Tender but—miraculously—never sentimental.


Coster, a Kirkus Prize finalist for Halsey Street (2018), returns with an intergenerational saga of two North Carolina families inextricably connected by trauma and love.

In a city in the Piedmont in the fall of 1992, Ray is baking croissants, preparing for the day that's supposed to change his life: A reporter is coming to profile the cafe he co-founded that has since become “his everything.” If business picks up afterward, he already has a list of things he’ll do. Buy his girlfriend, Jade, a ring and marry her. Buy Jade’s 6-year-old son, Gee—who is, for all practical purposes, also his son now—a chest of drawers. Take them on a trip. None of it will happen: That afternoon, Ray is shot and killed. Jade’s cousin owed money to a guy; Ray was in the wrong place at the wrong time. Then Coster skips forward a few years, to the outskirts of that city, where a woman named Lacey May Ventura is trying to raise three daughters on no money while her troubled husband is in prison; an unrelated story, on the surface, a single mother making compromises to get by. The story of the past, though, is then interrupted by dispatches from the present: In the Atlanta suburbs, Noelle, the oldest of the Ventura girls, is now a theater director in a disintegrating marriage. Jumping backward and forward in time and bouncing between families, Coster weaves together a gripping portrait of generational pain. But the details of her plot—carefully constructed, if not especially subtle—pale in comparison to her characters, who are startling in their quiet humanity. Coster is an exacting observer but also an endlessly generous one, approaching her cast with a sharp eye and deep warmth. The overlapping pieces fit together, of course, but it’s the individual moments that are exquisite, each chapter a tiny snapshot of a whole world.

Tender but—miraculously—never sentimental.

Pub Date: March 2, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-5387-0234-5

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Grand Central Publishing

Review Posted Online: Dec. 15, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2021

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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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A Cuban family grapples with violence and addiction, but their relationships lack depth.


An affluent Cuban immigrant reckons with her daughter’s drug addiction and her own culpability in their self-destructive choices.

As the book opens, it's 2018, and Carmen is writing in anguish to her daughter, Jeannette, begging her to find the will to live. Then we're immediately swept away to Camagüey, Cuba, in 1866, right before the first Cuban war for independence from Spain, where we meet one of the women's ancestors. María Isabel works at a cigar factory, and, as the war blooms bright and bloody, she's pursued by the factory’s lector, who reads newspapers and Victor Hugo novels to the workers as they roll cigars. If the novel had continued to offer rich scenes like these, it would have been a success, but from this point on, it feels haphazardly stitched together. We meet Jeannette in 2014, and then Carmen's and Jeanette’s voices alternate erratically through different time periods, with little resonance between them—both strands of the narrative center the useless or even abusive men who litter the lives of all the family’s women. Then, as if grafted onto the story, Garcia adds intermittent sections from the points of view of a woman named Gloria and her daughter, Ana, undocumented immigrants from El Salvador. Gloria is picked up by ICE agents while Ana is at a babysitter's house, and when the girl gets dropped off, Jeanette takes her in for a few nights before Carmen convinces her to call the police—a decision that will come to haunt Carmen. Even with snatches of gorgeously compelling prose, the book can't overcome the lack of relationship development among the women of the family in both Miami and Cuba.

A Cuban family grapples with violence and addiction, but their relationships lack depth.

Pub Date: April 6, 2021


Page Count: 224

Publisher: Flatiron Books

Review Posted Online: Dec. 26, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2021

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