Book Review Roundup: Marriage And Death

"Shortcut Man" by P.G. Sturges

But overall, this is an assured and diverting performance, with an ending that should impress even the most seasoned fan of hardboiled detective stories. You thought every twist ending in the noir bag had been taken out and used up, P.G. Sturges seems to be saying as the book rushes toward its final page. Well, get a load of this.

"The Red Garden" by Alice Hoffman

While it could plausibly be either a linked story collection or a novel, it is neither fish nor fowl, but, rather, a lovingly befinned and befeathered chimera of both.

"Annexed" by Sharon Dogar

In Annexed, Sharon Dogar perfectly portrays the sense of waiting, the confinement, and the fear. The days might have dragged in the annexe as the seasons passed but this is a book that kept me turning the pages late into the night. My inability to put the book down might have been where I thought the story was going and how it would inevitably end, an ending that is revealed in the preface of the book but nothing could have prepared me for the impact of those final pages.

"Scenes from an Impending Marriage: A Prenuptial Memoir" by Adrian Tomine

That this is the perfect approach to an event that has become fetishized in our culture should go without saying: Tomine's point is not to play into (or even against) perceptions about marriage so much as to particularize his account. It's not even the wedding that's important (it does not appear here), but rather the interaction between Tomine and his fiancée Sarah as they try to create a ceremony that will have meaning for them.

"Never Say Die" by Susan Jacoby

One departs this book with the impression that the only protection against the depredations and sheer bloody horrors of old age are lots of money or a benevolent government watching out for one. But the experience of aging is richer, more complex, more subtle and philosophically interesting, I fear, than Susan Jacoby, with her feminist's depth and journalist's breadth, can hope to fathom.

"Night Soul" by Joseph McElroy

"Night Soul" may not have the bottomless appetite of McElroy's omnivorous novels, but the smaller-scale stories offer a way into his art for readers who don't think an ambitious talent should remain outside mainstream attention spans.

"The Fates Will Find Their Way" by Hannah Pittard

Though on the surface this seems to be a novel about a girl's disappearance, at its core it's about how children become adults. "We cannot help but shudder at the things adults are capable of," Pittard writes, as the now-grown narrators watch their own daughters. That shift, from what teen­agers can do to one another to what adults can do to children, is crucial. But what this novel is really examining is the moment when such a reckoning occurs.