Hidden by Catherine McKenzie
One of the things that’s compelling about McKenzie’s work is that each book is distinct from her others. They are all unique. What’s unique about this story isn’t simply that it alternates points of view between different characters—lots of novels do that—but that one of the narrators, Jeff, is killed in chapter one, yet he continues throughout the book to tell his part of the story. His point of view helps explain why it’s not just his wife, Claire, who is grieving, but a coworker who lives a few hours away, Tish.
This book goes back and forth in time—the present in which Claire is planning and then attending the funeral, back to work events that happened a few days or weeks or a year prior to Jeff’s untimely death.
The relationships between the characters are complex and nuanced. Claire begins to suspect that there may have been something more between Jeff and Tish than simply working for the same company, even if they worked at different branches. Claire has her 12-year-old son, Tish has a doctor husband and a precocious 11-year-old daughter. We, the readers, are also unclear throughout the book if Tish and Jeff simply enjoyed emailing each other and being together at work retreats, or if something more was going on—something that could destroy both their marriages.
After the initial shock of Claire’s husband dying in a car accident and dealing with the funeral and the endless stream of people telling her how sorry they are for her loss, Claire becomes obsessed with finding out if the love she shared with Jeff was real, or was he also in love with another woman? She is dealing with her own grief and her complicated past with Jeff’s brother—who has largely been estranged and living in Australia for years but comes back for the funeral.
This is a complex book about the choices we make with relationships, with love, with family, and with ourselves.
On Second Thought by Kristan Higgins
I loved, loved, loved this book. This is exactly what I like to read—women’s fiction with comedic and romantic elements. This novel delivers in every way—humor, heartbreak, complex family and romantic relationships, and characters you root for the whole way.
In chapter one, we know that Kate’s husband will not live through the day. You would think a novel that begins with a loved one’s death—a quirk of an accident—would not be funny, but there is a lot of humor throughout this story.
The other thing I love about this book is that it alternates between Kate’s first person point of view and her sister’s point of view. STEPsister, as Ainsley has been reminded time and time again by her stepmother throughout her life.
In part because Kate is several years older than Ainsley and in part because they have very different personalities, they’ve never been that close. But when Kate’s husband dies and Ainsley’s boyfriend of eleven years decides not to propose to her at long last but to break up with her, the two shattered sisters come together to help each other survive their mutual heartbreaks.
Much of the humor comes from the character of Gram-Gram, their octogenarian grandmother who gets a Tinder account and prowls wakes to make her move on newly widowed men.
Both Kate and Ainsley are likeable characters in their own way, and how the plot unfolds is not predictable—I hate when I can figure how things will end way before I actually finish the last page, and this book does not disappoint in that regard.
The writing is wonderful—I definitely recommend this for fans of women’s fiction.
Thanks to Netgalley and HQN for the opportunity to read an advance copy of this book.
Paris for One by JoJo Moyes
Moyes is able to give deep glimpses into her characters’ lives in very brief tales. In a couple of the stories, married life does not seem appealing at all. The short story Holdups is particularly funny, but there are a lot of hilarious lines throughout the book.
There isn’t a ton of depth here, but it was definitely an enjoyable read. This book reminded me of the work of Marian Keyes, an author I adore.
Triple Love Score by Brandi Megan Granett
A poetry professor has led a rather dull life thus far, pining away for her childhood sweetheart, who mysteriously disappeared from her life six years earlier. When he turns up again after she’s had a torrid affair with an Irish student, his reasons for disappearing are complicated, but not unforgiveable.
This book has romantic elements, but they are complex, which makes it interesting. The writing is good and it definitely got me wanting to play more Scrabble! I liked the idea of a poetry professor who’s having time writing poems turning to her Scrabble board to create poems/art that she then shares with folks on the internet. That morphs into something much bigger than she could have imagined.