More spot-on satire with heart and soul from a uniquely gifted writer.

MRS. FLETCHER

In Perrotta’s latest (Nine Inches: Stories, 2013, etc.), a mother and son experience existential tizzies following his departure for college.

As is often the case with Perrotta’s fiction, it takes a while to warm up to his protagonists, who make their first appearances while engaged in off-putting, though wincingly credible, behavior. Brendan Fletcher nurses a hangover while his mother lugs his boxes and suitcases downstairs and packs the van; Eve is both such a patsy and so weirdly controlling that once they get to Berkshire State University, she hangs around Brendan's dorm, “organizing his closet and dresser just the way they were at home,” before her mortified son makes it clear that she should, like, leave. We soon grow fond of Eve, compassionate director of the Haddington Senior Center and, after she signs up for a community college course on “Gender and Society,” the friend and confidante of its transgender professor, Margo Fairchild. Brendan initially seems set to be the same sexist jock in college that he was in high school, until he’s thrown radically off course by a girl named Amber. It’s not such a stretch that she gets him involved in the Autism Awareness Network—his stepbrother from his father’s new marriage is on the spectrum—but getting him to join a protest about Michael Brown’s death in Ferguson is pretty startling. Of course, it’s mostly because Amber is really pretty, but Perrotta invites us to appreciate the slow growth of Brendan’s awareness that there are actually other people in the universe in tandem with Eve’s pleasant discovery of her unexpected sexual appeal for younger men—and a taste for internet porn. Perrotta’s eye for contemporary mores and social details remains razor-sharp; his portraits of the substantial supporting cast are equally keen and tempered with compassion. There are no bad guys here, just fallible human beings trying to grab some happiness. The deliberately inconclusive conclusion points Eve and Brendan toward that goal but doesn’t promise they’ll get there.

More spot-on satire with heart and soul from a uniquely gifted writer.

Pub Date: Aug. 1, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-5011-4402-8

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Scribner

Review Posted Online: May 15, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 2017

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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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