Book List

Kirkus Indie Books of the Month - May 2016

A cleareyed, moving portrait of Alzheimer’s and the family ties that transcend it.

Come Live With Me

A MEMOIR OF FAMILY, ALZHEIMER'S, AND HOPE

In this luminous debut memoir, a woman struggles to care for her Alzheimer’s-stricken mother, experiencing exhaustion, heartache, moments of joy, and a renewed connection to her loved ones.

Kincaid, an only child who never married, spent a decade caring for her mother, Dixie Garrett Kincaid, after she began suffering from dementia, eventually taking her into her own Arlington, Virginia, home. As the disease progressed from forgetfulness to eccentricity to losses of reason, self-control, and language, the author found herself becoming a parent to her mother, whom she often characterizes as being as helpless and demanding as an infant yet big and mobile enough to cause chaos. Kincaid is unsparing about the realities of Alzheimer’s care, describing her mother’s hygiene problems and violent outbursts; her sometimes-charming, sometimes-infuriating habit of hiding clothes and household objects; and her recurrent medical emergencies, exacerbated by her inability to explain what was wrong. The author also describes her own sleep deprivation and her feelings of intense guilt when she had to deposit her mother in respite care to let herself recuperate. She cogently criticizes the nationwide Alzheimer’s-care network for its frequent lapses and callousness, castigates doctors for making cavalier treatment decisions without considering her mother’s circumstances, and accuses a nursing facility of making false medical claims to justify sending her mother back to the hospital. The author’s wrangles with HMO doctors to get treatment for her own serious ailments, including breast cancer, constitute an appalling health care horror story of its own. But there are also rewards here: her mother’s once-difficult temperament improves as she experiences happiness, satisfaction, and episodes of clarity, and Kincaid’s caregiving results in a deeper familial bond. The author sets the story of her care against descriptions of her fraught relationship with her mother before her decline and of the strong, inspirational women in her extended family. In vivid, graceful prose, she offers an honest account of the burdens of Alzheimer’s patients without losing sight of their importance in the lives of those who care for them.

A cleareyed, moving portrait of Alzheimer’s and the family ties that transcend it.

Pub Date: Sept. 30, 2015

ISBN: 978-1-5176-1343-3

Page Count: 294

Publisher: CreateSpace

Review Posted Online: Feb. 18, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2016

Forthright, compassionate, and expertly crafted—everything readers should want from a memoir.

Ruined

A memoir offers extensive reportage of a sexual assault and a reflection on the author’s future course and evolving faith.

Everhart (Chasing the Divine in the Holy Land, 2012) has been a Presbyterian pastor for more than 25 years. Being raped as a young woman sparked a bitter faith crisis and a long journey toward healing and the ministry. One night in November 1978, two masked African-American gunmen broke into the home she and five other female Calvin College seniors shared in a rough area of Grand Rapids, Michigan. It was ostensibly a robbery, but they also raped all but one hostage. Mini explanatory flashbacks give background about Everhart’s upbringing in the conservative Dutch Reformed Church and her unfamiliarity with blacks; rather than breaking up the narrative flow, these sections maintain tension throughout the incident. Admirably, the book faces ironies and grim realities head-on: when one gunman ordered her to strip, Everhart sucked in her stomach; she was menstruating heavily, so hospital staff administering a rape kit had to remove two tampons. She’d been raised to accept the Calvinist doctrine of God’s sovereignty, meaning nothing is random: was rape her punishment for having consensual sex during her summer job at Yellowstone? “I had bought into an idea of sexual sin that was unequal,” she remarks, with heavier punishment falling on women. This notion of being “ruined,” which intensified after her affair with a married man, haunted the author for years, even after the crime’s ringleader was sentenced to life in prison. Only gradually, through attending multiracial and women-led churches of other denominations, did she overcome her fear of African-American men and reclaim the possibility of biblical feminism. Incorporating trial documents (including transcripts of the prosecutor’s closing argument and a defendant’s and judge’s court statements) and an excerpted seminary essay, the perfectly balanced volume has equal relevance for readers of true crime and progressive theology. This consistently riveting book ends with Everhart’s tender letter to her daughters, reassuring them that a woman’s worth is not dictated by sexual experiences. “Love and suffering are tied together” through Christ’s incarnation, she insists, yet “we are all more than what happens to us.”

Forthright, compassionate, and expertly crafted—everything readers should want from a memoir.

Pub Date: Aug. 2, 2016

ISBN: 978-1-4964-1392-5

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Tyndale House

Review Posted Online: Feb. 16, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2016

A delightful take on the theme of a boy and his dog, full of detailed—and frequently funny—images and a valuable message...

