A heartwarming tale of women’s lives behind the movies.

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ALL THE STARS IN THE HEAVENS

A novice nun suddenly finds herself dismissed from her convent and swept up into the heady world of Hollywood’s golden age.

Alda Ducci did nothing to merit exile from St. Elizabeth’s Infant Hospital, a haven for unwed mothers. Indeed, Alda has worked very hard these past six years: six years of helping unwed mothers give up their babies. Six years since she fled Italy with heartaches and secrets of her own. But her mother superior is convinced that Alda can never let go of her dreams to help these poor women, so she sends her out into the world to become a private secretary to actress Loretta Young. The shift from poverty to luxury jars Alda, as well as the reader, although she endeavors to see the spiritual mission beneath the glamour. Loretta welcomes Alda into her family and her home, which she shares with her three sisters and her mother, Gladys, a talented interior designer and shrewd businesswoman. Within days, Alda has become indispensable to Loretta, and the two women bond to form an indomitable team, although Loretta steals nearly every scene. Dashing men, starry-eyed ingénues, jealous spouses—all the players are well-cast as Alda helps Loretta negotiate the studio system, the Hays Code, and thwarted romances. Loretta works hard, not simply studying her lines, but often rewriting them into a code her dyslexia understands. Yet she can't help but fall in love with her every leading man. Drawn to Spencer Tracy, Loretta must lean heavily upon her Catholic faith—and friend David Niven’s humor—to avoid temptation. Clark Gable proves even more difficult to resist. Trigiani (The Supreme Macaroni Company, 2013, etc.), a filmmaker as well as a bestselling novelist, spins a tale of star-crossed lovers, yet the rather flat prose dims the glow of the silver screen.

A heartwarming tale of women’s lives behind the movies.

Pub Date: Oct. 13, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-06-231919-7

Page Count: 464

Publisher: Harper/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Aug. 17, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2015

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A promising debut that’s awake to emotional, political, and cultural tensions across time and continents.

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HOMEGOING

A novel of sharply drawn character studies immersed in more than 250 hard, transformative years in the African-American diaspora.

Gyasi’s debut novel opens in the mid-1700s in what is now Ghana, as tribal rivalries are exploited by British and Dutch colonists and slave traders. The daughter of one tribal leader marries a British man for financial expediency, then learns that the “castle” he governs is a holding dungeon for slaves. (When she asks what’s held there, she’s told “cargo.”) The narrative soon alternates chapters between the Ghanans and their American descendants up through the present day. On either side of the Atlantic, the tale is often one of racism, degradation, and loss: a slave on an Alabama plantation is whipped “until the blood on the ground is high enough to bathe a baby”; a freedman in Baltimore fears being sent back South with the passage of the Fugitive Slave Act; a Ghanan woman is driven mad from the abuse of a missionary and her husband’s injury in a tribal war; a woman in Harlem is increasingly distanced from (and then humiliated by) her husband, who passes as white. Gyasi is a deeply empathetic writer, and each of the novel’s 14 chapters is a savvy character portrait that reveals the impact of racism from multiple perspectives. It lacks the sweep that its premise implies, though: while the characters share a bloodline, and a gold-flecked stone appears throughout the book as a symbolic connector, the novel is more a well-made linked story collection than a complex epic. Yet Gyasi plainly has the talent to pull that off: “I will be my own nation,” one woman tells a British suitor early on, and the author understands both the necessity of that defiance and how hard it is to follow through on it.

A promising debut that’s awake to emotional, political, and cultural tensions across time and continents.

Pub Date: June 7, 2016

ISBN: 978-1-101-94713-5

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Knopf

Review Posted Online: March 2, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2016

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Doerr captures the sights and sounds of wartime and focuses, refreshingly, on the innate goodness of his major characters.

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  • New York Times Bestseller

  • Pulitzer Prize Winner

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ALL THE LIGHT WE CANNOT SEE

Doerr presents us with two intricate stories, both of which take place during World War II; late in the novel, inevitably, they intersect.

In August 1944, Marie-Laure LeBlanc is a blind 16-year-old living in the walled port city of Saint-Malo in Brittany and hoping to escape the effects of Allied bombing. D-Day took place two months earlier, and Cherbourg, Caen and Rennes have already been liberated. She’s taken refuge in this city with her great-uncle Etienne, at first a fairly frightening figure to her. Marie-Laure’s father was a locksmith and craftsman who made scale models of cities that Marie-Laure studied so she could travel around on her own. He also crafted clever and intricate boxes, within which treasures could be hidden. Parallel to the story of Marie-Laure we meet Werner and Jutta Pfennig, a brother and sister, both orphans who have been raised in the Children’s House outside Essen, in Germany. Through flashbacks we learn that Werner had been a curious and bright child who developed an obsession with radio transmitters and receivers, both in their infancies during this period. Eventually, Werner goes to a select technical school and then, at 18, into the Wehrmacht, where his technical aptitudes are recognized and he’s put on a team trying to track down illegal radio transmissions. Etienne and Marie-Laure are responsible for some of these transmissions, but Werner is intrigued since what she’s broadcasting is innocent—she shares her passion for Jules Verne by reading aloud 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea. A further subplot involves Marie-Laure’s father’s having hidden a valuable diamond, one being tracked down by Reinhold von Rumpel, a relentless German sergeant-major.

Doerr captures the sights and sounds of wartime and focuses, refreshingly, on the innate goodness of his major characters.

Pub Date: May 6, 2014

ISBN: 978-1-4767-4658-6

Page Count: 448

Publisher: Scribner

Review Posted Online: March 6, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2014

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