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THE DISORIENTED

A thoughtful, philosophically rich story that probes a still-open wound.

An exile returns home to a land still torn apart by civil war 25 years afterward.

Think The Big Chill in Beirut with some of the sex but little of the lightheartedness in Jeune Afrique editor-in-chief Maalouf’s charged novel. Adam, whose name, he records in his overflowing notebooks, “encompasses all of nascent humanity, yet I belong to a humanity that is dying,” receives a phone call in Paris, where he has been living since leaving his native Lebanon in a time of conflict. His friend Mourad lies dying, Mourad’s wife tells Adam, and wants to see him before he dies. Adam is reluctant: We haven’t spoken for years, he protests. Nonetheless, he travels home to a place he barely recognizes. Just what drove the two friends apart emerges slowly, and as friends gather to commemorate Mourad’s passing, they wistfully remember a time when, as Adam recalls, “My friends belonged to all denominations and each made it a duty, a point of pride, to mock his own—and then, gently, those of the others.” The gentleness is long past, as an Arab jihadi pointedly tells Adam. For his part, Adam, a historian who is years overdue delivering a commissioned biography of Attila, admits to knowing more about Caesar and Hannibal than about his own circle. He begins to chase down the details of their lives—but, as his partner in Paris chides, “I know you, Adam. You’ll fill hundreds of pages with stories of your friends, but it will all end up mouldering in a drawer.” Those stories are inevitably ones of dreams dashed and new realities substituted for them: a woman with whom he has a fitful affair wanted to become a surgeon but instead winds up as what Adam calls a “chatelaine,” that is, a hotel manager; another, a man of the world, withdraws to a monastery; a third, whose “long curly hair was more white than gray” now, has moved across the world to Brazil; and so on. None is particularly happy—and the story, fittingly, ends on a tragic, uncertain note.

A thoughtful, philosophically rich story that probes a still-open wound.

Pub Date: May 12, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-64286-058-0

Page Count: 522

Publisher: World Editions

Review Posted Online: Feb. 9, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2020

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THEN SHE WAS GONE

Dark and unsettling, this novel’s end arrives abruptly even as readers are still moving at a breakneck speed.

Ten years after her teenage daughter went missing, a mother begins a new relationship only to discover she can't truly move on until she answers lingering questions about the past.

Laurel Mack’s life stopped in many ways the day her 15-year-old daughter, Ellie, left the house to study at the library and never returned. She drifted away from her other two children, Hanna and Jake, and eventually she and her husband, Paul, divorced. Ten years later, Ellie’s remains and her backpack are found, though the police are unable to determine the reasons for her disappearance and death. After Ellie’s funeral, Laurel begins a relationship with Floyd, a man she meets in a cafe. She's disarmed by Floyd’s charm, but when she meets his young daughter, Poppy, Laurel is startled by her resemblance to Ellie. As the novel progresses, Laurel becomes increasingly determined to learn what happened to Ellie, especially after discovering an odd connection between Poppy’s mother and her daughter even as her relationship with Floyd is becoming more serious. Jewell’s (I Found You, 2017, etc.) latest thriller moves at a brisk pace even as she plays with narrative structure: The book is split into three sections, including a first one which alternates chapters between the time of Ellie’s disappearance and the present and a second section that begins as Laurel and Floyd meet. Both of these sections primarily focus on Laurel. In the third section, Jewell alternates narrators and moments in time: The narrator switches to alternating first-person points of view (told by Poppy’s mother and Floyd) interspersed with third-person narration of Ellie’s experiences and Laurel’s discoveries in the present. All of these devices serve to build palpable tension, but the structure also contributes to how deeply disturbing the story becomes. At times, the characters and the emotional core of the events are almost obscured by such quick maneuvering through the weighty plot.

Dark and unsettling, this novel’s end arrives abruptly even as readers are still moving at a breakneck speed.

Pub Date: April 24, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-5011-5464-5

Page Count: 368

Publisher: Atria

Review Posted Online: Feb. 5, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2018

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ABSOLUTE POWER

The mother of all presidential cover-ups is the centerpiece gimmick in this far-fetched thriller from first-novelist Baldacci, a Washington-based attorney. In the dead of night, while burgling an exurban Virginia mansion, career criminal Luther Whitney is forced to conceal himself in a walk-in closet when Christine Sullivan, the lady of the house, arrives in the bedroom he's ransacking with none other than Alan Richmond, President of the US. Through the one-way mirror, Luther watches the drunken couple engage in a bout of rough sex that gets out of hand, ending only when two Secret Service men respond to the Chief Executive's cries of distress and gun down the letter-opener-wielding Christy. Gloria Russell, Richmond's vaultingly ambitious chief of staff, orders the scene rigged to look like a break-in and departs with the still befuddled President, leaving Christy's corpse to be discovered at another time. Luther makes tracks as well, though not before being spotted on the run by agents from the bodyguard detail. Aware that he's shortened his life expectancy, Luther retains trusted friend Jack Graham, a former public defender, but doesn't tell him the whole story. When Luther's slain before he can be arraigned for Christy's murder, Jack concludes he's the designated fall guy in a major scandal. Meanwhile, little Gloria (together with two Secret Service shooters) hopes to erase all tracks that might lead to the White House. But the late Luther seems to have outsmarted her in advance with recurrent demands for hush money. The body count rises as Gloria's attack dogs and Jack search for the evidence cunning Luther's left to incriminate not only a venal Alan Richmond but his homicidal deputies. The not-with-a-bang-but-a-whimper climax provides an unsurprising answer to the question of whether a US president can get away with murder. For all its arresting premise, an overblown and tedious tale of capital sins. (Film rights to Castle Rock; Book-of-the-Month selection)

Pub Date: Jan. 18, 1996

ISBN: 0-446-51996-0

Page Count: 480

Publisher: N/A

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 1995

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