A sensitive look at complicated relationships that’s especially notable for the fascinatingly conflicted protagonist.

THE ITALIAN TEACHER

In his poignant latest, Rachman (The Rise & Fall of Great Powers, 2014, etc.) examines a life dominated by someone else’s art.

Pinch worships his father, noted painter Bear Bavinsky, although Bear’s behavior amply justifies the warning of Pinch's stepsister Birdie, daughter of the wife discarded for Pinch’s mother, Natalie: “Everything’s always about his art....He doesn’t hardly care about his actual creations…the human ones.” By the time Pinch is 15 in 1965, Bear has moved back to America from Italy and on to a third wife and more kids (eventual total: 17). Stuck in Rome with the increasingly unstable Natalie, Pinch desperately wants to stay connected to his elusive father. Rachman perfectly nails the charm with which Bear cloaks his selfishness and keeps his needy son both at a distance and firmly under his thumb. Bear skillfully deflects Pinch’s plea to come live with him by saying it wouldn’t be fair to Natalie and passes a devastating judgment on the boy’s fledgling paintings: “You’re not an artist. And you never will be.” Pinch goes to college in Toronto, planning to become an art historian and write his father’s biography, and it seems this will be the story of an impossible parent destroying a vulnerable offspring, especially after Bear sabotages Pinch’s first serious love affair and Pinch winds up teaching Italian at a Berlitz-style language school in London. But the balance of power between them shifts over the years in Rachman’s subtle rendering. Bear’s reputation goes into eclipse, and he confides the unsold paintings in his remote French cottage to Pinch, whom he trusts to protect his legacy. The way Pinch claims some turf for himself while remaining entangled in Bear’s shadow leads to an ironic conclusion that also shimmers with love and regret. Pinch’s best friend and late-in-life lover, two of the novel’s many finely rendered secondary characters, drink a rueful toast to a man who refused to be anyone’s victim—except maybe his own.

A sensitive look at complicated relationships that’s especially notable for the fascinatingly conflicted protagonist.

Pub Date: March 20, 2018

ISBN: 978-0-7352-2269-4

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Viking

Review Posted Online: Dec. 24, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2018

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Finding positivity in negative pregnancy-test results, this depiction of a marriage in crisis is nearly perfect.

ALL YOUR PERFECTS

Named for an imperfectly worded fortune cookie, Hoover's (It Ends with Us, 2016, etc.) latest compares a woman’s relationship with her husband before and after she finds out she’s infertile.

Quinn meets her future husband, Graham, in front of her soon-to-be-ex-fiance’s apartment, where Graham is about to confront him for having an affair with his girlfriend. A few years later, they are happily married but struggling to conceive. The “then and now” format—with alternating chapters moving back and forth in time—allows a hopeful romance to blossom within a dark but relatable dilemma. Back then, Quinn’s bad breakup leads her to the love of her life. In the now, she’s exhausted a laundry list of fertility options, from IVF treatments to adoption, and the silver lining is harder to find. Quinn’s bad relationship with her wealthy mother also prevents her from asking for more money to throw at the problem. But just when Quinn’s narrative starts to sound like she’s writing a long Facebook rant about her struggles, she reveals the larger issue: Ever since she and Graham have been trying to have a baby, intimacy has become a chore, and she doesn’t know how to tell him. Instead, she hopes the contents of a mystery box she’s kept since their wedding day will help her decide their fate. With a few well-timed silences, Hoover turns the fairly common problem of infertility into the more universal problem of poor communication. Graham and Quinn may or may not become parents, but if they don’t talk about their feelings, they won’t remain a couple, either.

Finding positivity in negative pregnancy-test results, this depiction of a marriage in crisis is nearly perfect.

Pub Date: July 17, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-5011-7159-8

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Atria

Review Posted Online: May 1, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2018

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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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