A complex literary drama that’s heavy on symbolism and existential angst.

A Flash of Blue Sky

A debut novel that presents several intertwined stories, set against the political tumult of the rise and fall of Communism.

Preiss sets his creative sights high in his inaugural effort, conjuring a dizzying array of characters around the globe. The story centers on Daniel, a 30-something man who practices environmental law—a specialty that obscures the fact that he actually defends corporate polluters. Like other characters in this book, his life was decisively influenced by a seminal experience in his youth; in his case, it drove him away from his Jewish faith into the austere arms of atheism. His marriage to a beautiful artist and fellow traveler in existential cynicism collapses, and he then seems to find true love with Susan, a firebrand socialist who disdains all things capitalist. Their love fizzles before it truly starts, though, and Daniel returns to his wife, Natalie, in a decision seemingly born more out of fatalism than fidelity. Susan, too, had a transformative experience as a young child, almost drowning in a pool, but unlike Daniel, her brush with danger pushed her in the direction of spiritualty. Another subplot features Irina, a young Russian woman who struggles to reconcile her Communist sympathies with the twilight of the Soviet Union under Mikhail Gorbachev, and who later becomes a famous actress in Moscow. She’s later discovered by Emmett, a journalist and former colleague of Daniel’s, and is thrust implausibly into Hollywood fame. What ostensibly connects these intersecting lives is not so much happenstance meetings, but rather the global unrest associated with Communism. The internal disorder of the characters’ lives gets mired, by turns, in self-pity or ennui, and effectively parallels the worldwide disorder generated by the collapse of a major political power. Likewise, the Soviet Union’s combination of political utopianism and authoritarian realpolitik is expressed by the way the main characters swing between pessimism and idealism. The plot itself meanders and even plods at times, and it also flirts with the absurd, as when a depressed Daniel seeks counsel from a psychic medium who channels the legendary comedian Jack Benny. Thankfully, its lively sense of humor, as well as a side story about Daniel’s legal fight with the Environmental Protection Agency, will sustain readers’ interest.

A complex literary drama that’s heavy on symbolism and existential angst.

Pub Date: March 1, 2016


Page Count: -

Publisher: Chickadee Prince Books

Review Posted Online: Jan. 15, 2016

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Packed with riveting drama and painful truths, this book powerfully illustrates the devastation of abuse—and the strength of...

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Hoover’s (November 9, 2015, etc.) latest tackles the difficult subject of domestic violence with romantic tenderness and emotional heft.

At first glance, the couple is edgy but cute: Lily Bloom runs a flower shop for people who hate flowers; Ryle Kincaid is a surgeon who says he never wants to get married or have kids. They meet on a rooftop in Boston on the night Ryle loses a patient and Lily attends her abusive father’s funeral. The provocative opening takes a dark turn when Lily receives a warning about Ryle’s intentions from his sister, who becomes Lily’s employee and close friend. Lily swears she’ll never end up in another abusive home, but when Ryle starts to show all the same warning signs that her mother ignored, Lily learns just how hard it is to say goodbye. When Ryle is not in the throes of a jealous rage, his redeeming qualities return, and Lily can justify his behavior: “I think we needed what happened on the stairwell to happen so that I would know his past and we’d be able to work on it together,” she tells herself. Lily marries Ryle hoping the good will outweigh the bad, and the mother-daughter dynamics evolve beautifully as Lily reflects on her childhood with fresh eyes. Diary entries fancifully addressed to TV host Ellen DeGeneres serve as flashbacks to Lily’s teenage years, when she met her first love, Atlas Corrigan, a homeless boy she found squatting in a neighbor’s house. When Atlas turns up in Boston, now a successful chef, he begs Lily to leave Ryle. Despite the better option right in front of her, an unexpected complication forces Lily to cut ties with Atlas, confront Ryle, and try to end the cycle of abuse before it’s too late. The relationships are portrayed with compassion and honesty, and the author’s note at the end that explains Hoover’s personal connection to the subject matter is a must-read.

Packed with riveting drama and painful truths, this book powerfully illustrates the devastation of abuse—and the strength of the survivors.

Pub Date: Aug. 2, 2016

ISBN: 978-1-5011-1036-8

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Atria

Review Posted Online: May 30, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2016

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A flabby, fervid melodrama of a high-strung Southern family from Conroy (The Great Santini, The Lords of Discipline), whose penchant for overwriting once again obscures a genuine talent. Tom Wingo is an unemployed South Carolinian football coach whose internist wife is having an affair with a pompous cardiac man. When he hears that his fierce, beautiful twin sister Savannah, a well-known New York poet, has once again attempted suicide, he escapes his present emasculation by flying north to meet Savannah's comely psychiatrist, Susan Lowenstein. Savannah, it turns out, is catatonic, and before the suicide attempt had completely assumed the identity of a dead friend—the implication being that she couldn't stand being a Wingo anymore. Susan (a shrink with a lot of time on her hands) says to Tom, "Will you stay in New York and tell me all you know?" and he does, for nearly 600 mostly-bloated pages of flashbacks depicting The Family Wingo of swampy Colleton County: a beautiful mother, a brutal shrimper father (the Great Santini alive and kicking), and Tom and Savannah's much-admired older brother, Luke. There are enough traumas here to fall an average-sized mental ward, but the biggie centers around Luke, who uses the skills learned as a Navy SEAL in Vietnam to fight a guerrilla war against the installation of a nuclear power plant in Colleton and is killed by the authorities. It's his death that precipitates the nervous breakdown that costs Tom his job, and Savannah, almost, her life. There may be a barely-glimpsed smaller novel buried in all this succotash (Tom's marriage and life as a football coach), but it's sadly overwhelmed by the book's clumsy central narrative device (flashback ad infinitum) and Conroy's pretentious prose style: ""There are no verdicts to childhood, only consequences, and the bright freight of memory. I speak now of the sun-struck, deeply lived-in days of my past.

Pub Date: Oct. 21, 1986

ISBN: 0553381547

Page Count: 686

Publisher: Houghton Mifflin

Review Posted Online: Oct. 30, 2013

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 1986

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