Readers who wince at the very thought of Petey Pat as a grown man’s name should probably look elsewhere.

HOME FOR CHRISTMAS

Father Greeley’s blarney-soaked latest (Irish Tweed, 2009, etc.) teaches that heaven can wait.

An undersized, self-acknowledged geek as a schoolboy on the outskirts of Chicago, Peter Patrick Kane grows up to be extraordinary, to be a hero, to eventually pin the Congressional Medal of Honor on his no-longer-scrawny chest. Changed as he is, Petey Pat’s love for Mariana Pia Pellegrino, ignited in the second grade, seems immutable. There are, however, obstacles, and parental objections on both sides force the lovers into divergent trajectories. Beautiful, brainy Mariana Pia becomes a high-powered lawyer, Petey Pat a courageous soldier, much admired and respected by his comrades in arms. On his third deployment in Iraq, a roadside bomb explodes and Captain Petey Pat, gallant to the end, dies with Mariana Pia’s name on his lips. Or does he? Certainly the docs on the spot are convinced. Not so, the “deceased” will eventually argue. For nine-and-a-half minutes he’d simply gone a kind of AWOL, he insists, describing an extraterrestrial journey during which he dropped in on “The City” for an interesting encounter with the One—or the One in Three, or the Boss, or God, if you will; He goes by all those names in the angelic community. Their chat (stage-Irish turns out to be heaven’s lingua franca) proves amiable, despite the fact that angles are clearly being worked. Playing Cupid for reasons best known to Himself, God attempts to imbue Petey Pat with a sense of mission concerning Mariana Pia. Slight though it be, thereby hangs the tale. Furnishing the recently dead young soldier with his marching orders, the One says, providentially, “See you later, Petey Pat.”

Readers who wince at the very thought of Petey Pat as a grown man’s name should probably look elsewhere.

Pub Date: Oct. 1, 2009

ISBN: 978-0-7653-2250-0

Page Count: 192

Publisher: Forge

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2009

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Another artistic triumph, and surefire bestseller, for this fearless writer.

A THOUSAND SPLENDID SUNS

This Afghan-American author follows his debut (The Kite Runner, 2003) with a fine risk-taking novel about two victimized but courageous Afghan women.

Mariam is a bastard. Her mother was a housekeeper for a rich businessman in Herat, Afghanistan, until he impregnated and banished her. Mariam’s childhood ended abruptly when her mother hanged herself. Her father then married off the 15-year-old to Rasheed, a 40ish shoemaker in Kabul, hundreds of miles away. Rasheed is a deeply conventional man who insists that Mariam wear a burqa, though many women are going uncovered (it’s 1974). Mariam lives in fear of him, especially after numerous miscarriages. In 1987, the story switches to a neighbor, nine-year-old Laila, her playmate Tariq and her parents. It’s the eighth year of Soviet occupation—bad for the nation, but good for women, who are granted unprecedented freedoms. Kabul’s true suffering begins in 1992. The Soviets have gone, and rival warlords are tearing the city apart. Before he leaves for Pakistan, Tariq and Laila make love; soon after, her parents are killed by a rocket. The two storylines merge when Rasheed and Mariam shelter the solitary Laila. Rasheed has his own agenda; the 14-year-old will become his second wife, over Mariam’s objections, and give him an heir, but to his disgust Laila has a daughter, Aziza; in time, he’ll realize Tariq is the father. The heart of the novel is the gradual bonding between the girl-mother and the much older woman. Rasheed grows increasingly hostile, even frenzied, after an escape by the women is foiled. Relief comes when Laila gives birth to a boy, but it’s short-lived. The Taliban are in control; women must stay home; Rasheed loses his business; they have no food; Aziza is sent to an orphanage. The dramatic final section includes a murder and an execution. Despite all the pain and heartbreak, the novel is never depressing; Hosseini barrels through each grim development unflinchingly, seeking illumination.

Another artistic triumph, and surefire bestseller, for this fearless writer.

Pub Date: May 22, 2007

ISBN: 1-59448-950-5

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Riverhead

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2007

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A love letter to the power of books and friendship.

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THE GIVER OF STARS

Women become horseback librarians in 1930s Kentucky and face challenges from the landscape, the weather, and the men around them.

Alice thought marrying attractive American Bennett Van Cleve would be her ticket out of her stifling life in England. But when she and Bennett settle in Baileyville, Kentucky, she realizes that her life consists of nothing more than staying in their giant house all day and getting yelled at by his unpleasant father, who owns a coal mine. She’s just about to resign herself to a life of boredom when an opportunity presents itself in the form of a traveling horseback library—an initiative from Eleanor Roosevelt meant to counteract the devastating effects of the Depression by focusing on literacy and learning. Much to the dismay of her husband and father-in-law, Alice signs up and soon learns the ropes from the library’s leader, Margery. Margery doesn’t care what anyone thinks of her, rejects marriage, and would rather be on horseback than in a kitchen. And even though all this makes Margery a town pariah, Alice quickly grows to like her. Along with several other women (including one black woman, Sophia, whose employment causes controversy in a town that doesn’t believe black and white people should be allowed to use the same library), Margery and Alice supply magazines, Bible stories, and copies of books like Little Women to the largely poor residents who live in remote areas. Alice spends long days in terrible weather on horseback, but she finally feels happy in her new life in Kentucky, even as her marriage to Bennett is failing. But her powerful father-in-law doesn’t care for Alice’s job or Margery’s lifestyle, and he’ll stop at nothing to shut their library down. Basing her novel on the true story of the Pack Horse Library Project established by the Works Progress Administration in the 1930s, Moyes (Still Me, 2018, etc.) brings an often forgotten slice of history to life. She writes about Kentucky with lush descriptions of the landscape and tender respect for the townspeople, most of whom are poor, uneducated, and grateful for the chance to learn. Although Alice and Margery both have their own romances, the true power of the story is in the bonds between the women of the library. They may have different backgrounds, but their commitment to helping the people of Baileyville brings them together.

A love letter to the power of books and friendship.

Pub Date: Oct. 8, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-399-56248-8

Page Count: 400

Publisher: Pamela Dorman/Viking

Review Posted Online: July 1, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2019

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