FELLOWSHIP POINT

Elegantly structured, beautifully written, and altogether diverting, with a powerful message about land ownership in America.

A sweeping story of lifelong best friends from Philadelphia Quaker families who share a vacation spot and a moral exigency.

Dark confesses in her acknowledgments that she had “doubts about the appeal of two old ladies,” but she's written the rare 592-page novel you'll be sorry to finish. Eighty-year-old spinster Agnes Lee is the successful author of two series of books. She’s known for one of them, 30-plus children’s tales about a 9-year-old named Nan. The other is written under a pseudonym, six sharp social satires following a circle of upper-class Philadelphia girls like the ones Agnes grew up with. But as the curtain opens in March 2000, Agnes is having her very first experience of writer's block, described in one of many astute passages about the writing life: “Agnes had lost hope for today, too, but her allotted writing time wasn’t up yet. So she sat. Her rule was five hours, and dammit she’d put in five hours.” Just as she packs it in for the day, her best friend, Polly Wister, a devoted wife and mother, arrives for a drink. “We have a problem,” says Agnes. The problem is that they are two of the last three shareholders in Fellowship Point, a large, and largely undeveloped, piece of coastal property in Maine where their families have vacationed for generations. After the two of them are gone, Agnes’ cousin, a wealthy dolt, seems likely to sell out to a developer who would tear down the 19th-century dwellings, destroy a nature sanctuary, and overrun an ancient Indigenous meeting ground to build a resort. Agnes and Polly have other problems, too, each of them held back by choices made long in the past, some of which will be dug out by a nosy young New York editor who’s determined to make Agnes write a memoir. You will surely want to read this book, but you may be able to use its essential wisdom right now: “There wasn’t time for withholding, not in this short life when you were only given to know a few people, and to have a true exchange with one or two.”

Elegantly structured, beautifully written, and altogether diverting, with a powerful message about land ownership in America.

Pub Date: July 5, 2022

ISBN: 978-1-982131-81-4

Page Count: 592

Publisher: Marysue Rucci Books

Review Posted Online: April 12, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 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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DEMON COPPERHEAD

An angry, powerful book seething with love and outrage for a community too often stereotyped or ignored.

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Inspired by David Copperfield, Kingsolver crafts a 21st-century coming-of-age story set in America’s hard-pressed rural South.

It’s not necessary to have read Dickens’ famous novel to appreciate Kingsolver’s absorbing tale, but those who have will savor the tough-minded changes she rings on his Victorian sentimentality while affirming his stinging critique of a heartless society. Our soon-to-be orphaned narrator’s mother is a substance-abusing teenage single mom who checks out via OD on his 11th birthday, and Demon’s cynical, wised-up voice is light-years removed from David Copperfield’s earnest tone. Yet readers also see the yearning for love and wells of compassion hidden beneath his self-protective exterior. Like pretty much everyone else in Lee County, Virginia, hollowed out economically by the coal and tobacco industries, he sees himself as someone with no prospects and little worth. One of Kingsolver’s major themes, hit a little too insistently, is the contempt felt by participants in the modern capitalist economy for those rooted in older ways of life. More nuanced and emotionally engaging is Demon’s fierce attachment to his home ground, a place where he is known and supported, tested to the breaking point as the opiate epidemic engulfs it. Kingsolver’s ferocious indictment of the pharmaceutical industry, angrily stated by a local girl who has become a nurse, is in the best Dickensian tradition, and Demon gives a harrowing account of his descent into addiction with his beloved Dori (as naïve as Dickens’ Dora in her own screwed-up way). Does knowledge offer a way out of this sinkhole? A committed teacher tries to enlighten Demon’s seventh grade class about how the resource-rich countryside was pillaged and abandoned, but Kingsolver doesn’t air-brush his students’ dismissal of this history or the prejudice encountered by this African American outsider and his White wife. She is an art teacher who guides Demon toward self-expression, just as his friend Tommy provokes his dawning understanding of how their world has been shaped by outside forces and what he might be able to do about it.

An angry, powerful book seething with love and outrage for a community too often stereotyped or ignored.

Pub Date: Oct. 18, 2022

ISBN: 978-0-06-325-1922

Page Count: 560

Publisher: Harper/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: July 13, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2022

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