Roche knows her way around the music business, but her story lacks focus or drama, and the Catholic uplift is discomfiting.

READ REVIEW

THE SAINTS OF SWALLOW

Singer/actress Roche offers a first novel about a burnt-out indie-rock star who is more connected than anyone thought to her small-town Catholic roots.

Mary Saint became famous for her edgy lyrics and outré performances, but her group Sliced Ham broke up several years ago after her band mate/best friend/lover Garbagio took a fatal dive off a hotel balcony and she went into rehab. Now sober, she lives in San Francisco with Thaddeus, a black transvestite who runs the God’s Kindness Church. Back in Swallow, N.Y., Mary’s mother Jean also lives alone since she moved her senile husband Bub into a nursing home. Devoutly Catholic Jean remains guilty that she didn’t defend Mary against Bub’s cruel, abusive behavior as a father. When Mary dropped out of high school and left Swallow after a particularly ugly scene, Jean cut Bub off emotionally. She rejected his tentative gestures to apologize or reconcile, but she feels more affection for him now that he is senile. After Garbagio’s mother moves into Bub’s facility, Jean develops a friendship with Garbagio’s father. Meanwhile, a local high-school English teacher who is a big Sliced Ham fan—and who sleeps with his student in a (comic?) plot digression that goes nowhere—approaches Jean about organizing a concert featuring Mary. Jean, a mix of prickly common sense and naïve provincialism, is excited to show off her successful daughter but nervous how the community will respond to Mary’s unconventional, irreverent style. Jean is also concerned about the ramifications of a claim Mary made in a letter about seeing the Virgin Mary when she was seven. In fact, Mary tells Thaddeus, who has his own horrific secret, that she writes her music for “the other Mary.” With Thaddeus’s help, Mary holds her concert in Swallow and afterwards gives her mother a bottle of holy water from Lourdes.

Roche knows her way around the music business, but her story lacks focus or drama, and the Catholic uplift is discomfiting.

Pub Date: Sept. 6, 2011

ISBN: 978-1-4013-4177-0

Page Count: 272

Publisher: Voice/Hyperion

Review Posted Online: April 18, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 2011

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A lovely read—entertaining, poignant, and meaningful.

THE OYSTERVILLE SEWING CIRCLE

After facing tragedy and betrayal in New York, an aspiring fashion designer escapes to her idyllic Pacific coast hometown to raise her best friend’s two young children and finds inspiration, redemption, and love in the unexpected journey.

Caroline Shelby always dreamed of leaving tiny Oysterville, Washington, and becoming a couturier. After years of toil, she finally has a big break only to discover a famous designer has stolen her launch line. When she accuses him, he blackballs her, so she’s already struggling when her best friend, Angelique, a renowned model from Haiti whose work visa has expired, shows up on her doorstep with her two biracial children, running from an abusive partner she won’t identify. When Angelique dies of a drug overdose, Caroline takes custody of the kids and flees back to her hometown. She reconnects with her sprawling family and with Will and Sierra Jensen, who were once her best friends, though their relationships have grown more complicated since Will and Sierra married. Caroline feels guilty that she didn’t realize Angelique was abused and tries to make a difference when she discovers that people she knows in Oysterville are also victims of domestic violence. She creates a support group that becomes a welcome source of professional assistance when some designs she works on for the kids garner local interest that grows regional, then national. Meanwhile, restless Sierra pursues her own dreams, leading to Will and Caroline’s exploring some unresolved feelings. Wiggs’ latest is part revenge fantasy and part romantic fairy tale, and while some details feel too smooth—how fortunate that every person in the circle has some helpful occupation that benefits Caroline's business—Caroline has a challenging road, and she rises to it with compassion and resilience. Timelines alternating among the present and past, both recent and long ago, add tension and depth to a complex narrative that touches on the abuse of power toward women and the extra-high stakes when the women involved are undocumented. Finally, Wiggs writes about the children’s race and immigration status with a soft touch that feels natural and easygoing but that might seem unrealistic to some readers.

A lovely read—entertaining, poignant, and meaningful.

Pub Date: Aug. 13, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-06-242558-4

Page Count: 384

Publisher: Morrow/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: May 27, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2019

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Well-written and insightful but so heartbreaking that it raises the question of what a reader is looking for in fiction.

DEAR EDWARD

A 12-year-old boy is the sole survivor of a plane crash—a study in before and after.

Edward Adler is moving to California with his adored older brother, Jordan, and their parents: Mom is a scriptwriter for television, Dad is a mathematician who is home schooling his sons. They will get no further than Colorado, where the plane goes down. Napolitano’s (A Good Hard Look, 2011, etc.) novel twins the narrative of the flight from takeoff to impact with the story of Edward’s life over the next six years. Taken in by his mother’s sister and her husband, a childless couple in New Jersey, Edward’s misery is constant and almost impermeable. Unable to bear sleeping in the never-used nursery his aunt and uncle have hastily appointed to serve as his bedroom, he ends up bunking next door, where there's a kid his age, a girl named Shay. This friendship becomes the single strand connecting him to the world of the living. Meanwhile, in alternating chapters, we meet all the doomed airplane passengers, explore their backstories, and learn about their hopes and plans, every single one of which is minutes from obliteration. For some readers, Napolitano’s premise will be too dark to bear, underlining our terrible vulnerability to random events and our inability to protect ourselves or our children from the worst-case scenario while also imagining in exhaustive detail the bleak experience of survival. The people around Edward have no idea how to deal with him; his aunt and uncle try their best to protect him from the horrors of his instant celebrity as Miracle Boy. As one might expect, there is a ray of light for Edward at the end of the tunnel, and for hardier readers this will make Napolitano’s novel a story of hope.

Well-written and insightful but so heartbreaking that it raises the question of what a reader is looking for in fiction.

Pub Date: Jan. 14, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-9848-5478-0

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Dial

Review Posted Online: Oct. 28, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15, 2019

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