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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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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THE GREAT ALONE

In 1974, a troubled Vietnam vet inherits a house from a fallen comrade and moves his family to Alaska.

After years as a prisoner of war, Ernt Allbright returned home to his wife, Cora, and daughter, Leni, a violent, difficult, restless man. The family moved so frequently that 13-year-old Leni went to five schools in four years. But when they move to Alaska, still very wild and sparsely populated, Ernt finds a landscape as raw as he is. As Leni soon realizes, “Everyone up here had two stories: the life before and the life now. If you wanted to pray to a weirdo god or live in a school bus or marry a goose, no one in Alaska was going to say crap to you.” There are many great things about this book—one of them is its constant stream of memorably formulated insights about Alaska. Another key example is delivered by Large Marge, a former prosecutor in Washington, D.C., who now runs the general store for the community of around 30 brave souls who live in Kaneq year-round. As she cautions the Allbrights, “Alaska herself can be Sleeping Beauty one minute and a bitch with a sawed-off shotgun the next. There’s a saying: Up here you can make one mistake. The second one will kill you.” Hannah’s (The Nightingale, 2015, etc.) follow-up to her series of blockbuster bestsellers will thrill her fans with its combination of Greek tragedy, Romeo and Juliet–like coming-of-age story, and domestic potboiler. She re-creates in magical detail the lives of Alaska's homesteaders in both of the state's seasons (they really only have two) and is just as specific and authentic in her depiction of the spiritual wounds of post-Vietnam America.

A tour de force.

Pub Date: Feb. 6, 2018

ISBN: 978-0-312-57723-0

Page Count: 448

Publisher: St. Martin's

Review Posted Online: Oct. 31, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15, 2017

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