A country's fraught history comes vividly to life through a child's eyes.

An ingenuous young teenager is thrust into a nation's chaos.

Novelist, poet, and essayist Mabanckou returns to his native Congo in a gentle tale translated by Stevenson. At once charming and disquieting, the novel is narrated by Michel, who lives with his mother and Papa Roger, his adopted father, in the town of Pointe-Noire. A student at the Three-Glorious-Days middle school, Michel is given to daydreaming and making innocent remarks that discomfit some people. He tries to censor himself, reflecting, “people will say Michel always exaggerates, and sometimes he says rude things without meaning to.” His world is inhabited by evil spirits, river monsters, superstition, and fierce animosity between northerners and southerners. He learns that whites and black capitalists exploit Congolese, that other African nations—especially Zaire—are trying to wage war, create chaos, and steal Congo’s oil; he knows that colonization has victimized Africa; and he is a fervent supporter of the Congolese Socialist Revolution. Whatever he learns of life beyond Pointe-Noire comes from Papa Roger, who works at the posh Victory Palace Hotel, where he has gleaned a measure of sophistication about world events. On his static-filled radio, Papa Roger prefers to listen to the Voice of America rather than the Voice of the Congolese Revolution. The critical event of Michel’s young life occurs on March 18, 1977, when the nation learns that President Marien Ngouabi has died: Gossip swirls, and quickly the streets fill with military vehicles. Michel has been taught to revere Ngouabi: “It was Marien Ngouabi who changed our national anthem, our flag, and who laid out the path of scientific socialism we follow today....” The assassination upends Michel’s world, and in the ominous atmosphere that ensues, he comes to understand his country’s politics, and his own family’s involvement, in disquieting new ways.

A country's fraught history comes vividly to life through a child's eyes.

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-62097-606-7

Page Count: 256

Publisher: The New Press

Review Posted Online: June 15, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2020


A captivating allegory about evil, lies, and forgiveness.

Truth and deception clash in this tale of the Holocaust.

Udo Graf is proud that the Wolf has assigned him the task of expelling all 50,000 Jews from Salonika, Greece. In that city, Nico Krispis is an 11-year-old Jewish boy whose blue eyes and blond hair deceive, but whose words do not. Those who know him know he has never told a lie in his life—“Never be the one to tell lies, Nico,” his grandfather teaches him. “God is always watching.” Udo and Nico meet, and Udo decides to exploit the child’s innocence. At the train station where Jews are being jammed into cattle cars bound for Auschwitz, Udo gives Nico a yellow star to wear and persuades him to whisper among the crowd, “I heard it from a German officer. They are sending us to Poland. We will have new homes. And jobs.” The lad doesn’t know any better, so he helps persuade reluctant Jews to board the train to hell. “You were a good little liar,” Udo later tells Nico, and delights in the prospect of breaking the boy’s spirit, which is more fun and a greater challenge than killing him outright. When Nico realizes the horrific nature of what he's done, his truth-telling days are over. He becomes an inveterate liar about everything. Narrating the story is the Angel of Truth, whom according to a parable God had cast out of heaven and onto earth, where Truth shattered into billions of pieces, each to lodge in a human heart. (Obviously, many hearts have been missed.) Truth skillfully weaves together the characters, including Nico; his brother, Sebastian; Sebastian’s wife, Fannie; and the “heartless deceiver” Udo. Events extend for decades beyond World War II, until everyone’s lives finally collide in dramatic fashion. As Truth readily acknowledges, his account is loaded with twists and turns, some fortuitous and others not. Will Nico Krispis ever seek redemption? And will he find it? Author Albom’s passion shows through on every page in this well-crafted novel.

A captivating allegory about evil, lies, and forgiveness.

Pub Date: Nov. 14, 2023

ISBN: 9780062406651

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Harper/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Sept. 21, 2023

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 2023


A book begging to be read on the beach, with the sun warming the sand and salt in the air: pure escapism.

Three woman who join together to rent a large space along the beach in Los Angeles for their stores—a gift shop, a bakery, and a bookstore—become fast friends as they each experience the highs, and lows, of love.

Bree is a friendly but standoffish bookstore owner who keeps everyone she knows at arm’s length, from guys she meets in bars to her friends. Mikki is a settled-in-her-routines divorced mother of two, happily a mom, gift-shop owner, and co-parent with her ex-husband, Perry. And Ashley is a young, very-much-in-love bakery owner specializing in muffins who devotes herself to giving back to the community through a nonprofit that helps community members develop skills and find jobs. When the women meet drooling over a boardwalk storefront that none of them can afford on her own, a plan is hatched to divide the space in three, and a friendship—and business partnership—is born. An impromptu celebration on the beach at sunset with champagne becomes a weekly touchpoint to their lives as they learn more about each other and themselves. Their friendship blossoms as they help each other, offering support, hard truths, and loving backup. Author Mallery has created a delightful story of friendship between three women that also offers a variety of love stories as they fall in love, make mistakes, and figure out how to be the best—albeit still flawed—versions of themselves. The men are similarly flawed and human. While the story comes down clearly on the side of all-encompassing love, Mallery has struck a careful balance: There is just enough sex to be spicy, just enough swearing to be naughty, and just enough heartbreak to avoid being cloying.

A book begging to be read on the beach, with the sun warming the sand and salt in the air: pure escapism.

Pub Date: May 31, 2022

ISBN: 978-0-778-38608-7

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Harlequin MIRA

Review Posted Online: March 15, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2022

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