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The Social Graces, When Stars Go Dark & All the Children are Home

April 01, 2021 8:00 AM | Anonymous

During the Gilded Age in New York you had to have money to play but you had to have old money to be a player in Caroline Astor's court. When upstart Alva Vanderbilt tries to compete for the top hostess spot she finds herself shunned publicly time and time again. Decades pass and these two women watch their children grow up and make bad choices, their husbands leave and make bad choices, and they are still locking horns. What seems frivolous and extreme gossip was social death back then. Even without social media, the society pages and gossip mill was damaging enough. Powerful families head by powerful women who left quite a cultural legacy behind. Think of this as mean girl historical fiction. 4 stars

A change for historical fiction author Paula McLain. She goes deep and dark with this thriller to tell the story of a damaged police detective who goes home again to Mendocino to heal, and instead gets pulled into the disappearance of a young girl and possibly others in 1993. Anna knows her stuff as she usually deals with runaways in San Francisco but coming back home forces her to deal with her past and her future. While the subject matter of child kidnapping and abuse is difficult to read, the author handles it in a way that is heartfelt and compassionate. Paula McLain is a welcome addition to the growing market of thrillers with deeper characters with flaws and important social issues. 4 1/2 stars

A couple, unable to have children, become foster parents to a cluster of irresistible misfits. Agnes arrives unable to do little more than grunt and understand that she is allowed to eat at a table. She is supposed to be there only a few days but manages to make herself a part of this family forever. As a small undernourished six year old, Agnes has only known unkindness but once she lands on the Moscatelli's doorstep their lives will all be changed forever. Parents Dahlia and Lou teach by example so that the kids know that even at the darkest point of the kids lives they will always have someone on their side. This is a timeless story of love and compassion that is beautifully told and leaves you begging for more about the Moscatellis. Beware, this book is a heartbreaker that will have you finishing the last page with a deep sigh and sniffle and wondering what the next chapter will be like for all of them. This book will appeal to anyone who wants deep characters who 
have had a hard life without losing themselves or their humanity. Fans of Willy Vlautin and Andrew Graff's RIVER OF STARS will find much here. 4 1/2 stars

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