A near-anthropological study of male insecurity.

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APARTMENT

Wayne’s latest foray into the dark minds of lonely young men follows the rise and fall of a friendship between two aspiring fiction writers on opposite sides of a vast cultural divide.

In 1996, our unnamed protagonist is living a cushy New York City life: He's a first-year student in Columbia’s MFA program in fiction (the exorbitant bill footed by his father) who’s illegally subletting his great-aunt’s rent-controlled East Village apartment (for which his father also foots the bill). And it is in this state—acutely aware of his unearned advantages, questioning his literary potential, and deeply alone—that he meets Billy. Billy is an anomaly in the program: a community college grad from small-town Illinois, staggeringly talented, and very broke. But shared unease is as strong a foundation for friendship as any, and soon, our protagonist invites Billy to take over his spare room, a mutually beneficial if precarious arrangement. They are the very clear products of two different Americas, one the paragon of working-class hardscrabble masculinity, the other an exemplar of the emasculating properties of parental wealth—mirror images, each in possession of what the other lacks. “He would always have to struggle to stay financially afloat,” our protagonist realizes, “and I would always be fine, all because my father was a professional and his was a layabout. I had an abundance of resources; here was a concrete means for me to share it.” And he means it, when he thinks it, and for a while, the affection between them is enough to (mostly) paper over the awkward imbalance of the setup. Wayne (Loner, 2016) captures the nuances of this dynamic—a musky cocktail of intimacy and rage and unspoken mutual resentment—with draftsmanlike precision, and when the breaking point comes, as, of course, it does, it leaves one feeling vaguely ill, in the best way possible.

A near-anthropological study of male insecurity.

Pub Date: Feb. 25, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-63557-400-5

Page Count: 208

Publisher: Bloomsbury

Review Posted Online: Nov. 10, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2019

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Dark and unsettling, this novel’s end arrives abruptly even as readers are still moving at a breakneck speed.

THEN SHE WAS GONE

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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ANIMAL FARM

A FAIRY STORY

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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