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January 17, 2020

George Ernsberger - Columnist
Posted 1/17/20

FAILURE TO LAUNCH: Why Your Twenty-Something Hasn't Grown Up and What to Do About It by Mark McConville, Ph.D (Putnam). Yes, yet another book for parents about “transitioners” (this book's …

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January 17, 2020


FAILURE TO LAUNCH: Why Your Twenty-Something Hasn't Grown Up and What to Do About It by Mark McConville, Ph.D (Putnam). Yes, yet another book for parents about “transitioners” (this book's term—but recently, you'll recall, the column recommended a book on three-year-olds (no longer babies, but—); then, soon after that, one about middle-schoolers (almost teen-agers, except. . .). One difference here is that this author has the intelligent, informed suspicion—not quite a finished theory—that we are living in a world—an economy—that really is different from the one we grew up in, in ways that contribute to the inertia of supposed grown-ups still living in their old bedrooms upstairs. Chiefly, he's offering that insight, if I understand him correctly, as a way of motivating their parents to do some work with their young-ish mope-about(s). Maybe something more constructive than just ignoring or haranguing them (he sympathizes warmly with those who reach that futile condition—maybe he's done some of it himself?). His recommendations really amount to a sort of un-clinical psychotherapy. He gives you ways of talking (and not) that are meant to encourage them to talk, with feeling, about the state they're really in, and what they think they're doing, and what they'd really, honest-to-goodness, like to do—you know, in the real world. And that—trust me on this—that is what psychotherapists do. And, yes, you can do it, too. It isn't magic (it won't have them out by spring). But it really could be a positive, productive start; it could even refresh family life.

GRACE IS GONE by Emily Elgar (Harper). A psychological thriller of real power, the second novel by an author whose very successful first (IF YOU KNEW HER) the column overlooked, among a lot of good, recommendable thrillers of this kind. Psychological suspense, women at the center, unreliable characters—including even the first-person narrator, sometimes—has turned out to be a solid framework for great storytelling. There have been a lot of them that have worked really well and lived on bestseller lists. In this sterling example, point of view shifts—narrators replace one another by chapter, and never confusingly. The relationship between the two narrators with separate motivations, and how they talk and when, contributes to just the right level of unease. Tension builds, but we know we're in good, sure hands.

TREASON: A STONE BARRINGTON NOVEL by Stuart Woods (Putnam). Needs only to be ID'ed, here, surely. Smart, fast-moving, action-packed as always. His regular readers won't be surprised, but: this one is, though a full-length adventure, maybe even a bit more than usual the first several chapters of a really fat crime thriller, rather than a separate novel in the series; some suspense is resolved, and there's a fine chase as a climax—but, clearly, a close sequel is coming.


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