The Egg Thief

A boy tries to figure out how to replace some missing eggs in this picture book about community and family.

Georgie feels too sleepy to perform his morning chores, but Mama reminds him the eggs “aren’t going to collect themselves.” Georgie ventures out into the ominous clouds and enters the barn only to discover that the eggs are gone. The culprit? A scruffy-looking dog with perfect puppy-dog eyes and a big personality. Georgie names the dog, who is ready to help the boy find a solution to the egg problem, Buster. The dog’s first plan involves Georgie stealing some duck eggs; but that ends with the boy in the stream and still eggless after Buster pulls him out. Buster’s next scheme takes Georgie to Widow Kolbach’s barn. Georgie tries to keep Buster from crossing into her yard, but before the boy can get away, Widow Kolbach spots him. In a surprise twist, the widow needs help in her henhouse, and she allows Georgie to keep half of the eggs he collects for her. “How’d you know she needed help?” Georgie asks Buster. The sweet tale ends happily: Georgie not only obtains his eggs (and Buster gets a new home), but the pair also assists someone who needs an extra hand. Gallegos’ wonderful, tonally perfect images expertly capture Buster’s moods, from looking appropriately shamefaced, his tail between his legs and his ears drooping, to feeling perky. The dog’s excitement, inventiveness, and loyalty to Georgie spring off the page. The pair’s facial expressions are also brilliantly executed in the artwork. The story’s hint about the importance of kindness resonates, especially in light of so many recent news reports about bullying. Adams (The Coal Thief, 2015, etc.) uses challenging, but perfectly appropriate, vocabulary words, like “squelched” for the sound of the mud on Georgie’s boots. The introduction of these words, the small text size, and the historical, rural setting in the illustrations (Georgie wears knickers; midcalf, lace-up boots; and a newsboy cap) may skew the audience to confident early elementary readers (grades two and three).

A delightful take on the theme of a boy and his dog, full of detailed—and frequently funny—images and a valuable message about paying attention to the needs of your neighbors.

Pub Date: April 5, 2016

ISBN: 978-1-940716-36-7

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Spark Press

Review Posted Online: March 7, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2016

Prose and stories that, even at their darkest, are still resoundingly beautiful.

Journeys Off the Road

A collection delivers a series of 15 understated tales tinged with sentiment, perceptiveness, and buoyancy.

More than a few of the stories in this book revolve around World War II, shackling characters during the conflict and years later. In the opener, “Old Soldiers,” former GI John Talmadge tracks down Father Kolbe in Germany, with intimate knowledge of brother Henning’s wartime death. “The Swastika,” meanwhile, is unsettling, in which apparent neo-Nazis are harassing Vernon Benson. Seeking help, he may have picked the wrong place, a protection/security company run by Don Morandi, who secretly knows a great deal about Benson, including his real name. Stories unrelated to World War II are just as affecting, with people from various walks of life burdened by random events. The main character in “Scofield’s Dream,” for example, stays at Jack’s hospital bedside, since his friend’s serious injury stems from a car accident that Scofield caused. The affluent Sumner Wainwright III has an encumbrance of a different sort in “The Transplant.” He’ll soon need a new kidney, but the bigot doesn’t want the organ of “just any derelict off the street.” A few of the stories are noticeably short, but “The Shadows,” in particular, is a sweet, rewarding account of John and Sally and their daily shared park bench. Not surprisingly, much of the volume is somber and despondent. “The Deserter” spotlights radioman Hopkins, a coward who only knows how to run when the enemy is close, while a man’s 17-year-old son in “The Last Hunt” may be too sensitive even to witness the shooting of a deer. There are, however, occasions of cheeriness; mom Liz watching little Francie head for “The School Bus” on her first day of kindergarten is melancholic but mostly hopeful. Hilfiker (Memorial Day, 2015) sears his words onto the pages, filling them with passages that reverberate. One instance is a corporal in “First Meetings,” alone after losing his fellow soldiers: “Standing there in this quiet tomb with the last scent of acrid gun smoke still detectable, thinking that I was the lucky one and then wondering if I really was. For them it was over.”

Prose and stories that, even at their darkest, are still resoundingly beautiful.

Pub Date: Nov. 18, 2015

ISBN: 978-1-5023-2694-2

Page Count: 198

Publisher: Elmcroft Publications

Review Posted Online: March 3, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2016

A buzz-worthy initial offering in a planned mystery series.

