Captivating and achingly realistic, this is a stunning debut.


In As You Like It, Shakespeare described lovers who, like Juno’s Swans, were “coupled and inseparable.” He could have been referring to Nina and Sarah, young women who meet during a summer theater workshop on Cape Cod.

Nina is just 17; Sarah is a slightly older college student working as an assistant acting coach in the program Nina attends. Virtually immediately, the pair fall into head-over-heels love; within a week, they’ve moved in together and seem to settle into a tranquil domesticity. They’re discreet but not closeted. Sarah has had other lesbian romances; Nina has not, but she’s more than willing. In fact, she’s hungry for attention and affection, having already experienced a shocking number of upsets and difficulties: Her father abandoned the family when she was a child; her grandfather committed suicide; her mom seems more interested in her career than in parenting her only child; her grandmother has begun the descent into age-related dementia; and an affair with an older, male teacher during her junior year of high school has left her confused, disturbed, and disgusted. Traveling from her New Hampshire home to Cape Cod, Nina reasons, will be an adventure. Initially, her plan was to travel to Wellfleet with her best friend, Titch, attend class, and work at a catering hall, a trio of activities that she believes will prepare her to survive her upcoming senior year. But once Sarah enters the mix, the plan goes awry. Suffice it to say that what unfolds is by turns tragic, heartfelt, funny, and charming. Set during the Reagan years, the novel has a backdrop of the burgeoning HIV-AIDS crisis and the post-Stonewall emergence of a strong LGBTQ movement, and numerous pop-culture references add authenticity. The strains that often emerge between women—among them, Titch is furious about being abandoned by Nina—are showcased, and when Nina ultimately gets jilted, the searing pain of a broken heart is rendered evocatively but without melodrama or sap. It’s first love writ large. Thanks to numerous supporting players—other students in the theater class and several neighbors and co-workers—the book not only situates the relationship in a broader political context, but makes time and place vivid ancillary characters.

Captivating and achingly realistic, this is a stunning debut.

Pub Date: Sept. 4, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-60945-466-1

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Europa Editions

Review Posted Online: June 18, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2018

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Miller makes Homer pertinent to women facing 21st-century monsters.

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A retelling of ancient Greek lore gives exhilarating voice to a witch.

“Monsters are a boon for gods. Imagine all the prayers.” So says Circe, a sly, petulant, and finally commanding voice that narrates the entirety of Miller’s dazzling second novel. The writer returns to Homer, the wellspring that led her to an Orange Prize for The Song of Achilles (2012). This time, she dips into The Odyssey for the legend of Circe, a nymph who turns Odysseus’ crew of men into pigs. The novel, with its distinctive feminist tang, starts with the sentence: “When I was born, the name for what I was did not exist.” Readers will relish following the puzzle of this unpromising daughter of the sun god Helios and his wife, Perse, who had negligible use for their child. It takes banishment to the island Aeaea for Circe to sense her calling as a sorceress: “I will not be like a bird bred in a cage, I thought, too dull to fly even when the door stands open. I stepped into those woods and my life began.” This lonely, scorned figure learns herbs and potions, surrounds herself with lions, and, in a heart-stopping chapter, outwits the monster Scylla to propel Daedalus and his boat to safety. She makes lovers of Hermes and then two mortal men. She midwifes the birth of the Minotaur on Crete and performs her own C-section. And as she grows in power, she muses that “not even Odysseus could talk his way past [her] witchcraft. He had talked his way past the witch instead.” Circe’s fascination with mortals becomes the book’s marrow and delivers its thrilling ending. All the while, the supernatural sits intriguingly alongside “the tonic of ordinary things.” A few passages coil toward melodrama, and one inelegant line after a rape seems jarringly modern, but the spell holds fast. Expect Miller’s readership to mushroom like one of Circe’s spells.

Miller makes Homer pertinent to women facing 21st-century monsters.

Pub Date: April 10, 2018

ISBN: 978-0-316-55634-7

Page Count: 400

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: Jan. 23, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2018

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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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