your eyes on the ground". The Dutton edition has an excellent introduction providing an orientation on the political background to its appearance in Russia by Marvin Kalb. All involved in its publication (translators, introducers, etc.) claim for it great "artistic" values which we cannot share, although there is no question of its importance as a political and human document and as significant and tangible evidence of the de-Stalinization program.

Pub Date: June 15, 1963

ISBN: 0451228146

Page Count: 181

Publisher: Praeger

Review Posted Online: Oct. 5, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 1963

Did you like this book?