A noble attempt to unpack Uruguay’s complexities and one family’s navigation of politics, American meddling, and each other.



A son explores his family’s complicated past and the natural beauty and history of Uruguay, their homeland.

Gabriel doesn’t understand why, after more than 30 years in California, his mother wants to move back to her native Uruguay. Her father died and left her a ranch, or estancia, that she wants to turn into an organic farm, and she wants Gabriel to come with her. Gabriel doesn’t want to disrupt his routine. He has a boring job that pays well, and he likes to go bird-watching. Accompanying his mother to Uruguay is supposed to be temporary. He’ll be there long enough to help her get the estancia on its feet. However, he soon finds himself drawn in by the family members he doesn’t know, the beauty of the land, and a local biologist named Alejandra, who’s looking for undiscovered microbes near the family’s land. The longer Gabriel stays in Uruguay the more he’s drawn into the family’s squabbles over what to do with the land—follow his uncle’s plans to build a large rice plantation and sell into European markets or help his mother achieve her dream of growing organic produce for the local communities? The possible discovery of a new bird species on the family land brings Gabriel and Alejandra closer together and lays the groundwork for their burgeoning relationship. Gaines’ novel is deeply researched, and the reader will walk away with an understanding of not only Uruguay’s repressive regimes and the people killed by the government, but also biomes, bird preservation, rice cultivation, agricultural markets in South America, and more. The author loves Uruguay and desperately wants the reader to feel her same affection for the history, flora, fauna, politics, culture, and the people. Ultimately, her quest to make the reader care for Uruguay gets in the way of the storytelling.

A noble attempt to unpack Uruguay’s complexities and one family’s navigation of politics, American meddling, and each other.

Pub Date: March 10, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-948814-16-4

Page Count: 342

Publisher: Torrey House Press

Review Posted Online: Jan. 13, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2020

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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. 6, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2018

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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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