Viking. Mar. 2020. 368p. ISBN 9781984877833. $26. F.
Everyone in the small French village of Saint Sulpice wonders why Marguerite Demers, a young woman from a posh district in Paris, would take on the difficult and lonely job of nursing a cantankerous old man out in the provinces. Her dying patient, Jerome Lanvier, has already scared off a series of nurses. Quiet and reserved, Marguerite seldom sees anyone other than Jerome. It’s as if she is doing penance for something, but what? Eventually, she gets to know some of her neighbors, including handsome farmer Henri, who has a big secret of his own. Then there’s Suki, a flamboyant Iranian woman who has remained an outsider in the village and whose boredom causes her to stir up trouble. With the arrival of M. Lanvier’s three sons, Marguerite gets caught in their family drama (they hate him and he hates them). The tension builds as events soon careen out of control.
VERDICT In this somber and beautifully written debut novel, British writer Kemp skillfully draws readers in with her expert storytelling. She knows just when and how much to reveal about her intriguing characters’ secrets and troubled lives.

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