Hadley exposes all the pitfalls inherent in relationships, yet miraculously leaves the reader buoyant with hope.

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THE LONDON TRAIN

Welsh novelist and short-story writer Hadley (Sunstroke, 2007, etc.), combines forms in these two subtle, subtly related stories, one about a man whose life goes into free fall as a father and husband, the second about his barely remembered lover who has let idealized memory dangerously impact her life.

Literary critic Paul lives on a Welsh farm with his aristocratic but earthy second wife Elise and their little girls. Shortly after his English working-class mother dies, Paul’s first wife calls to say their daughter Pia has dropped out of college in London and disappeared. Paul secretly tracks down Pia, pregnant and living with a charismatic Polish immigrant and his sexy sister. After a fight with Elise, Paul moves in with Pia and her lover. He returns to Elise contrite, but she has her own secrets and is less than wholehearted in her welcoming. When Pia leaves the Poles and comes to Wales to face her pregnancy more squarely, Paul and Elise begin to find their way back to each other. At some point, passing mention is made of Paul’s brief adultery years earlier with a “girl” in Cardiff; that “girl” is Cora. Cora has recently moved from London back to Cardiff and separated from her much older husband Robert after 12 years of marriage. For years, she and Robert, a well-placed official in the Home Office, tried without success to have a baby until she made the false assumption that Robert was only humoring her. Three years ago, while renovating her parents’ Cardiff house after their deaths, she met Paul on the London train and carried on a passionate affair that Paul ended unaware she was pregnant. When she miscarried, she again misread (and underestimated) Robert, who guessed the baby was not his. Guilt and continuing obsession with Paul keep Cora away from Robert until he goes missing himself. Ultimately, Cora and Robert, like Paul and Elise, must decide what really matters.

Hadley exposes all the pitfalls inherent in relationships, yet miraculously leaves the reader buoyant with hope.

Pub Date: May 24, 2011

ISBN: 978-0-06-201183-1

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Perennial/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 2011

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Charming, challenging, and so interesting you can hardly put it down.

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SUCH A FUN AGE

The relationship between a privileged white mom and her black babysitter is strained by race-related complications.

Blogger/role model/inspirational speaker Alix Chamberlain is none too happy about moving from Manhattan to Philadelphia for her husband Peter's job as a TV newscaster. With no friends or in-laws around to help out with her almost-3-year-old, Briar, and infant, Catherine, she’ll never get anywhere on the book she’s writing unless she hires a sitter. She strikes gold when she finds Emira Tucker. Twenty-five-year-old Emira’s family and friends expect her to get going on a career, but outside the fact that she’s about to get kicked off her parents’ health insurance, she’s happy with her part-time gigs—and Briar is her "favorite little human." Then one day a double-header of racist events topples the apple cart—Emira is stopped by a security guard who thinks she's kidnapped Briar, and when Peter's program shows a segment on the unusual ways teenagers ask their dates to the prom, he blurts out "Let's hope that last one asked her father first" about a black boy hoping to go with a white girl. Alix’s combination of awkwardness and obsession with regard to Emira spins out of control and then is complicated by the reappearance of someone from her past (coincidence alert), where lies yet another racist event. Reid’s debut sparkles with sharp observations and perfect details—food, décor, clothes, social media, etc.—and she’s a dialogue genius, effortlessly incorporating toddler-ese, witty boyfriend–speak, and African American Vernacular English. For about two-thirds of the book, her evenhandedness with her varied cast of characters is impressive, but there’s a point at which any possible empathy for Alix disappears. Not only is she shallow, entitled, unknowingly racist, and a bad mother, but she has not progressed one millimeter since high school, and even then she was worse than we thought. Maybe this was intentional, but it does make things—ha ha—very black and white.

Charming, challenging, and so interesting you can hardly put it down.

Pub Date: Jan. 7, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-525-54190-5

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Putnam

Review Posted Online: Oct. 14, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 2019

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Offill is good company for the end of the world.

WEATHER

An ever growing list of worries, from a brother with drug problems to a climate change apocalypse, dances through the lively mind of a university librarian.

In its clever and seductive replication of the inner monologue of a woman living in this particular moment in history, Offill’s (Dept. of Speculation, 2014, etc.) third novel might be thought of as a more laconic cousin of Lucy Ellmann's Ducks, Newburyport. Here, the mind we’re embedded in is that of a librarian named Lizzie—an entertaining vantage point despite her concerns big and small. There’s the lady with the bullhorn who won’t let her walk her sensitive young son into his school building. Her brother, who has finally gotten off drugs and has a new girlfriend but still requires her constant, almost hourly, support. Her mentor, Sylvia, a national expert on climate change, who is fed up with her fans and wants Lizzie to take over answering her mail. (“These people long for immortality, but can’t wait ten minutes for a cup of coffee,” says Sylvia.) “Malodorous,” “Defacing,” “Combative,” “Humming,” “Lonely”: These are just a few of the categories in a pamphlet called Dealing With Problem Patrons that Lizzie's been given at work, Also, her knee hurts, and she’s spending a fortune on car service because she fears she's Mr. Jimmy’s only customer. Then there are the complex mixed messages of a cable show she can't stop watching: Extreme Shopper. Her husband, Ben, a video game designer and a very kind man, is getting a bit exasperated. As the new president is elected and the climate change questions pour in and the doomsday scenarios pile up, Lizzie tries to hold it together. The tension between mundane daily concerns and looming apocalypse, the "weather" of our days both real and metaphorical, is perfectly captured in Offill's brief, elegant paragraphs, filled with insight and humor.

Offill is good company for the end of the world.

Pub Date: Feb. 11, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-385-35110-2

Page Count: 224

Publisher: Knopf

Review Posted Online: Nov. 11, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2019

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