OLIVER LOVING

A topic both timely and timeless, psychologically astute and vividly rendered, with strong characters and a rich sense of...

Ten years later, a school shooting in West Texas is revisited from the perspective of a family it changed forever.

What we know, what Eve Loving, her husband, Jed, and their son, Charlie, know, is this: a recent graduate named Hector Espina Jr. returned to the Bliss Township School campus the night of the homecoming dance, shot the drama teacher and three of the students who were rehearsing with him, ran into Oliver Loving in the hall and put a bullet in his head, and then committed suicide. What Oliver knows or doesn’t know is unclear, as he remains in a coma a decade later in a dismal facility devoted to hopeless cases. Is he locked into his paralyzed body, fully aware, or has he been gone ever since that November night? The narration of his memories leading up to the dance—which revolve around a crush on a classmate who walked away from the shooting unscathed—suggests that he’s in there, but the reader can’t be sure. The intervening decade has not been good to the town of Bliss or to any of the Lovings. The high school never reopened, and the town’s Latino population fled the wave of xenophobia that arose from the incident. Eve Loving has become a wasted, martyred woman who compulsively pulls out her eyelashes and shoplifts books and electronics as gifts for her son when he awakens. Jed and she are separated; he’s tumbled ever further into alcoholism, silence, and fruitless attempts at making art. Charlie Loving, 13 at the time of the tragedy, eventually gave up on trying to stanch his parents’ emotional wounds and fled to the East Coast, where he has been trying to write a book about his brother with no success at all. When a new MRI becomes available that may definitively resolve the question of Oliver’s consciousness, perhaps allowing him to communicate and give answers about what happened that night, it turns out that all the survivors have known, and buried, much more than they ever let on. Block (The Storm at the Door, 2011, etc.) has serious chops; he should trust the reader more, repeat and analyze a little less.

A topic both timely and timeless, psychologically astute and vividly rendered, with strong characters and a rich sense of place.

Pub Date: Jan. 16, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-250-16973-0

Page Count: 400

Publisher: Flatiron Books

Review Posted Online: Sept. 30, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 2017

Awards & Accolades

Likes

  • Readers Vote
  • 11


Our Verdict

  • Our Verdict
  • GET IT


  • New York Times Bestseller

THE GREAT ALONE

A tour de force.

Awards & Accolades

Likes

  • Readers Vote
  • 11


Our Verdict

  • Our Verdict
  • GET IT


  • New York Times Bestseller

In 1974, a troubled Vietnam vet inherits a house from a fallen comrade and moves his family to Alaska.

After years as a prisoner of war, Ernt Allbright returned home to his wife, Cora, and daughter, Leni, a violent, difficult, restless man. The family moved so frequently that 13-year-old Leni went to five schools in four years. But when they move to Alaska, still very wild and sparsely populated, Ernt finds a landscape as raw as he is. As Leni soon realizes, “Everyone up here had two stories: the life before and the life now. If you wanted to pray to a weirdo god or live in a school bus or marry a goose, no one in Alaska was going to say crap to you.” There are many great things about this book—one of them is its constant stream of memorably formulated insights about Alaska. Another key example is delivered by Large Marge, a former prosecutor in Washington, D.C., who now runs the general store for the community of around 30 brave souls who live in Kaneq year-round. As she cautions the Allbrights, “Alaska herself can be Sleeping Beauty one minute and a bitch with a sawed-off shotgun the next. There’s a saying: Up here you can make one mistake. The second one will kill you.” Hannah’s (The Nightingale, 2015, etc.) follow-up to her series of blockbuster bestsellers will thrill her fans with its combination of Greek tragedy, Romeo and Juliet–like coming-of-age story, and domestic potboiler. She re-creates in magical detail the lives of Alaska's homesteaders in both of the state's seasons (they really only have two) and is just as specific and authentic in her depiction of the spiritual wounds of post-Vietnam America.

A tour de force.

Pub Date: Feb. 6, 2018

ISBN: 978-0-312-57723-0

Page Count: 448

Publisher: St. Martin's

Review Posted Online: Oct. 30, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15, 2017

THEN SHE WAS GONE

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. 5, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2018

Close Quickview