- Print Length: 272 pages
- Publisher: Ecco (October 29, 2019)
- Publication Date: October 29, 2019
- Sold by: HarperCollins Publishers
Kevin Wilson’s best book yet—a moving and uproarious novel about a woman who finds meaning in her life when she begins caring for two children with remarkable and disturbing abilities
Lillian and Madison were unlikely roommates and yet inseparable friends at their elite boarding school. But then Lillian had to leave the school unexpectedly in the wake of a scandal and they’ve barely spoken since. Until now, when Lillian gets a letter from Madison pleading for her help.
Madison’s twin stepkids are moving in with her family and she wants Lillian to be their caretaker. However, there’s a catch: the twins spontaneously combust when they get agitated, flames igniting from their skin in a startling but beautiful way. Lillian is convinced Madison is pulling her leg, but it’s the truth.
Thinking of her dead-end life at home, the life that has consistently disappointed her, Lillian figures she has nothing to lose. Over the course of one humid, demanding summer, Lillian and the twins learn to trust each other—and stay cool—while also staying out of the way of Madison’s buttoned-up politician husband. Surprised by her own ingenuity yet unused to the intense feelings of protectiveness she feels for them, Lillian ultimately begins to accept that she needs these strange children as much as they need her—urgently and fiercely. Couldn’t this be the start of the amazing life she’d always hoped for?
With white-hot wit and a big, tender heart, Kevin Wilson has written his best book yet—a most unusual story of parental love.
I really want to like Kevin Wilson’s writing more than I do. He has some great ideas, interesting stories, and fun characters, but there is something about his writing that turns his great ideas into good books. Not great books. This is my third Kevin Wilson novel and all of them suffer from the same thing: they have great stories and characters but the pacing and climaxes in the plot become a letdown. For example, the opening of this novel has great tension between Lillian and Madison, boarding school roommates, so when Madison asks Lillian to come and be the live in nanny of her two stepchildren, Lillian agrees. This tension that is built, the acts and betrayal between Lillian and Madison are only mentioned again on a surface level. This does not become the motivation of either of their actions when they get back together, just used as an example of Madison always getting her way because she is privileged and rich. The pacing seems a little off too. The beginning, from the beginning until the time Lillian meets the kids seems to take forever, like he spends the first quarter of the novel as an information dump. For a novel that feels relatively short, it feels like it takes way too long to get into the action.
I do admire Kevin Wilson’s ideas. A story about a woman reunited with someone she only knew briefly in high school, to become the nanny of her twin stepchildren, who also spontaneously combust, is a pretty great idea. There is a ton of potential with this novel, but instead we get Lillian teaching them how to play basketball and lying by the swimming pool. I do not know what could have been done differently, what could have made this novel a little more exciting, but the execution is not it. The ending is pretty good, but this feels more like a wasted opportunity than anything. I felt the same way about “The Family Fang.” I felt the same way about “Perfect Little World.” I also feel the same way about this novel. If you like his work, then this will fit right in, but if you are waiting for him to just knock a book out of the park, the wait continues. Kevin Wilson has home run potential, but he is still fouling off pitches. I will still be reading his work, because it is still quick and entertaining.
I received this as an ARC from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.