A WELL-BEHAVED WOMAN

Watching Fowler's heroine vanquish the gatekeepers and minions who stand in her way is nothing short of mesmerizing.

Portrait of the Gilded Age socialite and suffragist who famously followed her own advice: “First marry for money, then marry for love.”

Doyenne and co-designer of palatial mansions in Manhattan, Long Island, and Newport, Alva Vanderbilt Belmont was born Alva Smith in Mobile, Alabama—half a century before the heroine of Fowler’s previous novel, Z: A Novel of Zelda Fitzgerald (2013). As the novel opens, 21-year-old Alva and her sisters, the children of formerly prosperous parents—all unmarried despite summers in Newport and Europe—are caring for their invalid widower father, facing bankruptcy and the unhappy prospect of letting out rooms. Taking cues from her vivacious pal Consuelo Yznaga (a half-Cuban sugar-cane heiress soon to be married to an English duke), Alva dons an ebony ball gown garnished with goldenrod blossoms to catch the eye of an heir. Not just any heir: William K. Vanderbilt, grandson of the richest robber baron in America, is a horseman and yachting enthusiast (who, according to Fowler’s characterization, is not the brightest skipper in the fleet and a compulsive philanderer to boot). His most vexing problem is that Vanderbilt money is too new, barring his family from being “received” in Old Knickerbocker circles. The genuine blossoms on Alva’s dress make W.K. sneeze, but to his credit he recognizes something—call it originality, single-mindedness, intelligence—that will vault his future heirs, if not his boorish grandpa, into the best society. The game is on. Not only will Alva best snooty Caroline Astor at her own game (helped by William’s wedding gift of Catherine the Great’s pearls), she’ll secure suitable marriages for her children and undisputed social rank for herself. For “status gave a woman control over her existence, more protection from being battered about by others’ whims or life’s caprices.” Writing from a close third-person perspective, Fowler spends a good deal of time in Alva’s head, evoking the wrinkles and contradictions in her character—imperious yet self-doubting; stubborn and rigid yet energetic, determined and (even by today’s standard) forward-thinking. Though Alva's involvement in women's causes gets rather short shrift (supplemented in an afterword), the upshot of her platonic attraction to one of her husband's best friends stands in nicely for one of her other proto-feminist remarks: “Pray to God. She will help you.”

Watching Fowler's heroine vanquish the gatekeepers and minions who stand in her way is nothing short of mesmerizing.

Pub Date: Oct. 16, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-250-09547-3

Page Count: 400

Publisher: St. Martin's

Review Posted Online: July 30, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2018

THEN SHE WAS GONE

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. 5, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2018

LOVE AND OTHER WORDS

With frank language and patient plotting, this gangly teen crush grows into a confident adult love affair.

Eleven years ago, he broke her heart. But he doesn’t know why she never forgave him.

Toggling between past and present, two love stories unfold simultaneously. In the first, Macy Sorensen meets and falls in love with the boy next door, Elliot Petropoulos, in the closet of her dad’s vacation home, where they hide out to discuss their favorite books. In the second, Macy is working as a doctor and engaged to a single father, and she hasn’t spoken to Elliot since their breakup. But a chance encounter forces her to confront the truth: what happened to make Macy stop speaking to Elliot? Ultimately, they’re separated not by time or physical remoteness but by emotional distance—Elliot and Macy always kept their relationship casual because they went to different schools. And as a teen, Macy has more to worry about than which girl Elliot is taking to the prom. After losing her mother at a young age, Macy is navigating her teenage years without a female role model, relying on the time-stamped notes her mother left in her father’s care for guidance. In the present day, Macy’s father is dead as well. She throws herself into her work and rarely comes up for air, not even to plan her upcoming wedding. Since Macy is still living with her fiance while grappling with her feelings for Elliot, the flashbacks offer steamy moments, tender revelations, and sweetly awkward confessions while Macy makes peace with her past and decides her future.

With frank language and patient plotting, this gangly teen crush grows into a confident adult love affair.

Pub Date: April 10, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-5011-2801-1

Page Count: 416

Publisher: Gallery Books/Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: Jan. 22, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2018

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