ALINDARKA'S CHILDREN

The translators’ bold approach to their task overshadows the novel itself.

Two children wander through the forest in this fairy tale and manifesto.

In a Camp deep inside a forest, there is a Doctor who trains children to lose their native languages and to speak “correctly. After all,” the Doctor thinks, “speaking correctly means that you think correctly. And live correctly.” Alicia and Avi, sister and brother, are at the Camp until their father frees them—not long after, they’re separated from him and wander through the forest, Hansel and Gretel–style, on their own. Bacharevič’s novel blends the magic and darkness of a fairy tale with what is implicitly a manifesto on language and national identity. The Doctor’s “pure” language is Russian, while what Alicia’s father wants her to speak—proudly and unadulterated—is Belarusian. Bacharevič, a Belarusian writer (and former musician), wrote the novel in a blend of Russian and Belarusian, which are about as mutually intelligible as English is to, say, Scots. That apparently informed the translators’ decision to render the Russian portions of the book into English and the Belarusian portions into—yes—Scots. So when Avi talks to Alicia, he says things like, “Ah’m wunnerin whare we are?…If Faither waur tae phone us the noo, whit wad we tell tae him?” This was a bold decision on the part of the translators, and an intrusive one—so intrusive, in fact, it’s difficult to assess the novel on its own. It’s also a decision that seems in part to have missed the point—that every language has its own subtleties, nuances, and flavors inseparable from a distinct, and utterly individual, national identity. Because they speak in Scots, Alicia and Avi seem, unsurprisingly, distinctly Scottish. But they aren’t meant to be in Scotland; they are of course in Belarus. In itself, the rendering into Scots is beautiful, and there is a case to be made that the translators’ task was an impossible one. Still, the result doesn’t quite cohere. In the original, Bacharevič might very well be brilliant—but rendering his work into English and Scots draws a false equivalence among all the languages involved.

The translators’ bold approach to their task overshadows the novel itself.

Pub Date: June 7, 2022

ISBN: 978-0-8112-3196-1

Page Count: 352

Publisher: New Directions

Review Posted Online: July 12, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2022

THE WOMEN

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

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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