Decades after an unforgivable trespass, two childhood friends are reunited in a most unusual arrangement in Kevin Wilson’s “Nothing to See Here.”
Wilson is a remarkable writer for many different reasons, as demonstrated by his quirky novels, “Perfect Little World” (2017) and “The Family Fang” (2011), and tons of short stories. One of his greatest strengths is the ability to craft an everyday family drama and inject it with one odd element that turns the story on its head. He’s done it again here, writing once more about family but with some most unusual children and a particularly charming narrator. Back in the day, Lillian and Madison were besties at an elite boarding school, the former a smart scholarship student and the latter a quirky but spoiled rich girl. But when Madison got into trouble, privilege reared its ugly head, and Lillian was the one kicked out of school. Now grown, she spends her days at her dead-end job and her off hours getting stoned. Out of the blue, Madison reappears, now mother to her darling boy, Timothy, and the wife of a U.S. senator and budding political star. But the family is in a quandary over what to do with the senator’s twin children from a previous marriage, Bessie and Roland. Oh, and by the way, the twins spontaneously combust when they’re angry or upset. No harm comes to them, but clothes, houses, and anything else in their orbit can go up in flames. Lillian is offered a job looking after the twins for the summer until the fam can figure out what to do with the little fireballs. To her own surprise, Lillian turns out to be a terrific guardian, despite her own doubts. “They were me, unloved and fucked over, and I was going to make sure they got what they needed,” she affirms. The book’s denouement is a bit predictable, but Lillian develops into an engaging parental proxy in Wilson’s latest whimsical exploration of family.
A funny and touching fable about love for kids, even the ones on fire.
Prolific author gets an update
In Mary Higgins Clark’s “Kiss the Girls and Make Them Cry,” the doyenne of damsels in distress enters the brave new world of #MeToo.
Returning from a trip to Hong Kong, investigative journalist Gina Kane is eager to see her boyfriend, banker Ted Wilson, and nearly as eager to hear from CRyan, the mysterious correspondent who’d emailed her about “a terrible experience with one of the higher-ups” at REL News. But Ted has just left on a business trip of his own, and despite Gina’s repeated attempts, CRyan doesn’t reply. By the time Gina has identified her as Catherine Ryan, she’s been killed in a jet ski accident in Aruba. Since Cathy was an old hand at jet skiing whose death seems suspiciously timed, Gina, with the blessing of Geoffrey Whitehurst, the incoming editor at Empire Review, takes off for Aruba, where she satisfies herself that this was no accident. A long flashback to two years earlier shows REL associate producer Lauren Pomerantz reporting to Michael Carter, a lawyer in the news organization’s HR department, that venerable anchor Brad Matthews has harassed her and that she’s gotten some convincing proof that will put paid to he-said, she-said. The next hundred pages mark a notable stretch for Clark, who clearly relishes the opportunity to show a bunch of high-priced lowlifes — Matthews, Carter, CEO Richard Sherman, and Frederick Carlyle Jr., son and heir apparent to REL’s founder — scrambling to cover up Matthews’ bad behavior without leaving any trace that they’re doing so. Back in the present, Gina leans on enough sources to link Cathy Ryan’s death to Matthews’ serial abuse, but at considerable cost. Her relationship with Ted, who’s helping handle REL’s move to turn itself into a public corporation, is seriously jeopardized by her sleuthing. She can barely spare the time it takes to fly to Buffalo to check out the bona fides of her recently widowed father’s much younger new girlfriend. And savvy readers will realize long before Gina does that one of the conspirators at REL whose wings she plans to clip has ideas about clipping hers first.
Clark's usual mixture now updated, with surprising and welcome assurance, for a new generation of imperiled women.