Sunday, April 24, 2016

The Nest

The Nest by Cynthia D'Aprix Sweeney

The Plumbs are about to learn the foolishness of their ways.

It's never a good idea to spend a promised inheritance from your benevolent father until the money is actually in your hand. And when you don't heed valuable advice...well, let's just say the consequences can be devastating.

Siblings Leo, Jack, Bea and Melody know with certainty that their deceased father, Leonard, Sr., intended "The Nest" to be a comfortable cushion to help his four children with necessities later in life. No one could have imagined that a modest trust fund would expand into a vast fortune under the guidance of savvy attorney George Plumb. But that's exactly what happened, and now these grown adults, after waiting patiently for years, want what is rightly theirs.

Unfortunately, "The Nest" has been drained to quietly pay off a nineteen-year-old waitress who made the biggest mistake of her life when she agreed to go for a joy ride with the drunken eldest brother, Leo. In his usual smooth, charismatic way, Leo vows to devise a plan to pay back each and every penny to the family he's used to cover up his indiscretions. His brother and sisters have no choice but to reluctantly believe him, even though their own personal financial woes continue to mount, not to mention the secrets they are hiding from one another and their loved ones.

Jack's partner, Walter, can't know that he's taken a second mortgage on their quaint,beachfront cottage to keep his antiques store afloat, or that he's involved with the black market sale of a valuable piece of stolen art.  And widow Bea, once a successful writer, is living on a shoestring, ever since she failed to complete that second novel. She's become a source of ridicule and pity with former colleagues. Maybe her latest attempt about an anonymous man ruining a young girl's life in a tragic accident will be a hit. Youngest child, Melody, anxious mother of twin daughters ( she tracks their every move with the Stalkerville app ) thought her days of struggling to make those outrageous mortgage payments would soon be over. She can't fathom losing her house in an affluent suburb or worse yet, sending her children to a state college. But how well does she really know her daughters?

No surprise that this novel is on the best-seller list. It's a sophisticated soap opera told with humor and compassion. It all starts with the "idea of money...". How money can "warp relationships and memories and decisions".  But it ends with warmth and the fervent belief that family relationships do matter long after the money is gone. 

Saturday, April 9, 2016

Miller's Valley

Miller's Valley by Anna Quindlen

Beautifully written, emotionally charged, and remarkably poignant, Pulitzer Prize winner Anna Quindlen once again tells a moving story that readers will find impossible to forget.

Mimi Miller narrates her story beginning as a young girl living on the family farm in the rural Pennsylvania town called Miller's Valley. It's a place on the verge of a major upheaval, though the locals refuse to acknowledge the inevitable. Government officials start with gentle persuasion, attempting to sway the people to come around to their way of thinking about turning the flood-prone valley into a reservoir. Offers of relocation are met with skepticism and downright refusal, especially by Mimi's father, Buddy. His farm has been in the family for generations. He can't imagine living anywhere else.

Mimi's mother, Miriam, is a respected nurse at the local hospital, admired for her no nonsense, practical approach to life. She valiantly struggles to raise her three children to achieve contentment in life that has alluded her. Mimi's two brothers are decidedly different in nature; Edward, staunch and dependable, Tommy, charming and gregarious. But it's Mimi, with her superior intelligence, that Miriam hopes will escape the confines of  Miller Valley. Aunt Ruth, Miriam's sister, lives on the Miller property, too, She is an agoraphobic, refusing to leave her home and harboring a shocking secret she'll take to her grave.

Tommy returns a broken man after enlisting in the Marines and serving in Vietnam. Buddy suffers a debilitating stroke. And through it all, Mimi finds the strength to carry on with an unwavering belief in family. As she watches life in Miller's Valley begin to disintegrate, her wildest dreams begin to take shape, leading her back to where it all began.

If you are a fan of Anna Quindlen, a new release is always a cause for celebration. Much like her Still Life With Breadcrumbs (reviewed under general fiction in April, 2014), she writes with passion, humor, and empathy, creating characters that become so real, it's often hard to believe it's fiction.

Her keen observation of the human spirit is outstanding. Her ability to tell a touching story that holds the reader's interest is a gift.

Wherever life takes you, "maybe everyone stays the same inside, even when their life looks nothing like what they once had, or even imagined".

Sunday, April 3, 2016

Fool Me Once

Fool Me Once by Harlan Coben

The prying eyes of a hidden nanny cam reveal startling images to a woman who is reeling from her husband's murder. Is he really dead?

Disgraced Special Ops pilot Maya Burkett is back home from the war, facing allegations from a whistle-blower that she ordered an airstrike that killed innocent victims. While overseas, her sister, Claire, was murdered in a home invasion. Now Maya witnesses the demise of husband, Joe, at the hands of a couple of thugs in Central Park. All that's left is precious two-year-old daughter,  Lily. So when a friend suggests installing a concealed camera to secretly watch Lily and nanny Isabella, Maya feels it's the right thing to do, even though she's hesitant to spy on a trustworthy employee.

Astonishingly, camera footage shows her supposedly dead husband lovingly interacting with their daughter. When Maya confronts Isabella with the unbelievable images, her nanny throws pepper spray in her face, and disappears with the evidence. Obviously, Maya's mind is playing tricks on her, conjuring up the possibility that Joe's alive, but why then, did Isabella run?  Is she in on some grand scheme that puts Maya in danger? As the fictional Sherlock Holmes said, "When you have eliminated the impossible, whatever remains, however improbable, must be the truth". Maya sets out to find out exactly what that truth is.

Her investigation is a lonely one. She doesn't know who she can trust. When the police determine that the same gun that killed her sister ten years ago, was also used to murder Joe, she knows that the two slayings are somehow related. As Maya digs deeper, she discovers disturbing facts about Joe's brother, Andrew, who presumably died in a boating accident when both boys attended a prestigious boarding school. Or was it suicide? The wealthy, influential Burkett family that are now her in-laws, are hiding lethal secrets that they desperately want no one to uncover.

Fast-paced and remarkably easy to read, this author once again delights his readers with an elaborate, plot that doesn't come to the stunning conclusion until the very end.  Enjoy untangling the lies and deceit. I have a feeling Harlan Coben will fool you more than once.