Fiction from Chamberlain and Friedmann | Xpress Reviews

Week ending September 8, 2017

Chamberlain, Diane. The Stolen Marriage. St. Martin’s. Oct. 2017. 384p. ISBN 9781250087270. $26.99; ebk. ISBN 9781250087294. F
It is 1944, and the war effort molds a sense of duty for the townspeople of Hickory, NC. The divide between races is strict, with tensions running high. After breaking off her engagement to the man of her heart, Tess DeMello has surprisingly found herself married to Henry Kraft, the son of Hickory’s most powerful family and a man she does not love. Although her future seems hopeless, Tess learns just who she is and what she is made of as she struggles to stay true to her own moral code in the midst of a polio epidemic. The surprise is that Henry has his own compelling backstory. And Tess herself has complicated, by her own ethics, the happiness of those she truly loves.
Verdict Secrets, intrigue, mystery, love, forgiveness, and drama—it’s all here. And it is riveting. Chamberlain’s (Pretending To Dance) latest novel demands the reader to race, yet savor, the journey to the finale. [See Prepub Alert, 4/10/17.]—Susan Carr, Edwardsville P.L., IL

Friedmann, Patty. An Organized Panic. Old Stone. Sept. 2017. 228p. ISBN 9781938462290. pap. $14.95. F
Sibling rivalry is the focus of Friedmann’s (Too Jewish; Secondhand Smoke) latest novel. Cesca Price and her brother, Ronald, were raised in a secular humanist home. Cesca, who is a successful artist, remains that way, but Ronald, whose day job is cleaning up murder scenes, has become a fundamentalist Christian minister. Cesca is the executor of their recently deceased mother’s estate. Ronald wants the money to build a megachurch, to which each of his congregants will donate $20 weekly to support him. Their disagreements will result in lawsuits and a further pulling apart of their families. Like the siblings in the earlier Side Effects, Ronald and Cesca represent different sides of a coin that is still one coin despite their differences. Friedmann captures the atmosphere of New Orleans and its various factions in an enticing manner. Her ability to create believable characters about whom the reader cares is stellar. Even the lawyers who represent the Price siblings in their dispute are real people.
Verdict Readers won’t be able to put down this engrossing read until the final page. [The manuscript took second place at the 2012 Faulkner-Wisdom competition.—Ed.]—Andrea Kempf, formerly with Johnson Cty. Community Coll. Lib., Overland Park, KS

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