A quiet study of a man struggling to find a serenity to quell his long-entrenched terror.

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FRACTURE

A Japanese man shattered by senseless, unimaginable violence suffers an ongoing existential crisis, documented in part by the women in his life.

Spanish Argentine novelist Neuman (The Things We Don’t Do, 2014, etc.) is a literary alchemist, so it’s a pleasure to see his most recent work translated so quickly by Caistor and Garcia. The emotional journey here is fundamentally about the ways people break, what holds them together, and who emerges on the other side. To say its protagonist is a survivor is technically accurate but underplays the damage that forms his fundamental character. Yoshie Watanabe narrowly avoided being killed at Hiroshima as a boy but lost his entire family in the blast. Decades later, an elderly and retired Watanabe is rocked again when he’s proximate to the tsunami that devastated the nuclear reactor at Fukushima in 2011. Watanabe’s life story is relayed, appropriately, in fragments, punctuated by narration from the women most important to him. Yoshie refuses to identify as hibakusha, the label attached to survivors of the atomic blasts. But he’s never really whole, either, devoting his life to an undying quest for order, punctuated by an obsessive nature and a heartfelt admiration for the obscure art of kintsugi, an ancient practice that repairs shattered things with gold. Leonard Cohen's song "Anthem"—"There's a crack in everything / that's how the light gets in"—immediately comes to mind, and Neuman himself nods to it. The women are interesting reflections here—there's a fellow student Yoshie has a fevered romance with in Paris; a politically active journalist he has a combative liaison with in New York; an interpreter in Buenos Aires; and a widow with three children in Madrid. The uniformity of the women's cadence and vocabulary tarnishes their individuality a bit, but the story remains a moving meditation on the reverberating waves that shape us and the inescapable impermanence of life.

A quiet study of a man struggling to find a serenity to quell his long-entrenched terror.

Pub Date: May 5, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-374-15823-1

Page Count: 368

Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux

Review Posted Online: Feb. 10, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2020

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Charming, challenging, and so interesting you can hardly put it down.

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SUCH A FUN AGE

The relationship between a privileged white mom and her black babysitter is strained by race-related complications.

Blogger/role model/inspirational speaker Alix Chamberlain is none too happy about moving from Manhattan to Philadelphia for her husband Peter's job as a TV newscaster. With no friends or in-laws around to help out with her almost-3-year-old, Briar, and infant, Catherine, she’ll never get anywhere on the book she’s writing unless she hires a sitter. She strikes gold when she finds Emira Tucker. Twenty-five-year-old Emira’s family and friends expect her to get going on a career, but outside the fact that she’s about to get kicked off her parents’ health insurance, she’s happy with her part-time gigs—and Briar is her "favorite little human." Then one day a double-header of racist events topples the apple cart—Emira is stopped by a security guard who thinks she's kidnapped Briar, and when Peter's program shows a segment on the unusual ways teenagers ask their dates to the prom, he blurts out "Let's hope that last one asked her father first" about a black boy hoping to go with a white girl. Alix’s combination of awkwardness and obsession with regard to Emira spins out of control and then is complicated by the reappearance of someone from her past (coincidence alert), where lies yet another racist event. Reid’s debut sparkles with sharp observations and perfect details—food, décor, clothes, social media, etc.—and she’s a dialogue genius, effortlessly incorporating toddler-ese, witty boyfriend–speak, and African American Vernacular English. For about two-thirds of the book, her evenhandedness with her varied cast of characters is impressive, but there’s a point at which any possible empathy for Alix disappears. Not only is she shallow, entitled, unknowingly racist, and a bad mother, but she has not progressed one millimeter since high school, and even then she was worse than we thought. Maybe this was intentional, but it does make things—ha ha—very black and white.

Charming, challenging, and so interesting you can hardly put it down.

Pub Date: Jan. 7, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-525-54190-5

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Putnam

Review Posted Online: Oct. 14, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 2019

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Well-written and insightful but so heartbreaking that it raises the question of what a reader is looking for in fiction.

DEAR EDWARD

A 12-year-old boy is the sole survivor of a plane crash—a study in before and after.

Edward Adler is moving to California with his adored older brother, Jordan, and their parents: Mom is a scriptwriter for television, Dad is a mathematician who is home schooling his sons. They will get no further than Colorado, where the plane goes down. Napolitano’s (A Good Hard Look, 2011, etc.) novel twins the narrative of the flight from takeoff to impact with the story of Edward’s life over the next six years. Taken in by his mother’s sister and her husband, a childless couple in New Jersey, Edward’s misery is constant and almost impermeable. Unable to bear sleeping in the never-used nursery his aunt and uncle have hastily appointed to serve as his bedroom, he ends up bunking next door, where there's a kid his age, a girl named Shay. This friendship becomes the single strand connecting him to the world of the living. Meanwhile, in alternating chapters, we meet all the doomed airplane passengers, explore their backstories, and learn about their hopes and plans, every single one of which is minutes from obliteration. For some readers, Napolitano’s premise will be too dark to bear, underlining our terrible vulnerability to random events and our inability to protect ourselves or our children from the worst-case scenario while also imagining in exhaustive detail the bleak experience of survival. The people around Edward have no idea how to deal with him; his aunt and uncle try their best to protect him from the horrors of his instant celebrity as Miracle Boy. As one might expect, there is a ray of light for Edward at the end of the tunnel, and for hardier readers this will make Napolitano’s novel a story of hope.

Well-written and insightful but so heartbreaking that it raises the question of what a reader is looking for in fiction.

Pub Date: Jan. 14, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-9848-5478-0

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Dial

Review Posted Online: Oct. 28, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15, 2019

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