While Amsterdam is not exactly working in the style of magical realism, he develops his own kind of reality that has more...

WHAT THE FAMILY NEEDED

What this fictional family needs, according to Amsterdam, are surreal and fantastic interventions that give each member the strength to go on.

Although the story spans 30 years, the weirdness starts when 15-year-old Giordana escapes with her mother, Ruth, and brother, Ben, to her aunt and uncle’s house to elude her father’s abuse. Aunt Natalie and Uncle Peter have a house of their own with their children, Giordana’s cousins Alek and Sasha. Alek, whose age is inferable by his Superman underpants, is thrilled to see his cousins and impulsively asks Giordana whether she’d rather fly or be invisible. Somewhat bewildered, she chooses the latter, in part to placate the insistent Alek, but she is even more astonished to discover that she actually does develop the ability to disappear. This allows her to eavesdrop on conversations about her father’s mistreatment of her mother, conversations Ruth doesn’t particularly want to share with her daughter. The chapters focus on a different character in the family and on an astonishing capacity each develops. Alek starts to become recalcitrant in school, and Natalie takes refuge in swimming, but she begins to have times that compete with college swimmers half her age. In her capacity as a nurse, Ruth begins to hear the thoughts of her patients. After Natalie dies of an aneurysm, Peter discovers some astonishing abilities to bend reality to his will. The novel ends with the adult Alek, who’s always been the estranged one in the family, claiming that “Anything can happen, anywhere”—and the events of the novel have proved his observation true.

While Amsterdam is not exactly working in the style of magical realism, he develops his own kind of reality that has more than a tinge of fantasy.

Pub Date: March 21, 2013

ISBN: 978-1-59448-639-5

Page Count: 272

Publisher: Riverhead

Review Posted Online: Jan. 17, 2013

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2013

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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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