A refreshingly unsentimental novel of family.

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YOU CANNOT MESS THIS UP

A TRUE STORY THAT NEVER HAPPENED

In Daughters’ debut fantasy, a struggling writer travels home to Texas and magically goes back in time to 1978, where she encounters her younger self.

Amy Daughters (who shares the author’s name) is a married mother of two in her mid-40s who writes about sports. She takes a flight on a private plane—piloted by her husband’s boss’s wife, Mary—from Ohio to her native Houston to meet with her siblings and her elderly dad to plan his estate. During the flight, she takes a nap, and when she wakes up, she finds that she’s been mysteriously transported back in time to 1978. Mary tells Amy that she’ll be visiting her family members, including her younger self, for just a day and a half, masquerading as a distant cousin in town for Thanksgiving. Bewildered and intrigued, Amy meets the younger versions of her dependable dad, Dick; her perfectionist mother, Sue; her older sister, Kim; and Star Wars-fan brother, Rick. Amy struggles to remain composed, but she finds herself profoundly moved by the experience. Most of all, she’s concerned about her 10-year-old self—an awkward, exuberant ball of energy with a bowl cut. She wants to tell the girl, who’s desperate for attention and validation, that everything will be fine in the end. Grandparents arrive, Thanksgiving dinner is served, and later on, a drunken party with neighbors goes awry. Daughters’ back-in-time family drama is full of razor-sharp descriptions of 1970s suburbia (“Her hair was carefully coiffed, and she wore a stunning burnt-orange pantsuit that, though absolutely horrible, somehow worked for her”), along with witty observations that range in tone from deadpan to ebullient. The well-thought-out premise allows the protagonist narrator to figure out how she can best improve her past and her own present. However, the author supplies a tremendous amount of detail, which slows the pace of the novel, and advances in the plot can feel too far apart at times. But overall, this is a memorable and appealingly authentic story about reconciling with one’s younger days.

A refreshingly unsentimental novel of family. 

Pub Date: N/A

ISBN: 978-1-63152-583-4

Page Count: 272

Publisher: She Writes Press

Review Posted Online: Feb. 26, 2019

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

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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Suspenseful, full of incident, and not obviously necessary.

THE TESTAMENTS

Atwood goes back to Gilead.

The Handmaid’s Tale (1985), consistently regarded as a masterpiece of 20th-century literature, has gained new attention in recent years with the success of the Hulu series as well as fresh appreciation from readers who feel like this story has new relevance in America’s current political climate. Atwood herself has spoken about how news headlines have made her dystopian fiction seem eerily plausible, and it’s not difficult to imagine her wanting to revisit Gilead as the TV show has sped past where her narrative ended. Like the novel that preceded it, this sequel is presented as found documents—first-person accounts of life inside a misogynistic theocracy from three informants. There is Agnes Jemima, a girl who rejects the marriage her family arranges for her but still has faith in God and Gilead. There’s Daisy, who learns on her 16th birthday that her whole life has been a lie. And there's Aunt Lydia, the woman responsible for turning women into Handmaids. This approach gives readers insight into different aspects of life inside and outside Gilead, but it also leads to a book that sometimes feels overstuffed. The Handmaid’s Tale combined exquisite lyricism with a powerful sense of urgency, as if a thoughtful, perceptive woman was racing against time to give witness to her experience. That narrator hinted at more than she said; Atwood seemed to trust readers to fill in the gaps. This dynamic created an atmosphere of intimacy. However curious we might be about Gilead and the resistance operating outside that country, what we learn here is that what Atwood left unsaid in the first novel generated more horror and outrage than explicit detail can. And the more we get to know Agnes, Daisy, and Aunt Lydia, the less convincing they become. It’s hard, of course, to compete with a beloved classic, so maybe the best way to read this new book is to forget about The Handmaid’s Tale and enjoy it as an artful feminist thriller.

Suspenseful, full of incident, and not obviously necessary.

Pub Date: Sept. 10, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-385-54378-1

Page Count: 432

Publisher: Nan A. Talese

Review Posted Online: Sept. 4, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2019

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