The Tzer Island book blog features book reviews written by TChris, the blog's founder.  I hope the blog will help readers discover good books and avoid bad books.  I am a reader, not a book publicist.  This blog does not exist to promote particular books, authors, or publishers.  I therefore do not participate in "virtual book tours" or conduct author interviews.  You will find no contests or giveaways here.

The blog's nonexclusive focus is on literary/mainstream fiction, thriller/crime/spy novels, and science fiction.  While the reviews cover books old and new, in and out of print, the blog does try to direct attention to books that have been recently published.  Reviews of new (or newly reprinted) books generally appear every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday.  Reviews of older books appear on occasional Sundays.  Readers are invited and encouraged to comment.  See About Tzer Island for more information about this blog, its categorization of reviews, and its rating system.

Entries in Jennifer Kitses (1)


Small Hours by Jennifer Kitses

Published by Grand Central Publishing on June 13, 2017

Small Hours is a slice-of-married-life family drama. The slice consists of an eventful, life-changing day for both spouses, although since they spend little of that day together. They make independent decisions after experiencing unrelated events, but their decisions are ultimately connected.

Tom and Helen Foster have moved to the “achingly quiet” town of Devon in the Hudson Valley to raise their two daughters. Tom, a wire service editor, is increasingly overwhelmed by anxiety while Helen, a graphic designer, works off her anger by punching a bag at the local gym.

Tom and Helen are keeping secrets. Tom’s anxiety concerns a recently born daughter Helen doesn’t know about. Tom would like to play an active parenting role with that daughter, just as he does with his other daughters, but he fears Helen would leave him if he told her the truth.

Helen knows about Tom’s affair and thinks she has moved past it. Still, Helen is consumed with anger. The anger is partly driven by credit card balances she hasn’t told Tom about, and partly by the difficulty of balancing the demands of her underpaid work-at-home job with the demands of her daughters. But Helen also feels her life spinning out of control in small ways that make her question her fitness as a mother, including her run-in with a couple of teenage girls she dismisses as white trash.

The slow build of tension makes the reader understand that the situations in which Tom and Helen find themselves are unsustainable. Tom’s bond with Donna’s child is growing, as is Donna’s concern about her daughter’s “secret daddy.” Tom and Helen are increasingly on edge as the story progresses. The characters are searching for a happy ending to their stories, but it seems likely that one character's happiness will hurt at least one other character. How all of that will shake out is the primary question that drive the plot.

Neither Helen nor Tom are ideal people. Helen is remarkably needy. Her needs are unfulfilled, and probably incapable of being fulfilled. Tom is remarkably selfish, as he demonstrates repeatedly. The story doesn’t make for pleasant reading because Helen and Tom are at their worst and I can’t imagine wanting to know either of them. The story nevertheless has value because Jennifer Kitses opens a window on the problems and attitudes of realistic characters. Even the secondary characters (particularly a teenage boy who stands up for Helen, a “good kid who made bad choices”) are recognizable as people, not just stereotypes inserted to move the story along.

The novel ends with Helen and Tom making decisions. They have more decisions to make, and their decisions will have consequences, but Kitses leaves it to the reader to imagine how it will all play out. Small Hours is a novel of small moments, but it offers big insights into the choices that are forced upon people as they struggle to decide how their lives should proceed.