Said the Fly

A blowfly, a grasshopper leg, and a tiny flower are the unlikely clues that help a zoologist track down a killer in this dazzling island mystery.

Whoever killed nightclub owner and single mother Esmeralda didn’t count on there being any witnesses. But there was one, of sorts: a fly, crawling on Esmeralda’s body as she lay dead on a Canary Islands beach. The fact that the fly wanted to deposit its eggs in the fatal knife laceration reveals a lot about the temperature of the body and its decaying process—information that could help establish a time of death. A katydid leg and a floret tangled in the victim’s hair indicate that the crime took place in a different location. But where, and why? Epiphany Jerome, a Mexican-American woman with a doctorate in zoology and expertise is necrophageous scavengers, aims to help local authorities. She’s vacationing on the island with her Italian-German husband, Mimmo, in a rental owned by the victim’s mother, Constanze Therese; Esmerelda’s 11-year-old granddaughter, Serenella, likes to play with the couple’s dog. Epiphany and Mimmo’s true home is in Berlin, where she works at the Museum of Natural History and he runs a restaurantThe eatery is a favorite of the city’s elite and the preferred restaurant of a redheaded call girl that Epiphany calls “Strawberry Shortcake.” That woman’s Russian Mafia bodyguard, Mikail “the Finger” Petrove, is involved in drug dealing and other gang-related crimes. These characters both surprisingly show up on the island, giving credence to Mimmo’s theory that drugs are at the heart of Esmeralda’s murder. Epiphany and Mimmo’s relationship is rich with conflict as well as passionate, “California firestorm” sex. This smartly written novel’s pacing varies, from methodical autopsies in a morgue to a heart-pounding attack in a deserted canyon restaurant. It also has a palpable international flavor, with its sprinkling of Italian, Spanish, and German dialogue and references to Mexican cultural beliefs. Observations about death, ingrained Catholicism, and female independence add depth to the narrative, and the dialogue also rings true; for example, Esmeralda’s manicurist explains that her late client, a bar-owner, drank too much, but “it’s hard to be in that kind of place all night drinking Fanta.”

A buzz-worthy initial offering in a planned mystery series.

Pub Date: March 9, 2016

ISBN: 978-1-5301-9765-1

Page Count: 202

Publisher: Traveling Light Press

Review Posted Online: March 7, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2016

Readers should hardly notice the novel’s epic length, breezing through laudable characters and a global plot running at full...

Red Phoenix Burning

In this military thriller, a coup in North Korea begets civil war, which, given the country’s chemical and nuclear weapons, could have worldwide repercussions.

The apparent redeployment of North Korean troops from the Demilitarized Zone surprises South Korean and American officers alike. They rightly surmise that a coup is under way against Supreme Leader Kim Jong Un. Kim’s initially rumored assassination becomes a reality when millions who tuned in to the leader’s televised announcement witness his death. The resultant fighting in North Korea is between three factions: the Kim family, the Korean Workers’ Party, and the military. But other nations especially worry about North Korea’s “nuclear stockpile.” South Korea sends army units to secure the area by tackling the North’s nuclear facilities and chemical-weapons depots. North Korean civilians trying to escape via the country’s border with China, meanwhile, are getting shot by Chinese soldiers stationed there. Camps set up for the refugees are quickly overwhelmed by the staggering number of people who need food and water. China, like everyone else, is apprehensive about Kim’s armaments. The country decides to march troops into North Korea to find and destroy the nuclear weapons on its own. But an altercation between China and South Korea/U.S. allies is feasible and might spark a war. This swiftly paced, 510-page novel is a sequel to Bond’s 1989 Red Phoenix (with Patrick Larkin). A beginning recap forgoes any necessity to read the previous book, though it’s a treat to see returning characters like Col. Kevin Little at the DMZ. There’s no real central character, giving the narrative an appropriate expansiveness among its Korean, American, Chinese, and even Russian characters. Hero status is shared, too, and standouts include Col. Rhee Han-gil, who leads a brigade covertly into North Korean territory, and Cho Ho-jin, a spy for the Russians who ultimately aligns with South Korea. Bond and Carlson (Lash-Up, 2015, etc.) bounce the story from scene to scene like a tightly edited action movie, an impressive tempo kick-started in the opening when Little’s immediately under fire trying to help potential defectors fleeing to South Korea.

Readers should hardly notice the novel’s epic length, breezing through laudable characters and a global plot running at full tilt.

Pub Date: March 16, 2016

ISBN: 978-1-5196-3538-9

Page Count: 510

Publisher: CreateSpace

Review Posted Online: March 11, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2016

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