cover image Unleashed


Cai Emmons. Dutton, $27 (304p) ISBN 978-0-593-47144-9

A pair of empty nesters and their daughter face mounting crises in the affecting if muddled latest from Emmons (Sinking Islands). Stay-at-home mom Lu Vasquez and vintner George Barnes drive their daughter, Philippa, from their home in Sonoma, Calif., to Los Angeles for college. Back home, Lu abandons cooking and bristles at George’s suggestion that she find a degree to finish. Meanwhile, Philippa’s landlady complains about her cat, prompting her to secretly take her pet to class. This draws attention from her charismatic zoology professor, Dar Mulligan. Philippa frequents Dar’s office hours, and though uncertain of her own intentions, she loves their freewheeling conversations about animal behavior. Meanwhile, news stories of people vanishing without a trace bubble in the background, George flies to Florida following his father’s stroke, Philippa’s cat goes missing, and Lu has to evacuate ahead of a wildfire. Family communications become sparser as tensions mount and there’s an unexpected speculative turn involving animals in the third act. Though Emmons does a good job showing how Lu is adrift and Philippa struggles to fit in, the many threads don’t hang together. In the end, it’s a fragmented collage of a family reeling from changes. Agent: Deborah Schneider, Gelfman Schneider Literary. (Sept.)