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LONG ISLAND COMPROMISE

A great American Jewish novel whose brew of hilarity, heartbreak, and smarts recalls the best of Philip Roth. A triumph.

After the paterfamilias is kidnapped, nobody in this family is ever the same.

“Do you want to hear a story with a terrible ending?” Of course we do. So begins the glorious festival of schadenfreude that is this second book by Brodesser-Akner, who was apparently just getting started with her blockbuster debut, Fleishman Is in Trouble (2019)—she hits it out of the park with this much more ambitious follow-up. As the children of Carl Fletcher joke among themselves, discussing a TV show that’s like a Jewish version of Succession, “What Jew our age wants the family business?” Well, it’s a styrofoam factory, not a media conglomerate, for one thing, and for another, these three broken people have been stewed in the juice of a terrible event in their family history: In 1980, when Nathan and Beamer were small and Jenny was in utero, their father was kidnapped out of the driveway and held for several days. He was released upon payment of the third-largest domestic ransom to that time, $250,000. While two of the perps were convicted, the majority of the loot was not recovered, a fact that Carl is still thinking about at his twin grandsons’ bar mitzvah decades later. “White people problems” are generally those that can be fixed by judicious spending, but no amount of money can fix what’s wrong with the Fletchers; as the knowing narrator points out, “There is no post. There’s only trauma.” To which Carl’s wife, Ruth (what a great character), might snort, “Dr. Phil over here.” Indeed, for all the trauma, there are laugh-out-loud moments galore. And the title? It starts out coined by teenagers as something dirty, but as the book progresses, one comes to see that even the crime at the center of the book is a (very sad and twisted) version of the Long Island compromise.

A great American Jewish novel whose brew of hilarity, heartbreak, and smarts recalls the best of Philip Roth. A triumph.

Pub Date: July 9, 2024

ISBN: 9780593133491

Page Count: 464

Publisher: Random House

Review Posted Online: May 4, 2024

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 2024

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THE WOMEN

A dramatic, vividly detailed reconstruction of a little-known aspect of the Vietnam War.

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A young woman’s experience as a nurse in Vietnam casts a deep shadow over her life.

When we learn that the farewell party in the opening scene is for Frances “Frankie” McGrath’s older brother—“a golden boy, a wild child who could make the hardest heart soften”—who is leaving to serve in Vietnam in 1966, we feel pretty certain that poor Finley McGrath is marked for death. Still, it’s a surprise when the fateful doorbell rings less than 20 pages later. His death inspires his sister to enlist as an Army nurse, and this turn of events is just the beginning of a roller coaster of a plot that’s impressive and engrossing if at times a bit formulaic. Hannah renders the experiences of the young women who served in Vietnam in all-encompassing detail. The first half of the book, set in gore-drenched hospital wards, mildewed dorm rooms, and boozy officers’ clubs, is an exciting read, tracking the transformation of virginal, uptight Frankie into a crack surgical nurse and woman of the world. Her tensely platonic romance with a married surgeon ends when his broken, unbreathing body is airlifted out by helicopter; she throws her pent-up passion into a wild affair with a soldier who happens to be her dead brother’s best friend. In the second part of the book, after the war, Frankie seems to experience every possible bad break. A drawback of the story is that none of the secondary characters in her life are fully three-dimensional: Her dismissive, chauvinistic father and tight-lipped, pill-popping mother, her fellow nurses, and her various love interests are more plot devices than people. You’ll wish you could have gone to Vegas and placed a bet on the ending—while it’s against all the odds, you’ll see it coming from a mile away.

A dramatic, vividly detailed reconstruction of a little-known aspect of the Vietnam War.

Pub Date: Feb. 6, 2024

ISBN: 9781250178633

Page Count: 480

Publisher: St. Martin's

Review Posted Online: Nov. 4, 2023

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2023

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SWAN SONG

Though Hilderbrand threatens to kill all our darlings with this last laugh, her acknowledgments say it’s just “for now.”

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A stranger comes to town, and a beloved storyteller plays this creative-writing standby for all it’s worth.

Hilderbrand fans, a vast and devoted legion, will remember Blond Sharon, the notorious island gossip. In what is purportedly the last of the Nantucket novels, Blond Sharon decides to pursue her lifelong dream of fiction writing. In the collective opinion of the island—aka the “cobblestone telegraph”—she’s qualified. “Well, we think, she’s certainly demonstrated her keen interest in other people’s stories, the seedier and more salacious, the better.” Blond Sharon’s first assignment in her online creative writing class is to create a two-person character study, and Hilderbrand has her write up the two who arrive on the ferry in an opening scene of the book, using the same descriptors Hilderbrand has. Amusingly, the class is totally unimpressed. “‘I found it predictable,’ Willow said. ‘Like maybe Sharon used ChatGPT with the prompt “Write a character study about two women getting off the ferry, one prep and one punk.”’” Blond Sharon abandons these characters, but Hilderbrand thankfully does not. They are Kacy Kapenash, daughter of retiring police chief Ed Kapenash (the other swan song referred to by the title), and her new friend Coco Coyle, who has given up her bartending job in the Virgin Islands to become a “personal concierge” for the other strangers-who-have-come-to-town. These are the Richardsons, Bull and Leslee, a wild and wealthy couple who have purchased a $22 million beachfront property and plan to take Nantucket by storm. As the book opens, their house has burned down during an end-of-summer party on their yacht, and Coco is missing, feared both responsible for the fire and dead. Though it’s the last weekend of his tenure, Chief Ed refuses to let the incoming chief, Zara Washington, take this one over. The investigation goes forward in parallel with a review of the summer’s intrigues, love affairs, and festivities. Whatever else you can say about Leslee Richardson, she knows how to throw a party, and Hilderbrand is just the writer to design her invitations, menus, themes, playlists, and outfits. And that hot tub!

Though Hilderbrand threatens to kill all our darlings with this last laugh, her acknowledgments say it’s just “for now.”

Pub Date: June 11, 2024

ISBN: 9780316258876

Page Count: 384

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: March 9, 2024

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2024

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