By David Canfield and Leah Greenblatt
June 27, 2019 at 03:14 PM EDT
Ballantine Books; Flatiron Books; Knopf

Just because it’s the season of ice cream trucks and SPF doesn’t mean you have to settle for a summer of lazy, sandy-bottomed lit. Here, three smart new additions for your poolside tote that are all pleasure, no guilt.

Evvie Drake Starts Over, by Linda Holmes

Eveleth “Evvie” Drake is too young to be a widow, and Dean Tenney is too young to retire. But here they both are: 30ish Evvie rattling around her big empty house in coastal Maine and maybe not missing her late husband as much as everyone thinks she does, and disgraced pitcher Dean, a New York Yankee with a career-ending case of the “yips.” She’s got more than enough room for an extra tenant, and he wants to get as far away from Manhattan — and the still-hounding sports media — as he can. Holmes, a pop culture correspondent for NPR, fills her debut with wry humor, romance, and just enough edge to make you buy into her gentle fantasy. B+

—Leah Greenblatt

Whisper Network, by Chandler Baker

A sort of Big Little Lies in a Texas power suit, Whisper offers a crackling exposé of working motherhood, corporate malfeasance, and female friendship in the era of #MeToo. At a Nike-esque athletic apparel company in Dallas, five women — from sleek blond attorneys in the C-suite to the cleaning lady executives hardly deign to notice emptying their trash cans — are drawn together by the sudden death of their philandering boss. Was it simple suicide, or did his history of crossing social and sexual boundaries finally catch up to him? Though Baker, herself a lawyer, doesn’t quite stick the landing, she captures keenly what it means to be a modern woman in an old boys’ world. A-


Very Nice, by Marcy Dermansky

Delusion runs deep in Very Nice, a juicy tale of bad behavior between Rachel, a talented M.F.A. student; Zahid, her suave writing professor; and Becca, her newly separated mother. The setup is ideally soapy: Rachel seduces Zahid. Zahid falls in love with Becca. And all three find themselves under the same roof, of Becca’s ritzy Connecticut home, complete with a glistening swimming pool and perfectly carbonated seltzer. Adding to the intrigue are Jonathan, Becca’s ex-husband and Rachel’s father, and his cynical colleague Khloe. In short, nasty chapters, Dermansky (The Red Car) stacks this house of cards with cool, bitingly clever prose. And when it falls, Very Nice gets pretty mean — but gloriously so. A-

—David Canfield


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