A bracingly tart portrait of suburban hell.

CITY MOUSE

Sharing a bedroom with two young daughters is bound to damage a marriage. So a move from a cramped apartment to the suburbs sounds like a dream come true for Manhattanites Jess and Aaron.

Their new, spacious home in Suffern offers lots of amenities, from a heated driveway to a deck begging for an upscale grill. But Jess and Aaron had not bargained on the neighborhood clique. Before she can even shower, let alone finish unpacking their boxes, Jess is swept up by Alyson, the alpha she-wolf, and her girlfriends. Alcohol-drenched parties rife with gossip fill most nights, while the days pass through a bewildering array of toddler dance classes, mommy breakfasts, and an extensive cast of nannies-on-duty. At first flattered to be part of the popular crowd, Jess is savvy enough—after all, she does work in a New York City advertising firm catering to Broadway—to notice troubling fractures. While making catty remarks and mercilessly judging the excluded neighbors seems par for the course, Jess is disturbed by incidents of parental neglect and insensitive remarks about the less-privileged nannies. When she accidentally oversteps the line Alyson has drawn for her, Jess faces a whiplash-quick scolding and the punishment of a temporary freeze-out. The women’s annual getaway weekend, however, finally shatters Jess’ dreams. Fun and games descend into debauchery and potentially incriminating evidence captured on Alyson’s cellphone. Debut novelist Lender sharply portrays the corrupt privilege of upper-middle-class suburbanites, and with a twist of her pen, the Stepford Wives take the upper hand over their husbands. Yet as she establishes the women’s social power, she leaves the men’s foibles mostly offstage. Consequently, the tension building up over possible blackmail fizzles out, but the climactic explosion takes everyone by surprise.

A bracingly tart portrait of suburban hell.

Pub Date: June 6, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-61775-525-5

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Akashic

Review Posted Online: March 21, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2017

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Finding positivity in negative pregnancy-test results, this depiction of a marriage in crisis is nearly perfect.

ALL YOUR PERFECTS

Named for an imperfectly worded fortune cookie, Hoover's (It Ends with Us, 2016, etc.) latest compares a woman’s relationship with her husband before and after she finds out she’s infertile.

Quinn meets her future husband, Graham, in front of her soon-to-be-ex-fiance’s apartment, where Graham is about to confront him for having an affair with his girlfriend. A few years later, they are happily married but struggling to conceive. The “then and now” format—with alternating chapters moving back and forth in time—allows a hopeful romance to blossom within a dark but relatable dilemma. Back then, Quinn’s bad breakup leads her to the love of her life. In the now, she’s exhausted a laundry list of fertility options, from IVF treatments to adoption, and the silver lining is harder to find. Quinn’s bad relationship with her wealthy mother also prevents her from asking for more money to throw at the problem. But just when Quinn’s narrative starts to sound like she’s writing a long Facebook rant about her struggles, she reveals the larger issue: Ever since she and Graham have been trying to have a baby, intimacy has become a chore, and she doesn’t know how to tell him. Instead, she hopes the contents of a mystery box she’s kept since their wedding day will help her decide their fate. With a few well-timed silences, Hoover turns the fairly common problem of infertility into the more universal problem of poor communication. Graham and Quinn may or may not become parents, but if they don’t talk about their feelings, they won’t remain a couple, either.

Finding positivity in negative pregnancy-test results, this depiction of a marriage in crisis is nearly perfect.

Pub Date: July 17, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-5011-7159-8

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Atria

Review Posted Online: May 1, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2018

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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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