Familiar ground that’s been done better before.


Freedman’s (The Affair, 2013, etc.) new novel picks up where her previous left off: Now that the wife has confronted the mistress, can a marriage survive?

Told in three narratives—the mistress has the first third, the husband, the middle, and the wife closes out the novel—the story covers a few days during the Christmas holiday as the unhappy threesome comes to terms with the tangled relationships. Stephanie isn’t quite sure what first attracted her to the older man, but over the last 18 months, Robert has become someone she imagines marrying. When his wife, Kathy, shows up at her Boston condo, and then Robert drops by moments later bearing Christmas gifts for his mistress, Kathy fights for Robert, saying she has never stopped loving him and wants him back. Stephanie surrenders, telling Robert to go back to his wife. And he does. Furious and heartsick, Stephanie travels to Wisconsin to spend Christmas with her large family. While there, she comes to terms with the dire circumstance she’s in: single and pregnant. Robert’s side of the story is filled with a juggler’s anxiety as he tries to patch up both relationships (he calls Stephanie endlessly, even going to her empty condo to find her) while trying to decide what he really wants: his loyal wife and two teenage kids or the better version of himself he can be with Stephanie. When Kathy’s turn comes, her story is filled with the sadness of betrayal and the growing evidence that Robert is still in contact with his mistress. Although dissecting an affair in a split narrative can be illuminating (and done with brilliant wit, as in Julian Barnes’ Talking It Over), Freedman too often repeats scenes, offers clunky comparisons (Kathy’s sister and Robert’s friend are having affairs) and lacks new insights into the world of extramarital affairs to make the narrative experiment worthwhile.

Familiar ground that’s been done better before.

Pub Date: Jan. 28, 2014

ISBN: 978-0-7582-8102-9

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Kensington

Review Posted Online: Jan. 23, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2014

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Dark and unsettling, this novel’s end arrives abruptly even as readers are still moving at a breakneck speed.


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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In 1974, a troubled Vietnam vet inherits a house from a fallen comrade and moves his family to Alaska.

After years as a prisoner of war, Ernt Allbright returned home to his wife, Cora, and daughter, Leni, a violent, difficult, restless man. The family moved so frequently that 13-year-old Leni went to five schools in four years. But when they move to Alaska, still very wild and sparsely populated, Ernt finds a landscape as raw as he is. As Leni soon realizes, “Everyone up here had two stories: the life before and the life now. If you wanted to pray to a weirdo god or live in a school bus or marry a goose, no one in Alaska was going to say crap to you.” There are many great things about this book—one of them is its constant stream of memorably formulated insights about Alaska. Another key example is delivered by Large Marge, a former prosecutor in Washington, D.C., who now runs the general store for the community of around 30 brave souls who live in Kaneq year-round. As she cautions the Allbrights, “Alaska herself can be Sleeping Beauty one minute and a bitch with a sawed-off shotgun the next. There’s a saying: Up here you can make one mistake. The second one will kill you.” Hannah’s (The Nightingale, 2015, etc.) follow-up to her series of blockbuster bestsellers will thrill her fans with its combination of Greek tragedy, Romeo and Juliet–like coming-of-age story, and domestic potboiler. She re-creates in magical detail the lives of Alaska's homesteaders in both of the state's seasons (they really only have two) and is just as specific and authentic in her depiction of the spiritual wounds of post-Vietnam America.

A tour de force.

Pub Date: Feb. 6, 2018

ISBN: 978-0-312-57723-0

Page Count: 448

Publisher: St. Martin's

Review Posted Online: Oct. 31, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15, 2017

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