Smooth writing, unabashed sentimentality: if it sometimes feels a little forced or relentless, where’s the harm?

THE CHARM BRACELET

Three generations of women share the tradition of wearing charm bracelets to honor the big moments of their lives.

When Arden and her daughter, Lauren, take a vacation from Chicago to visit Arden’s mother, Lolly, a lifelong resident of a small lake resort town, they realize she’s having memory issues. When she's diagnosed with an early stage of dementia, they decide to extend their vacation to help her figure out how to stay in her own home as long as possible. Arden is a frustrated writer working as an online editor who has let life roll over her too many times, while Lauren is a talented artist taking college business courses, due mainly to her mother’s pressure to be practical. When the three women wind up spending the summer together, Lolly shares much of her life story through the many charms on her bracelet, a family tradition passed down from her grandmother and now to her own granddaughter. As Lolly feels the pressure of sharing her stories and memories with her daughter and granddaughter while she can still access them, Arden begins to reassess her own choices, made mostly from fear, lack, and inadequacy, and reconsider the path she has sent her daughter on, which doesn’t seem to be making her happy. Debut novelist Shipman—a pen name chosen by memoirist Wade Rouse (It's All Relative, 2011, etc.) in homage to his grandmother—pulls out all the emotional bells and whistles here; his book reads like a fictionalized guide to living the good life (“Live! Love! Laugh!”) and checks all the boxes—family, friends, God, love, and simple living—designed to warm the heart and fill the tear ducts.

Smooth writing, unabashed sentimentality: if it sometimes feels a little forced or relentless, where’s the harm?

Pub Date: March 29, 2016

ISBN: 978-1-250-07132-3

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Dunne/St. Martin's

Review Posted Online: Jan. 20, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2016

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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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