A sprawling tale of persecution and hysteria set in the vivid world of New York City’s Victorian era.

THE WITCHES OF NEW YORK

Old New York shows its magic and its darkness in McKay’s (The Virgin Cure, 2012, etc.) latest novel.

It wasn’t easy for 17-year-old Beatrice Dunn to make it to Manhattan in 1880, but she experienced a pull to the city that felt otherworldly. Open to witchcraft and magic, Beatrice makes her way to Tea and Sympathy, a small tea shop near Madison Square Park that specializes in more than just the newest brew. Its owners, Adelaide Thom and Eleanor St. Clair, provide a variety of services to their predominantly female clientele, including access to marital aids and abortifacients. While the women who come into the shop are seeking the means to control their own destinies, the shop’s unique product line makes it a target of religious fanatics and zealots aiming to rid the world of evil and witchcraft. The atmosphere becomes even more dangerous with Beatrice’s arrival; it is discovered that she possesses the power to communicate with the dead. Though Adelaide and Eleanor help her learn the intricacies of her gift, her ability places her in grave danger. With a remarkable cast of characters—from the obsessive and maniacal Rev. Townsend, who aims to rid society of witchcraft, and the occasionally helpful ghost of his victim, suspected witch Lena McLeod, to the talking raven, Perdu, and a cast of mysterious and meddlesome creatures called Dearlies who inhabit the tea shop—McKay has crafted a stunning work that bridges the gap between historical and contemporary women's issues. The novel is ambitious in its scope yet still delves deep into the thoughts and motivations of characters who normally exist on society's outskirts—or even beyond the earthly realm. Working alongside the women’s suffrage movement, these “witches” demonstrate that there are many routes to take toward freedom and autonomy. While Tea and Sympathy seeks to be a refuge for women in need, paranoia and fear of the unknown are sweeping through the city’s most devoutly religious circles. The novel is brimming with the spirits of those who have been lost to others' devotion and fear, and McKay's elegant prose bridges the gap between the real world and the spiritual realm with skill and compassion.

A sprawling tale of persecution and hysteria set in the vivid world of New York City’s Victorian era.

Pub Date: July 11, 2017

ISBN: 978-0-06-235992-6

Page Count: 576

Publisher: Harper Perennial/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: May 2, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2017

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A tasty, if not always tasteful, tale of supernatural mayhem that fans of King and Crichton alike will enjoy.

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DEVOLUTION

Are we not men? We are—well, ask Bigfoot, as Brooks does in this delightful yarn, following on his bestseller World War Z (2006).

A zombie apocalypse is one thing. A volcanic eruption is quite another, for, as the journalist who does a framing voice-over narration for Brooks’ latest puts it, when Mount Rainier popped its cork, “it was the psychological aspect, the hyperbole-fueled hysteria that had ended up killing the most people.” Maybe, but the sasquatches whom the volcano displaced contributed to the statistics, too, if only out of self-defense. Brooks places the epicenter of the Bigfoot war in a high-tech hideaway populated by the kind of people you might find in a Jurassic Park franchise: the schmo who doesn’t know how to do much of anything but tries anyway, the well-intentioned bleeding heart, the know-it-all intellectual who turns out to know the wrong things, the immigrant with a tough backstory and an instinct for survival. Indeed, the novel does double duty as a survival manual, packed full of good advice—for instance, try not to get wounded, for “injury turns you from a giver to a taker. Taking up our resources, our time to care for you.” Brooks presents a case for making room for Bigfoot in the world while peppering his narrative with timely social criticism about bad behavior on the human side of the conflict: The explosion of Rainier might have been better forecast had the president not slashed the budget of the U.S. Geological Survey, leading to “immediate suspension of the National Volcano Early Warning System,” and there’s always someone around looking to monetize the natural disaster and the sasquatch-y onslaught that follows. Brooks is a pro at building suspense even if it plays out in some rather spectacularly yucky episodes, one involving a short spear that takes its name from “the sucking sound of pulling it out of the dead man’s heart and lungs.” Grossness aside, it puts you right there on the scene.

A tasty, if not always tasteful, tale of supernatural mayhem that fans of King and Crichton alike will enjoy.

Pub Date: June 16, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-9848-2678-7

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Del Rey/Ballantine

Review Posted Online: Feb. 10, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2020

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Miller makes Homer pertinent to women facing 21st-century monsters.

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CIRCE

A retelling of ancient Greek lore gives exhilarating voice to a witch.

“Monsters are a boon for gods. Imagine all the prayers.” So says Circe, a sly, petulant, and finally commanding voice that narrates the entirety of Miller’s dazzling second novel. The writer returns to Homer, the wellspring that led her to an Orange Prize for The Song of Achilles (2012). This time, she dips into The Odyssey for the legend of Circe, a nymph who turns Odysseus’ crew of men into pigs. The novel, with its distinctive feminist tang, starts with the sentence: “When I was born, the name for what I was did not exist.” Readers will relish following the puzzle of this unpromising daughter of the sun god Helios and his wife, Perse, who had negligible use for their child. It takes banishment to the island Aeaea for Circe to sense her calling as a sorceress: “I will not be like a bird bred in a cage, I thought, too dull to fly even when the door stands open. I stepped into those woods and my life began.” This lonely, scorned figure learns herbs and potions, surrounds herself with lions, and, in a heart-stopping chapter, outwits the monster Scylla to propel Daedalus and his boat to safety. She makes lovers of Hermes and then two mortal men. She midwifes the birth of the Minotaur on Crete and performs her own C-section. And as she grows in power, she muses that “not even Odysseus could talk his way past [her] witchcraft. He had talked his way past the witch instead.” Circe’s fascination with mortals becomes the book’s marrow and delivers its thrilling ending. All the while, the supernatural sits intriguingly alongside “the tonic of ordinary things.” A few passages coil toward melodrama, and one inelegant line after a rape seems jarringly modern, but the spell holds fast. Expect Miller’s readership to mushroom like one of Circe’s spells.

Miller makes Homer pertinent to women facing 21st-century monsters.

Pub Date: April 10, 2018

ISBN: 978-0-316-55634-7

Page Count: 400

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: Jan. 23, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2018

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