A somber but absorbing Civil War tale about overcoming guilt.

LONG SHADOWS

In this debut novel, a Confederate soldier’s ghost laments his horrific war experiences and a secret that’s tormented him for years.

Tom Smiley has spent more than a century in his childhood Virginia home, long after his family members’ deaths and his own. He’s devastated when Phoebe and her husband inherit and invade the long-empty house. The couple’s presence stirs up Tom’s memories, starting with his 18-year-old self in the 1860s. As American states secede, a passionate speaker ropes him and others into enlisting in a “volunteer militia.” The young men hardly consider the militia’s anti-government stance or “the reasons behind the conflict.” Tom and his fellow soldiers soon feel trapped, as deserters are executed. They endure the grueling Civil War, from watching friends die in battle to appalling treatment at a Union prison camp. Despite Tom’s loving spouse and the children they have later, a horrible secret mercilessly burdens him. Unexpectedly, Phoebe, who has “second sight,” offers to help the ghost whose presence she senses. If Tom confesses to her and to himself, he may come to terms with what he did so long ago. Cutter paints a vivid portrait of the 19th century—a time of slavery and civil unrest. Her grim story reveals the suffering on all fronts. Union soldiers prove menacing at the prison camp as well as in their assaults in Virginia that Tom’s parents and sisters witness. The author’s striking prose invigorates such scenes as a close-quarters battle with bayonets while cannons roar and bombs continually explode. Tom, who narrates, is naïve but sympathetic; he worries about his friends’ well-being, whether under enemy fire or as prisoners. The engrossing story understandably centers on these young soldiers, with a nominal focus on the female characters, including Tom’s wife and even Phoebe. Tom’s sister Mary is a notable exception, with her letters and writings providing intriguing insights into the family in Virginia.

A somber but absorbing Civil War tale about overcoming guilt.

Pub Date: July 12, 2022

ISBN: 978-1-64742-387-2

Page Count: 344

Publisher: She Writes Press

Review Posted Online: March 29, 2022

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A tale that’s at once familiar and full of odd and unexpected twists—vintage King, in other words.

FAIRY TALE

Narnia on the Penobscot: a grand, and naturally strange, entertainment from the ever prolific King.

What’s a person to do when sheltering from Covid? In King’s case, write something to entertain himself while reflecting on what was going on in the world outside—ravaged cities, contentious politics, uncertainty. King’s yarn begins in a world that’s recognizably ours, and with a familiar trope: A young woman, out to buy fried chicken, is mashed by a runaway plumber’s van, sending her husband into an alcoholic tailspin and her son into a preadolescent funk, driven “bugfuck” by a father who “was always trying to apologize.” The son makes good by rescuing an elderly neighbor who’s fallen off a ladder, though he protests that the man’s equally elderly German shepherd, Radar, was the true hero. Whatever the case, Mr. Bowditch has an improbable trove of gold in his Bates Motel of a home, and its origin seems to lie in a shed behind the house, one that Mr. Bowditch warns the boy away from: “ ‘Don’t go in there,’ he said. ‘You may in time, but for now don’t even think of it.’ ” It’s not Pennywise who awaits in the underworld behind the shed door, but there’s plenty that’s weird and unexpected, including a woman, Dora, whose “skin was slate gray and her face was cruelly deformed,” and a whole bunch of people—well, sort of people, anyway—who’d like nothing better than to bring their special brand of evil up to our world’s surface. King’s young protagonist, Charlie Reade, is resourceful beyond his years, but it helps that the old dog gains some of its youthful vigor in the depths below. King delivers a more or less traditional fable that includes a knowing nod: “I think I know what you want,” Charlie tells the reader, "and now you have it”—namely, a happy ending but with a suitably sardonic wink.

A tale that’s at once familiar and full of odd and unexpected twists—vintage King, in other words.

Pub Date: Sept. 6, 2022

ISBN: 978-1-66800-217-9

Page Count: 608

Publisher: Scribner

Review Posted Online: June 22, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2022

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With captivating dialogue, angst-y characters, and a couple of steamy sex scenes, Hoover has done it again.

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REMINDERS OF HIM

After being released from prison, a young woman tries to reconnect with her 5-year-old daughter despite having killed the girl’s father.

Kenna didn’t even know she was pregnant until after she was sent to prison for murdering her boyfriend, Scotty. When her baby girl, Diem, was born, she was forced to give custody to Scotty’s parents. Now that she’s been released, Kenna is intent on getting to know her daughter, but Scotty’s parents won’t give her a chance to tell them what really happened the night their son died. Instead, they file a restraining order preventing Kenna from so much as introducing herself to Diem. Handsome, self-assured Ledger, who was Scotty’s best friend, is another key adult in Diem’s life. He’s helping her grandparents raise her, and he too blames Kenna for Scotty’s death. Even so, there’s something about her that haunts him. Kenna feels the pull, too, and seems to be seeking Ledger out despite his judgmental behavior. As Ledger gets to know Kenna and acknowledges his attraction to her, he begins to wonder if maybe he and Scotty’s parents have judged her unfairly. Even so, Ledger is afraid that if he surrenders to his feelings, Scotty’s parents will kick him out of Diem’s life. As Kenna and Ledger continue to mourn for Scotty, they also grieve the future they cannot have with each other. Told alternatively from Kenna’s and Ledger’s perspectives, the story explores the myriad ways in which snap judgments based on partial information can derail people’s lives. Built on a foundation of death and grief, this story has an undercurrent of sadness. As usual, however, the author has created compelling characters who are magnetic and sympathetic enough to pull readers in. In addition to grief, the novel also deftly explores complex issues such as guilt, self-doubt, redemption, and forgiveness.

With captivating dialogue, angst-y characters, and a couple of steamy sex scenes, Hoover has done it again.

Pub Date: Jan. 18, 2022

ISBN: 978-1-5420-2560-7

Page Count: 335

Publisher: Montlake Romance

Review Posted Online: Oct. 13, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 2021

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