By Sarah Dunn.
Mar. 2017. 368p. Little, Brown, $26 (9780316013598);
e-book, $13.99 (9780316300971).
Owen and Lucy have carved out a fairly idyllic niche for themselves in Beekman, New York.
Far enough from the city to own a house and
raise chickens in the backyard, but close enough
to commute occasionally, Beekman is full of
hip suburbanites all convincing themselves that
they’re happier outside Manhattan. Owen and
Lucy are happy, but they could be happier—
couldn’t everyone? They decide to embark on a
six-month marital test: an open marriage, with
some ground rules. Despite their careful planning, they have no idea how their experiment
will end, or what it will mean for their marriage. Dunn’s peek inside a seemingly normal
relationship exposes the deepest thoughts of a
husband, wife, and the people they decide to
include in their experiment. Lucy and Owen
are relatable, realistic, and resilient, and Dunn’s
television-writing background is evident in her
witty dialogue. She grounds her novel in the
minutia of suburban life, contrasting the heady
days of new romance with school drop-offs and
soccer games. Fans of Matthew Norman, Greg
Olear, and Meg Wolitzer will adore this engaging and exhilarating exposé. —Stephanie Turza
Be My Wolff.
By Emma Richler.
Feb. 2017. 432p. Knopf, $27.95 (9781101946527).
Rachel and Zach Wolff live together, to their
father’s great dismay, in the Camden townhouse
they rehabbed. They met as children, when
Zach was adopted by Rachel’s parents, Russian
émigrés in London. The not-exactly-siblings
bonded quickly, her tender, patient brilliance
the perfect foil for his wise physicality and unconscious force. In their youth, they delighted
in inventing orphaned Zach’s past over and
over, foremost as a nineteenth-century Russian
foundling working his way into an English boxing ring, and now, as lovers, they delight in the
stories still. Rachel, an artist, and Zach, a former
pugilist who, after too many blows, must keep
himself from fighting, nuzzle, touch, and sniff
one another like the animals their name makes
of them, and speak in a crackling lingo that’s
rich in languages, history, fairy tales, memories,
and romantic love. The many, centuries-span-ning, highly imagined worlds Richler (Sister
Crazy, 2001) re-creates here, of the history and
ancestry that preceded the young Wolffs, depart
from and heighten Rachel and Zach’s present-day narrative, and are aided by a glossary and
list of historical figures. —Annie Bostrom
By Carl Frode Tiller. Tr. by Barbara J.
Feb. 2017. 336p. Graywolf, paper, $16 (9781555977627).
In his thirties, David has suffered the com-
plete loss of his memory and has taken out a
newspaper ad beseeching those who know him
to write and tell him about his life. Norwegian
writer Tiller’s perhaps implausible premise is
easily enough suspended, while the three letter
writers in the first book in a trilogy (which has
already won awards in Norway) emerge as the
story’s main characters. Jon, David’s best friend
from their teens, is emotional, interpersonally
challenged, and at a creative crossroads. David’s
stepfather, Arvid, is suffering through cancer
and finds a new purpose in writing to David.
Silje, David’s ex, has found success as a wife,
mother, and career woman but appears unsatis-
fied. Psychological puzzles for readers abound.
The letter writers—each appearing in the others’
sections—and the David they depict can’t pos-
sibly all be truthful in their every aspect. What,
then, are the falsehoods? In this deep character
study, encapsulations of Jon, Arvid, and Silje are
engrossing in their perceptions and ordinari-
ness, while wonder about David gives the novel
its subtle, baseline thread. —Annie Bostrom
The Fall of Lisa Bellow.
By Susan Perabo.
Mar. 2017. 352p. Simon & Schuster, $25.99
Perabo’s gripping second novel, following her
story collection, Why They Run the Way They
Do (2016), portrays a family in the aftermath
of emotional and physical trauma. Thirteen-year-old Meredith Oliver navigates the typical
insecurities of middle school, feeling particularly vulnerable to the social influence of the
popular clique ruled by the attractive Lisa
Bellows. One day after school, Meredith stops
by a deli in which the other customer is none
other than Lisa. Things take a disturbing turn
when the shop is robbed and the perpetrator abducts Lisa but not Meredith. The tale
unfolds from the perspectives of Meredith
and her mother, Claire, as they deal with the
event’s complex fallout, including survivor’s
guilt. Meredith becomes increasingly distant,
internalizing an alternate narrative of the kidnapping and unexpectedly connecting with
a friend of Lisa’s. Claire, meanwhile, cannot
reconcile how to best communicate with her
daughter as she internally mines her own culpability. Perabo captures both the unease and
bravado of adolescence alongside the worries of parenthood and is unafraid to explore
the family members’ flaws as they attempt to
emerge from chaos. —Leah Strauss
YA: Perabo’s suspenseful, psychologically
complex tale of a girl’s coming-of-age
complicated by the abduction of a peer
will fascinate YA fans of inner-focused
The Golden Hour.
By T. Greenwood.
Mar. 2017. 384p. Kensington, paper, $15 (9780758290571).
Walking home from school, Wyn Davies was
brutally attacked by a fellow classmate. The
classmate, Robby, confessed to the attack and
was sent to prison. Now, 20 years later, activ-
ists skeptical of Robby’s guilt petition to have
the DNA evidence tested. There is the distinct
possibility that the case will be reopened—a
thought that throws Wyn into a deep panic.
Wyn, whose marriage is failing and art career
is stalled, wants to escape. So she agrees to ac-
company her friend Pilar to her new home, a
fixer-upper on a remote Maine island. Bring-
ing only her daughter and some essentials,
Wyn is surprised by how much work Pilar’s
home needs. While working on the house,
she discovers a box of undeveloped film in the
basement and is intrigued by it and the former
inhabitant of the house. The search for the
truth about the film forces Wyn to confront
her own past and the secrets she has been keep-
ing. As she has demonstrated in other books,
Greenwood writes with a deep understanding
of how trauma shapes a person. This emotion-
ally searing and lushly written book is highly
recommended. —Lynnanne Pearson
By Jess Kidd.
Mar. 2017. 384p. Atria, $26 (9781501145179).
In 1976, handsome, charismatic Mahony
returns to Mulderrig, a village like no other,
searching for clues about his mother, Orla
Sweeney. Did she run away after abandoning
him at an orphanage in 1950, or did she meet a
worse fate? Mahony fears the latter and finds an
ally in Mrs. Cauley, a “twisted old woman” who
rises to any challenge. Not unlike Hamlet, the
two stage a play in hopes of flushing out Orla’s
murderer. Every page of Kidd’s who-done-it
novel is filled with magic, spirit, peppery characters, and ghosts of the village dead, including
their pets, who are visible only to some. A wellspring emerges in a priest’s house, ushering in a
chorus of frogs. Sandwiches “curl up and die,”
trees “hold their own counsel,” and a swarm
of “bullet-headed bees” makes an appearance.
Yet there is murder, too. Kidd mixes the darkest
capacities of these villagers with carefully observed whimsy and fantasy. Readers who enjoy
a dollop of whiskey in their tea will feel right at
home in Mulderrig. —Emily Dziuban
I Found You.
By Lisa Jewell.
Apr. 2017. 352p. Atria, $26 (9781501154591).
Alice Lake is 41, has three kids from three
different men and a pack of stray dogs in a
crumbling old house in Yorkshire, England.
So, what is she doing taking in a stranger
from the beach who has completely lost his
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