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ELEUTHERIA

A sprawling debut with an urgent message about the danger of climate change that unfortunately gets lost in the clutter.

A young woman journeys to a remote island camp hailed as the solution for climate disaster.

In addition to the global environmental problem, 22-year-old Willa Marks has many problems of her own: Her paranoid parents died by joint suicide when she was 17, after which she was sent to Boston to live with her self-obsessed cousins. Yearning for a place to belong, Willa splits her time among her menial cafe job, the pseudo-anarchist Freegans, and Harvard sociologist Sylvia Gill, the mysterious woman who becomes her companion, then lover. After a nasty fight about how Sylvia isn't as committed to progressive causes as she claims to be, Willa locks herself in Sylvia's office and finds a copy of Living the Solution, a guidebook describing a place called Camp Hope, “humanity’s best shot for changing course” from its current track of climatological and general doom. Sparked with new purpose, Willa travels to the Bahamian island of Eleutheria, where Camp Hope is located. She discovers that everyone there can also disappoint her, from the icy crew members to mythlike leader Roy Adams, but she tries to remain committed to the cause. Will they achieve their ambitious goal of launching Camp Hope and saving the dying planet, or is it truly too late? The nonlinear narrative wends its way from the events of Willa’s past to her time at Camp Hope and after; sporadic flashbacks to Eleutheria’s founding bog things down further. The buildup of Sylvia and Willa’s complex relationship is well written, sure to please readers who love a good queer May-December romance, but the novel is too long on detail in many places and frustratingly short in others; the fraught relationship between the locals on Eleutheria and the crew members is hinted at but never fully fleshed out. Much of the novel’s momentum stalls in Willa’s long-winded, retrospective narration.

A sprawling debut with an urgent message about the danger of climate change that unfortunately gets lost in the clutter.

Pub Date: March 8, 2022

ISBN: 978-0-593-31524-8

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Vintage

Review Posted Online: Jan. 11, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2022

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LONG ISLAND

A moving portrait of rueful middle age and the failure to connect.

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  • New York Times Bestseller

An acclaimed novelist revisits the central characters of his best-known work.

At the end of Brooklyn (2009), Eilis Lacey departed Ireland for the second and final time—headed back to New York and the Italian American husband she had secretly married after first traveling there for work. In her hometown of Enniscorthy, she left behind Jim Farrell, a young man she’d fallen in love with during her visit, and the inevitable gossip about her conduct. Tóibín’s 11th novel introduces readers to Eilis 20 years later, in 1976, still married to Tony Fiorello and living in the titular suburbia with their two teenage children. But Eilis’ seemingly placid existence is disturbed when a stranger confronts her, accusing Tony of having an affair with his wife—now pregnant—and threatening to leave the baby on their doorstep. “She’d known men like this in Ireland,” Tóibín writes. “Should one of them discover that their wife had been unfaithful and was pregnant as a result, they would not have the baby in the house.” This shock sends Eilis back to Enniscorthy for a visit—or perhaps a longer stay. (Eilis’ motives are as inscrutable as ever, even to herself.) She finds the never-married Jim managing his late father’s pub; unbeknownst to Eilis (and the town), he’s become involved with her widowed friend Nancy, who struggles to maintain the family chip shop. Eilis herself appears different to her old friends: “Something had happened to her in America,” Nancy concludes. Although the novel begins with a soap-operatic confrontation—and ends with a dramatic denouement, as Eilis’ fate is determined in a plot twist worthy of Edith Wharton—the author is a master of quiet, restrained prose, calmly observing the mores and mindsets of provincial Ireland, not much changed from the 1950s.

A moving portrait of rueful middle age and the failure to connect.

Pub Date: May 7, 2024

ISBN: 9781476785110

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Scribner

Review Posted Online: Feb. 3, 2024

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2024

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ALL FOURS

This tender, strange treatise on getting out from the “prefab structures” of a conventional life is quintessentially July.

A woman set to embark on a cross-country road trip instead drives to a nearby motel and becomes obsessed with a local man.

According to Harris, the husband of the narrator of July’s novel, everyone in life is either a Parker or a Driver. “Drivers,” Harris says, “are able to maintain awareness and engagement even when life is boring.” The narrator knows she’s a Parker, someone who needs “a discrete task that seems impossible, something…for which they might receive applause.” For the narrator, a “semi-famous” bisexual woman in her mid-40s living in Los Angeles, this task is her art; it’s only by haphazard chance that she’s fallen into a traditional straight marriage and motherhood. When the narrator needs to be in New York for work, she decides on a solo road trip as a way of forcing herself to be more of a metaphorical Driver. She makes it all of 30 minutes when, for reasons she doesn’t quite understand, she pulls over in Monrovia. After encountering a man who wipes her windows at a gas station and then chats with her at the local diner, she checks in to a motel, where she begins an all-consuming intimacy with him. For the first time in her life, she feels truly present. But she can only pretend to travel so long before she must go home and figure out how to live the rest of a life that she—that any woman in midlife—has no map for. July’s novel is a characteristically witty, startlingly intimate take on Dante’s “In the middle of life’s journey, I found myself in a dark wood”—if the dark wood were the WebMD site for menopause and a cheap room at the Excelsior Motel.

This tender, strange treatise on getting out from the “prefab structures” of a conventional life is quintessentially July.

Pub Date: May 14, 2024

ISBN: 9780593190265

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Riverhead

Review Posted Online: Feb. 3, 2024

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2024

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