This razor-sharp morality tale can be read in an afternoon but contains a lifetime of wisdom about how we cope with the...

STRIKE YOUR HEART

From France: The life of an exceptional woman is cursed and blessed from the start by her mother's failures.

This slim novel by Nothomb, a popular and prolific Belgian author who resides in Paris, has been translated by Anderson, who translated The Elegance of the Hedgehog, and seems poised to take off for the same reasons that novel did—elegant writing, fairy-tale qualities, psychological insight, a toothsome plot, and an intoxicating Frenchness—or perhaps in this case, Belgian-ness. First, we meet Marie. "Tall, with a good figure, her face lit with a blond radiance...Marie was nineteen and her time had come. She could sense that an extraordinary destiny awaited her." Marie easily snags the attention of the best-looking boy in town, and "when the girls looked at her their painful envy turned to hatred, and she thrilled to the pleasure of their gaze." This self-regard and competitiveness become quite problematic as Marie's actual, nonextraordinary destiny unfolds: pregnancy, early marriage, and motherhood in a dull, small town. Nothing makes her happy, not her perfect wedding or her pretty town house or her adorable baby girl. "You are the loveliest little girl I've ever seen," says her husband to their newborn, and "Marie's heart froze." The baby, named Diane, is the star of this story. She is shaped by her mother's coldness and jealousy in ways that are far from predictable. The remainder of the novel tracks Diane’s relationships with the other females in her life: her grandmother, a sister, a best friend, and, most importantly, a mentor she meets in medical school and that woman's daughter. Nothomb has published a book a year since 1992; though quite a few are available in English, she is still something of an unknown. Perhaps this new novel will bring her the recognition here that she has abroad.

This razor-sharp morality tale can be read in an afternoon but contains a lifetime of wisdom about how we cope with the weaknesses of those closest to us.

Pub Date: Sept. 11, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-60945-485-2

Page Count: 144

Publisher: Europa Editions

Review Posted Online: July 31, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 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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