A tender story that falls just short of the mark.

THE LUSTER OF LOST THINGS

A debut novel about The Lavenders, a magical bakery tucked away in the streets of lower Manhattan, and the people who call it home.

Thirteen-year-old Walter Lavender Jr. has a motor disorder that's left him unable to speak, but he also has a nearly supernatural ability to find lost things. The thing he's most passionate about finding is his father, an airline pilot whose plane went missing en route to Bombay three days before his son was born. When a powerful book that's always been kept in the bakery—a seven-page gift from a mysterious customer—goes missing, Walter’s abilities are put to the ultimate test. Without the Book, the dragon pastries that once breathed smoke (much to the customers' amazement) suddenly fall limp and inanimate. Soon the customers stop coming. When a greedy new landlord doubles the rent, Walter sets out on a hero’s journey to recover the Book and save his mother’s shop. As he goes about his adventures, Walter encounters a vibrant, typically New York–ish cast of characters, from a junkman living in a pseudo-magical tunnel system beneath the city to a Chinese woman fallen on hard times who collects bottles for deposit money. As Walter tracks down the Book, now scattered into pages, he learns lessons from everyone he meets, and as the story winds to a close he has found a whole new sense of himself. Keller’s style is simple and often beautiful, and she infuses the novel with flashes of subtle humor and mouthwatering descriptions of sugary confections. But her prose can be weighed down by synonyms, and the device of having Walter meet stranger after stranger during his quest for the Book loses momentum halfway through, as the conversations and characters begin to feel a bit too invented, even for a fanciful read.

A tender story that falls just short of the mark.

Pub Date: Aug. 8, 2017

ISBN: 978-0-7352-1078-3

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Putnam

Review Posted Online: May 15, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 2017

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Dark and unsettling, this novel’s end arrives abruptly even as readers are still moving at a breakneck speed.

THEN SHE WAS GONE

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

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ANIMAL FARM

A FAIRY STORY

A modern day fable, with modern implications in a deceiving simplicity, by the author of Dickens. Dali and Others (Reynal & Hitchcock, p. 138), whose critical brilliance is well adapted to this type of satire. This tells of the revolt on a farm, against humans, when the pigs take over the intellectual superiority, training the horses, cows, sheep, etc., into acknowledging their greatness. The first hints come with the reading out of a pig who instigated the building of a windmill, so that the electric power would be theirs, the idea taken over by Napoleon who becomes topman with no maybes about it. Napoleon trains the young puppies to be his guards, dickers with humans, gradually instigates a reign of terror, and breaks the final commandment against any animal walking on two legs. The old faithful followers find themselves no better off for food and work than they were when man ruled them, learn their final disgrace when they see Napoleon and Squealer carousing with their enemies... A basic statement of the evils of dictatorship in that it not only corrupts the leaders, but deadens the intelligence and awareness of those led so that tyranny is inevitable. Mr. Orwell's animals exist in their own right, with a narrative as individual as it is apt in political parody.

Pub Date: Aug. 26, 1946

ISBN: 0452277507

Page Count: 114

Publisher: Harcourt, Brace

Review Posted Online: Nov. 2, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 1946

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