Looks like literary fiction, smells like literary fiction, tastes like literary fiction—but sensational developments,...


A young surrogate mother changes her mind and goes AWOL.

Suzette and Hyland Kendall, she a workaholic heart surgeon, he an unhappy architect, agreed early on not to have children. As the child of a severely mentally ill mother—her early memories include being rescued by a firefighter from a burning house while in an advanced state of malnutrition—Suzette will take no chances with her genes. But Hyland, who lost his parents and sister in a car accident when he was 11, has never given up his secret desire to see their faces in another generation. And now that surrogacy has become a convenient option, he is able to bring Suzette around to his side. Dorrie, the 21-year-old they meet through the Fertility Clinic of Houston, is planning to use her $35,000 fee to escape her job feeding penguins at Sea-O-Rama and fulfill her dream of going to college. Once pregnant, she realizes pretty quickly that she’ll never be able to give up her baby and hits the road before they even get the first sonogram. She hides out in a seedy motel in New Orleans, then helps a young girl ditch her junkie prostitute mom and return to the house FEMA kicked them out of. Here, amid the standing water and the mildew, the two camp out until the baby’s birth, which they manage themselves with a few books spread out on the floor. Twists, turns, and a big jump in time get us back to the setup in the prologue: a teenager lies in a hospital room on the brink of death. Two women and a man stand by her bed. “Which of you is her mother?” asks the nurse, but nobody seems to be able to answer the question.

Looks like literary fiction, smells like literary fiction, tastes like literary fiction—but sensational developments, tabloid situations, and clairvoyant dreams take Ward’s (This Same Sky, 2015,etc.) topical plot into telenovela territory.

Pub Date: Feb. 14, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-1018-8715-8

Page Count: 240

Publisher: Ballantine

Review Posted Online: Nov. 7, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15, 2016

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Romance and melodrama mix uneasily with mass murder.


An 18-year-old Polish girl falls in love, swoons over a first kiss, dreams of marriage—and, oh yes, we are in the middle of the Holocaust.

Jenoff (The Ambassador’s Daughter, 2013, etc.) weaves a tale of fevered teenage love in a time of horrors in the early 1940s, as the Nazis invade Poland and herd Jews into ghettos and concentration camps. A prologue set in 2013, narrated by a resident of the Westchester Senior Center, provides an intriguing setup. A woman and a policeman visit the resident and ask if she came from a small Polish village. Their purpose is unclear until they mention bones recently found there: “And we think you might know something about them.” The book proceeds in the third person, told from the points of view mostly of teenage Helena, who comes upon an injured young Jewish-American soldier, and sometimes of her twin, Ruth, who is not as adventurous as Helena but is very competitive with her. Their father is dead, their mother is dying in a hospital, and they are raising their three younger siblings amid danger and hardship. The romance between Helena and Sam, the soldier, is often conveyed in overheated language that doesn’t sit well with the era’s tragic events: “There had been an intensity to his embrace that said he was barely able to contain himself, that he also wanted more.” Jenoff, clearly on the side of tolerance, slips in a simplified historical framework for the uninformed. But she also feeds stereotypes, having Helena note that Sam has “a slight arch to his nose” and a dark complexion that “would make him suspect as a Jew immediately.” Clichés also pop up during the increasingly complex plot: “But even if they stood in place, the world around them would not.”

Romance and melodrama mix uneasily with mass murder.

Pub Date: Aug. 26, 2014

ISBN: 978-0-7783-1596-4

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Harlequin MIRA

Review Posted Online: July 1, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2014

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This book sings with the terrible silence of dead civilizations in which once there was valor.


Written with quiet dignity that builds to a climax of tragic force, this book about the dissolution of an African tribe, its traditions, and values, represents a welcome departure from the familiar "Me, white brother" genre.

Written by a Nigerian African trained in missionary schools, this novel tells quietly the story of a brave man, Okonkwo, whose life has absolute validity in terms of his culture, and who exercises his prerogative as a warrior, father, and husband with unflinching single mindedness. But into the complex Nigerian village filters the teachings of strangers, teachings so alien to the tribe, that resistance is impossible. One must distinguish a force to be able to oppose it, and to most, the talk of Christian salvation is no more than the babbling of incoherent children. Still, with his guns and persistence, the white man, amoeba-like, gradually absorbs the native culture and in despair, Okonkwo, unable to withstand the corrosion of what he, alone, understands to be the life force of his people, hangs himself. In the formlessness of the dying culture, it is the missionary who takes note of the event, reminding himself to give Okonkwo's gesture a line or two in his work, The Pacification of the Primitive Tribes of the Lower Niger.

This book sings with the terrible silence of dead civilizations in which once there was valor.

Pub Date: Jan. 23, 1958

ISBN: 0385474547

Page Count: 207

Publisher: McDowell, Obolensky

Review Posted Online: April 23, 2013

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 1958

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