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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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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