Farrington has offered some lively, character-driven fare in the past; this time around is dismal.

THE MONK UPSTAIRS

An aimless sequel to The Monk Downstairs (2002) begins with the marriage of Mike, the former monk, to Rebecca, his artsy landlady.

It seems things may not bode well for the couple when Mike is late for the wedding—he was off in the woods praying while the full church was waiting—but Rebecca doesn’t seem to mind; she’s just glad he hasn’t backed out of the nuptials. The two are then off to Hawaii for their honeymoon, where they have a fine time, except when they argue. Once they return to San Francisco, Mike tries to find a job—not easy when you’ve spent the past 20 years in monastic contemplation—while Rebecca carries on with her graphic-design business and raising seven-year-old sweetie Mary Martha. Sound rather plotless? It is. The few points of conflict—Mike brings Mary Martha to church (despite Rebecca’s distrust of Catholicism); ex-husband Rory has demolished their kitchen as part of a remodeling (and pot-induced) “surprise”; Mike displays an inability to engage in normal friendships—are resolved quickly. There are a few references to Mike’s kindness, but he, like all the characters, lacks the weight or charisma needed to propel a story dependent on character. The one exception is Rebecca’s mother, Phoebe. Having had a stroke, she begins to falter mentally and physically, until she longs for a peaceful death. There is much Bible-quoting, and it is apparent that Farrington is creating a kind of discourse about the place of God in a secular world. Unfortunately, his conduit for the discussion—the bland, embarrassingly self-centered Mike—is a poor choice. Instead, there is a lot of talk about Phoebe reaching a peace with death, and Rebecca accepting the changes in her life. But it’s relayed in so tepid a tone, that it feels more like approaching sleep than meditation.

Farrington has offered some lively, character-driven fare in the past; this time around is dismal.

Pub Date: May 8, 2007

ISBN: 0-06-081516-7

Page Count: 272

Publisher: N/A

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2007

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

LOVE AND OTHER WORDS

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. 23, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2018

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