A military tale explores the strengths and frailties of the human mind in the aftermath of war.

A Crowded Heart

A soldier struggles to come to terms with the psychological impact of war in this historical novel.

Willis Hancocks, a debonair Canadian soldier, fights on the western front of the European theater of World War II. He is first encountered recuperating in an Army hospital, where he delights in charming the nurses. Here he meets Sam, a cocky yet warmhearted soldier and fellow casualty. Sam’s presence buoys Willis, and he is disappointed when the young man returns to combat. Asking whether he will be sent home, Willis learns that he will be kept around “for the entertainment.” He is posted to the Netherlands, where he celebrates the liberation of Eindhoven. He encounters Sam, and falls for a beautiful waitress called Frieda, who fills his dreams long after he’s kissed her goodbye. After a period of fighting, Willis and Sam enjoy a short leave in London. Willis meets Ellie Birch, an art student, and in a whirlwind romance, he proposes to her before heading for combat. Following the fall of the Nazis, Willis returns to Ellie, yet he’s withdrawn, depressed, and sensitive to sudden, loud noises or commotion. Willis is sent away to convalesce, but the difficulties of settling back into everyday life only intensify when Ellie gives birth. Will Willis find the strength to fulfill his role as husband and father? Will the dream of Frieda ever leave him? This sensitive, vital novel examines the psychological toll of war on the soldier and those closest to him. The result is a deeply personal and affecting narrative, punctuated by touching letters and snippets of italicized inner monologues. In the midst of battle, Willis writes: “In this place, there are days I can’t see past the end of my nose, and other days all I can see is my whole life ahead of me.” Ellie responds by letter: “I wish for happiness this year: an end to this war and our own suffering. I wish for you to come home.” Raine (Outcast: A Short Story, 2015, etc.) generates a powerfully genuine sense of yearning, which becomes tragic when Willis is unable to reciprocate this emotion when returning home. The novel lacks vivid combat descriptions, which would have helped inform the physical cause of Willis’ “combat neurosis,” now known as post-traumatic stress disorder. Furthermore, Sam’s character appears rather underdeveloped in comparison to the multifaceted Willis. Nevertheless, this is a well-written, emotionally intelligent book.

A military tale explores the strengths and frailties of the human mind in the aftermath of war.  

Pub Date: Nov. 4, 2015

ISBN: 978-1-62901-313-8

Page Count: 174

Publisher: Inkwater Press

Review Posted Online: May 26, 2016

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The best-selling author of tearjerkers like Angel Falls (2000) serves up yet another mountain of mush, topped off with...

SUMMER ISLAND

Talk-show queen takes tumble as millions jeer.

Nora Bridges is a wildly popular radio spokesperson for family-first virtues, but her loyal listeners don't know that she walked out on her husband and teenaged daughters years ago and didn't look back. Now that a former lover has sold racy pix of naked Nora and horny himself to a national tabloid, her estranged daughter Ruby, an unsuccessful stand-up comic in Los Angeles, has been approached to pen a tell-all. Greedy for the fat fee she's been promised, Ruby agrees and heads for the San Juan Islands, eager to get reacquainted with the mom she plans to betray. Once in the family homestead, nasty Ruby alternately sulks and glares at her mother, who is temporarily wheelchair-bound as a result of a post-scandal car crash. Uncaring, Ruby begins writing her side of the story when she's not strolling on the beach with former sweetheart Dean Sloan, the son of wealthy socialites who basically ignored him and his gay brother Eric. Eric, now dying of cancer and also in a wheelchair, has returned to the island. This dismal threesome catch up on old times, recalling their childhood idylls on the island. After Ruby's perfect big sister Caroline shows up, there's another round of heartfelt talk. Nora gradually reveals the truth about her unloving husband and her late father's alcoholism, which led her to seek the approval of others at the cost of her own peace of mind. And so on. Ruby is aghast to discover that she doesn't know everything after all, but Dean offers her subdued comfort. Happy endings await almost everyone—except for readers of this nobly preachy snifflefest.

The best-selling author of tearjerkers like Angel Falls (2000) serves up yet another mountain of mush, topped off with syrupy platitudes about life and love.

Pub Date: March 1, 2001

ISBN: 0-609-60737-5

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Crown

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2001

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TRUE BETRAYALS

Thoroughbreds and Virginia blue-bloods cavort, commit murder, and fall in love in Roberts's (Hidden Riches, 1994, etc.) latest romantic thriller — this one set in the world of championship horse racing. Rich, sheltered Kelsey Byden is recovering from a recent divorce when she receives a letter from her mother, Naomi, a woman she has believed dead for over 20 years. When Kelsey confronts her genteel English professor father, though, he sheepishly confesses that, no, her mother isn't dead; throughout Kelsey's childhood, she was doing time for the murder of her lover. Kelsey meets with Naomi and not only finds her quite charming, but the owner of Three Willows, one of the most splendid horse farms in Virginia. Kelsey is further intrigued when she meets Gabe Slater, a blue-eyed gambling man who owns a neighboring horse farm; when one of Gabe's horses is mated with Naomi's, nostrils flare, flanks quiver, and the romance is on. Since both Naomi and Gabe have horses entered in the Kentucky Derby, Kelsey is soon swept into the whirlwind of the Triple Crown, in spite of her family's objections to her reconciliation with the notorious Naomi. The rivalry between the two horse farms remains friendly, but other competitors — one of them is Gabe's father, a vicious alcoholic who resents his son's success — prove less scrupulous. Bodies, horse and human, start piling up, just as Kelsey decides to investigate the murky details of her mother's crime. Is it possible she was framed? The ground is thick with no-goods, including haughty patricians, disgruntled grooms, and jockeys with tragic pasts, but despite all the distractions, the identity of the true culprit behind the mayhem — past and present — remains fairly obvious. The plot lopes rather than races to the finish. Gambling metaphors abound, and sexual doings have a distinctly equine tone. But Roberts's style has a fresh, contemporary snap that gets the story past its own worst excesses.

Pub Date: June 13, 1995

ISBN: 0-399-14059-X

Page Count: 400

Publisher: Putnam

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 1995

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