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THE HISTORY OF SOUND

Intricately structured, powerfully emotional, beautifully written: This is as good as short fiction gets.

A dozen paired stories, thematically unified across decades and centuries.

Echoing a song form popular in 18th-century New England, the second story in each pair deepens and clarifies the first. A painting of a bird left as a parting gift in 1796 (“Edwin Chase of Nantucket”) turns up in a widow’s attic more than 200 years later (“The Silver Clip”), yet in both it is a token of regret and loss. The Massachusetts apple orchard where Hope abandoned her baby in 1881 (“Graft”) has been reduced by the 21st century to “a few grizzly old apple trees” on a property owned by a couple desperate to help their son, lost to drug addiction (“Tundra Swan”). A mysterious 1991 photo of a bird presumed to be extinct prompts a podcast episode 30 years later in “Radiolab: ‘Singularities,’” but in “The Auk” we learn that it is a husband’s poignant tribute to his dying wife. This particular pair is the only one that presents an explicit explanation of a mystery posed by the first tale; the unsettling duos of “August in the Forest”/“The Journal of Thomas Thurber” and “The Children of the New Eden”/“Introduction to The Dietzens…” are more typical in evoking a sense of connection without presuming entirely to explain the mysterious workings of destiny and the human heart. The paired stories that open and close the collection are perhaps the saddest: Wax cylinders used to make field recordings of traditional folk songs in 1916 appear as symbols of cherished first love lost in “The History of Sound,” but in “Origin Stories” they prompt a painful acknowledgment that first love sometimes would be better left behind. Shattuck writes with delicacy and restraint of the uncertainties, missed signals, and mixed feelings that trouble personal relationships across the centuries even as we yearn for love and meaning.

Intricately structured, powerfully emotional, beautifully written: This is as good as short fiction gets.

Pub Date: July 9, 2024

ISBN: 9780593490389

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Viking

Review Posted Online: May 4, 2024

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 2024

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THE GOD OF THE WOODS

"Don't go into the woods" takes on unsettling new meaning in Moore's blend of domestic drama and crime novel.

Many years after her older brother, Bear, went missing, Barbara Van Laar vanishes from the same sleepaway camp he did, leading to dark, bitter truths about her wealthy family.

One morning in 1975 at Camp Emerson—an Adirondacks summer camp owned by her family—it's discovered that 13-year-old Barbara isn't in her bed. A problem case whose unhappily married parents disdain her goth appearance and "stormy" temperament, Barbara is secretly known by one bunkmate to have slipped out every night after bedtime. But no one has a clue where's she permanently disappeared to, firing speculation that she was taken by a local serial killer known as Slitter. As Jacob Sluiter, he was convicted of 11 murders in the 1960s and recently broke out of prison. He's the one, people say, who should have been prosecuted for Bear's abduction, not a gardener who was framed. Leave it to the young and unproven assistant investigator, Judy Luptack, to press forward in uncovering the truth, unswayed by her bullying father and male colleagues who question whether women are "cut out for this work." An unsavory group portrait of the Van Laars emerges in which the children's father cruelly abuses their submissive mother, who is so traumatized by the loss of Bear—and the possible role she played in it—that she has no love left for her daughter. Picking up on the themes of families in search of themselves she explored in Long Bright River (2020), Moore draws sympathy to characters who have been subjected to spousal, parental, psychological, and physical abuse. As rich in background detail and secondary mysteries as it is, this ever-expansive, intricate, emotionally engaging novel never seems overplotted. Every piece falls skillfully into place and every character, major and minor, leaves an imprint.

"Don't go into the woods" takes on unsettling new meaning in Moore's blend of domestic drama and crime novel.

Pub Date: July 2, 2024

ISBN: 9780593418918

Page Count: 496

Publisher: Riverhead

Review Posted Online: April 13, 2024

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2024

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SANDWICH

A moving, hilarious reminder that parenthood, just like life, means constant change.

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During an annual beach vacation, a mother confronts her past and learns to move forward.

Her family’s annual trip to Cape Cod is always the highlight of Rocky’s year—even more so now that her children are grown and she cherishes what little time she gets with them. Rocky is deep in the throes of menopause, picking fights with her loving husband and occasionally throwing off her clothes during a hot flash, much to the chagrin of her family. She’s also dealing with her parents, who are crammed into the same small summer house (with one toilet that only occasionally spews sewage everywhere) and who are aging at an alarmingly rapid rate. Rocky’s life is full of change, from her body to her identity—she frequently flashes back to the vacations of years past, when her children were tiny. Although she’s grateful for the family she has, she mourns what she’s lost. Newman (author of the equally wonderful We All Want Impossible Things, 2022) imbues Rocky’s internal struggles with importance and gravity, all while showcasing her very funny observations about life and parenting. She examines motherhood with a raw honesty that few others manage—she remembers the hard parts, the depths of despair, panic, and anxiety that can happen with young children, and she also recounts the joy in a way that never feels saccharine. She has a gift for exploring the real, messy contradictions in human emotions. As Rocky puts it, “This may be the only reason we were put on this earth. To say to each other, I know how you feel.”

A moving, hilarious reminder that parenthood, just like life, means constant change.

Pub Date: June 18, 2024

ISBN: 9780063345164

Page Count: 240

Publisher: Harper/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: March 23, 2024

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2024

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