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MIRACULOUS MEDAL

A richly empathetic portrait of four strivers in life and faith in old Baltimore.

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A historical novel about a small group of characters living and working in mid-20th-century Baltimore.

The latest book from Koesters, a sequel to Union Square (2018), takes place in Baltimore and concentrates on a few days and four characters: young girls Marnie Signorelli and Alice Smaling, Catholic priest John Martin, and a poor parish worker named Jezriel “Jeb” Heath. Koesters follows each of them through the everyday events and vicissitudes of their lives over the course of Easter Week in 1964. Each of the book’s four long sections places the focus on a different character, taking readers into their inner worlds and, in the process, providing a composite and ultimately beguiling portrait of Baltimore 60 years ago—a Southern city characterized, in this book, by old-style Catholicism and lingering racism. The latter is handled with unflinching realism, as when Jeb, who’s Black, remembers hard-edged advice that he received from the men who taught him how to shine shoes regarding how to use the city’s streetcars: Give your fare to the driver without touching his hand, he’s told. “Then you go all the way to the back and sit down….If a white lady or white man have to come in the back, you get off the street car and walk the rest of the way you going.” Koesters follows her small cast of central characters through their involvement with both church and personal faith, from cerebral, compassionate Father John to impulsive young Marnie, who “knew what everything was, just about, but not always the best way to solve a problem,” her friend and neighbor Alice, and Jeb, who “was forty and looked sixty.” The latter’s internal drama is the most commanding strand in a work that, at its best, invites richly deserved comparison to that of Ernest J. Gaines.

A richly empathetic portrait of four strivers in life and faith in old Baltimore.

Pub Date: May 1, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-62720-253-4

Page Count: 246

Publisher: Apprentice House

Review Posted Online: Aug. 14, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2020

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  • New York Times Bestseller

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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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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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