A thoughtful and realistic portrait of those golden people who seem to have such enviable lives.

MONOGAMY

What do we do with bad news of the dead? A near-perfect second marriage is disrupted—first by death, then by posthumous revelations.

Boston bookstore owner Graham McFarlane is such a lovable and forgivable man that the ex-wife he cheated on, Frieda, and her replacement, a photographer named Annie, whom he is also cheating on, are close friends. Woman No. 3 is not going to make it into the circle, though, as Graham dies of a heart attack the day after he stops by her house to break up with her in a fit of uxoriousness and remorse. This death happens fairly early in the book, but since the reader knows about the affair and Annie does not, the first two-thirds of Miller’s 13th novel are infused with a merry narrative tension. That energy dissipates somewhat when Annie eventually finds out about Graham's infidelity. At this point the novel becomes more meditative, sticking close to Annie as she deals with the disorienting feeling that she never really knew the man she deeply loved—and who so clearly loved her—for 30 years. As their daughter, Sarah,  describes her “Rabelaisian” father, “He was big, in every way. A lover of life. And kind.…He made people happy, without even trying.” Of course the last thing Annie wants is for Graham’s children, or anyone else, to know what she now knows. Miller’s skill at depicting the intricacies of marriage, parenting, and domestic life, the atmosphere of the independent bookstore, and the pleasures of flowers, wine, and food (a craving for split pea soup with ham and dill, served with “a loaf of dark rye [from] Formaggio,” lingers still) makes this book charming and inviting in a way that is somewhat at odds with its sorrowful impetus.

A thoughtful and realistic portrait of those golden people who seem to have such enviable lives.

Pub Date: Sept. 8, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-06296-965-1

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Harper/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: June 3, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2020

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If novelists are auditioning to play God, Hilderbrand gets the part.

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GOLDEN GIRL

From the greenroom of the afterlife—make that Benjamin Moore "Parsley Snips" green—a newly dead Nantucket novelist watches life unfold without her.

In her 27th novel, Hilderbrand gives herself an alter ego—beloved beach-novel author Vivian Howe—sends her out for a morning jog, and immediately kills her off. A hit-and-run driver leaves Vivi dead by the side of the road, where her son's best friend discovers her body—or was he responsible for the accident? Vivi doesn't know, nor does she know yet that her daughter Willa is pregnant, or that her daughter Carson is having a terribly ill-advised affair, or that her son, Leo, has a gnawing secret, or that her ex is getting tired of the girl he dumped her for. She will discover all this and more as she watches one last summer on Nantucket play out under the tutelage of Martha, her "Person," who receives her in the boho-chic waiting room of the Beyond. Hermès-scarved Martha explains that Vivi will have three nudges—three chances to change the course of events on Earth and prevent her bereaved loved ones from making life-altering mistakes. She will also get to watch the publication of what will be her last novel, titled Golden Girl, natch, and learn the answers to two questions: Will the secret about her own life she buried in this novel come to light (who cares, really—she's dead now), and will it hit No. 1 on the New York Times bestseller list (now there's an interesting question). She'll also get to see that one of her biggest wrongs is posthumously righted and that her kids have learned her most important lesson. As Willa says to Carson, "You know how she treats the characters in her books? She gives them flaws, she portrays them doing horrible things—but the reader loves them anyway. Because Mom loves them. Because they’re human.”

If novelists are auditioning to play God, Hilderbrand gets the part.

Pub Date: June 1, 2021

ISBN: 978-0-31642008-2

Page Count: 384

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: May 5, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2021

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Light on suspense but still a solid page-turner.

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THE LAST THING HE TOLD ME

When a devoted husband and father disappears, his wife and daughter set out to find him.

Hannah Hall is deeply in love with her husband of one year, Owen Michaels. She’s also determined to win over his 16-year-old daughter, Bailey, who has made it very clear that she’s not thrilled with her new stepmother. Despite the drama, the family is mostly a happy one. They live in a lovely houseboat in Sausalito; Hannah is a woodturner whose handmade furniture brings in high-dollar clientele; and Owen works for The Shop, a successful tech firm. Their lives are shattered, however, when Hannah receives a note saying “Protect her” and can’t reach Owen by phone. Then there’s the bag full of cash Bailey finds in her school locker and the shocking news that The Shop’s CEO has been taken into custody. Hannah learns that the FBI has been investigating the firm for about a year regarding some hot new software they took to market before it was fully functional, falsifying their financial statements. Hannah refuses to believe her husband is involved in the fraud, and a U.S. marshal assigned to the case claims Owen isn’t a suspect. Hannah doesn’t know whom to trust, though, and she and Bailey resolve to root out the clues that might lead to Owen. They must also learn to trust one another. Hannah’s narrative alternates past and present, detailing her early days with Owen alongside her current hunt for him, and author Dave throws in a touch of danger and a few surprises. But what really drives the story is the evolving nature of Hannah and Bailey’s relationship, which is by turns poignant and frustrating but always realistic.

Light on suspense but still a solid page-turner.

Pub Date: May 4, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-5011-7134-5

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: Feb. 10, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2021

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