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CYCLORAMA

A somber warning about the insidious consequences of hatred.

A troupe of teenage actors confronts Anne Frank’s legacy.

“We don’t need the Nazis to destroy us; we’re destroying ourselves.” Langer takes Otto Frank’s chilling remark as the epigraph for an ambitious novel that reminds readers that the social and political seeds of Nazism have not been obliterated. It’s 1982, and in a suburban high school north of Chicago, 10 students are vying for a part in The Diary of Anne Frank, the annual spring play. Who will be chosen, and who will star, depends on the whims of their director, Tyrus Densmore. Abusive, predatory, and manipulative, Densmore is filled with shame and anger. Mired in an unhappy marriage, the father of a son with mental illness, and a failed actor himself, he knows that the power he wields over his vulnerable students “was inversely proportional to the power he had over his own life.” The teenage characters include some predictable types—bully, nerd, slut, rebel, closeted gay; a few are arrogant and entitled, others are needy and wounded. Insecure about who they are, they perform for one another, not only on stage. As one boy later admits, he “often had trouble telling the difference between when he was feeling an emotion or just acting it out.” Langer focuses each chapter on one character’s role (Anne, Mr. Frank, Peter Van Daan), underscoring the novel’s connection to the play, which becomes more overt when we meet up with the cast members in 2016. No longer angst-riddled teens, they are adults in their 50s who, it turns out, have been indelibly shaped by their performance in Anne Frank and, they painfully realize, by their interactions with Densmore. The drama of the second half of the novel recalls the persecution and victimization that led to Anne’s tragic end and raises the novel’s overarching question: What responsibility does each of us have to one another?

A somber warning about the insidious consequences of hatred.

Pub Date: Aug. 2, 2022

ISBN: 978-1-63557-806-5

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Bloomsbury

Review Posted Online: May 10, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 2022

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THE WOMEN

A dramatic, vividly detailed reconstruction of a little-known aspect of the Vietnam War.

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A young woman’s experience as a nurse in Vietnam casts a deep shadow over her life.

When we learn that the farewell party in the opening scene is for Frances “Frankie” McGrath’s older brother—“a golden boy, a wild child who could make the hardest heart soften”—who is leaving to serve in Vietnam in 1966, we feel pretty certain that poor Finley McGrath is marked for death. Still, it’s a surprise when the fateful doorbell rings less than 20 pages later. His death inspires his sister to enlist as an Army nurse, and this turn of events is just the beginning of a roller coaster of a plot that’s impressive and engrossing if at times a bit formulaic. Hannah renders the experiences of the young women who served in Vietnam in all-encompassing detail. The first half of the book, set in gore-drenched hospital wards, mildewed dorm rooms, and boozy officers’ clubs, is an exciting read, tracking the transformation of virginal, uptight Frankie into a crack surgical nurse and woman of the world. Her tensely platonic romance with a married surgeon ends when his broken, unbreathing body is airlifted out by helicopter; she throws her pent-up passion into a wild affair with a soldier who happens to be her dead brother’s best friend. In the second part of the book, after the war, Frankie seems to experience every possible bad break. A drawback of the story is that none of the secondary characters in her life are fully three-dimensional: Her dismissive, chauvinistic father and tight-lipped, pill-popping mother, her fellow nurses, and her various love interests are more plot devices than people. You’ll wish you could have gone to Vegas and placed a bet on the ending—while it’s against all the odds, you’ll see it coming from a mile away.

A dramatic, vividly detailed reconstruction of a little-known aspect of the Vietnam War.

Pub Date: Feb. 6, 2024

ISBN: 9781250178633

Page Count: 480

Publisher: St. Martin's

Review Posted Online: Nov. 4, 2023

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2023

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IT STARTS WITH US

Through palpable tension balanced with glimmers of hope, Hoover beautifully captures the heartbreak and joy of starting over.

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The sequel to It Ends With Us (2016) shows the aftermath of domestic violence through the eyes of a single mother.

Lily Bloom is still running a flower shop; her abusive ex-husband, Ryle Kincaid, is still a surgeon. But now they’re co-parenting a daughter, Emerson, who's almost a year old. Lily won’t send Emerson to her father’s house overnight until she’s old enough to talk—“So she can tell me if something happens”—but she doesn’t want to fight for full custody lest it become an expensive legal drama or, worse, a physical fight. When Lily runs into Atlas Corrigan, a childhood friend who also came from an abusive family, she hopes their friendship can blossom into love. (For new readers, their history unfolds in heartfelt diary entries that Lily addresses to Finding Nemo star Ellen DeGeneres as she considers how Atlas was a calming presence during her turbulent childhood.) Atlas, who is single and running a restaurant, feels the same way. But even though she’s divorced, Lily isn’t exactly free. Behind Ryle’s veneer of civility are his jealousy and resentment. Lily has to plan her dates carefully to avoid a confrontation. Meanwhile, Atlas’ mother returns with shocking news. In between, Lily and Atlas steal away for romantic moments that are even sweeter for their authenticity as Lily struggles with child care, breastfeeding, and running a business while trying to find time for herself.

Through palpable tension balanced with glimmers of hope, Hoover beautifully captures the heartbreak and joy of starting over.

Pub Date: Oct. 18, 2022

ISBN: 978-1-668-00122-6

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Atria

Review Posted Online: July 26, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2022

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