A keenly observed, compassionate, and absorbing work.

THE LIABILITY OF LOVE

A novel that explores how societal expectations can make people hide their true selves.

In Hartford, Connecticut, in 1979, Margaret Carlyle graduates from high school and begins college with dreams of finding a great romance at Trinity College. However, in the spring of her freshman year, fellow student Anders Salisbury rapes her during their first date. Her close friend Fitz, who’s secretly in love with her, urges her to report the crime, but she refuses; she wants to simply ignore it and put it behind her. Years later, however, Anders becomes a famous movie star. The trauma of the incident causes Margaret to hide her true feelings from those closest to her, including Douglas, a thoroughly average high school teacher whom she eventually marries. Fitz is wealthy, privileged, and popular but also full of self-loathing due to anxiety over his weight. His father expects his son to follow him into the insurance business. However, he sympathizes too much with insurance claimants and feels “completely unsuited for the role he had been groomed from birth to play.” His secretary, Brenda, develops an intense crush on him, but she has her own secret. Schoenberger shows a great deal of sympathy and affection for her good-hearted and flawed major characters, and she relates their stories in matter-of-fact prose studded with pithy observational gems: A secretary “functions as a human alarm clock”; a socialite’s expensive spa treatments are “hush money she slipped to gravity and time.” The novel effectively examines love in all its forms—friendship, romance, unrequited longing, marriage, self-love, the love between parents and children—and what happens when people don’t believe themselves worthy of others’ love. In the end, the various players can only get what they deserve by speaking their own truths.

A keenly observed, compassionate, and absorbing work.

Pub Date: July 20, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-64742-130-4

Page Count: 337

Publisher: She Writes Press

Review Posted Online: Feb. 4, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2021

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet

A novel of capacious intelligence and plenty of page-turning emotional drama.

BEAUTIFUL WORLD, WHERE ARE YOU

Two erudite Irishwomen struggle with romance against the backdrop of the Trump/Brexit years.

Eileen and Alice have been friends since their university days. Now in their late 20s, Eileen works as an editorial assistant at a literary magazine in Dublin. Alice is a famous novelist recovering from a psychiatric hospitalization and staying in a large empty rectory on the west coast of Ireland. Since Alice’s breakdown, the two have kept in touch primarily through lengthy emails that alternate between recounting their romantic lives and working through their angst about the current social and political climate. (In one of these letters, Eileen laments that the introduction of plastic has ruined humanity’s aesthetic calibration and in the next paragraph, she’s eager to know if Alice is sleeping with the new man she’s met.) Eileen has spent many years entangled in an occasionally intimate friendship with her teenage crush, a slightly older man named Simon who is a devout Catholic and who works in the Irish Parliament as an assistant. As Eileen and Simon’s relationship becomes more complicated, Alice meets Felix, a warehouse worker who is unsure what to make of her fame and aloofness. In many ways, this book, a work of both philosophy and romantic tragicomedy about the ways people love and hurt one another, is exactly the type of book one would expect Rooney to write out of the political environment of the past few years. But just because the novel is so characteristic of Rooney doesn’t take anything away from its considerable power. As Alice herself puts it, “Humanity on the cusp of extinction [and] here I am writing another email about sex and friendship. What else is there to live for?”

A novel of capacious intelligence and plenty of page-turning emotional drama.

Pub Date: Sept. 7, 2021

ISBN: 978-0-374-60260-4

Page Count: 368

Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux

Review Posted Online: June 16, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2021

Did you like this book?

A SLOW FIRE BURNING

A young man has been stabbed to death on a houseboat...that much is clear.

Hawkins' third novel, after her smash debut with The Girl on the Train (2015) and a weak follow-up with Into the Water (2017), gets off to a confusing start. A series of vignettes introduce numerous characters—Irene, Deidre, Laura, Miriam, Daniel (dead), Carla, Theo, Angela (dead)—all of whom live or lived in a very small geographical area and have overlapping connections and reasons to be furious at each other. We can all agree that the main question is who killed Daniel, the 23-year-old on the houseboat, but it is soon revealed that his estranged mother had died just a few weeks earlier—a drunk who probably fell, but maybe was pushed, down the stairs—and his cousin also fell to his death some years back. Untimely demise runs in the family. The highlight of these goings-on is Laura, a tiny but ferocious young woman who was seen running from Daniel's boat with blood on her mouth and clothes the last night he was alive. Physically and mentally disabled by an accident in her childhood, Laura is so used to being accused and wronged (and actually she is quite the sticky fingers) that she's not surprised when she's hauled in for Daniel's murder, though she's pretty sure she didn't do it. The secondary crimes and subplots include abduction, sexual assault, hit-and-run, petty larceny, plagiarism, bar brawling, breaking and entering, incest, and criminal negligence, and on top of all this there's a novel within a novel that mirrors events recalled in flashback by one of the characters. When Irene reads it, she's infuriated by "all the to-ing and fro-ing, all that jumping around in the timeline....Just start at the beginning, for god's sake. Why couldn't people just tell a story straight any longer, start to finish?" Hmmmmm.

Overkill.

Pub Date: Aug. 31, 2021

ISBN: 978-0-7352-1123-0

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Riverhead

Review Posted Online: June 2, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2021

Did you like this book?

more