A terrifically energetic, modern update of Dante.

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BUILDING HEAVEN

A law professor sets out on a philosophical quest, examining the nature of the afterlife.

This novel opens in Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles, where professor Pete Herlinger has been in a coma for five years, since the car accident that wiped out his entire family in an instant. To the amazement of the hospital staff, he one day begins waking up, asking about his family—his parents, wife, and child were all in the car with him. His first heartbreaking realization is that they are all gone. He has no religious consolation: in fact, the conversation in the vehicle immediately prior to the crash heatedly revolved around the fact that, much to the outrage of his parents, Pete and his wife were raising their son to think God is basically a myth. After he wakes up, Pete finds himself in the unexpected position of yearning for any kind of afterlife in which his loved ones still survive. “Heaven is my family in the car before the crash,” he muses. “Heaven is my wife beside me, my son and parents in the back seat…enjoying their company, forever.” Ironically, given his previous state of nonbelief, Pete now embarks on “a good psychic freak-out,” visiting an afterlife like no religion has ever dared to imagine, a surreal, godless world where individual fantasies play out with endless abandon. His guide is his father, a transsexual now free to be—and appear as—a beautiful woman. The more Pete learns about this realm, the stranger it seems to him, especially with a mysterious figure known as the Commissar playing devil’s advocate. (“There is energy, there is dissipation,” he asserts. “There is nothing else.”) Author and Emmy Award–winning screenwriter Osborne (Blue Estate, 2014, etc.) conveys all of this with a thoroughly practiced hand. The characters stand out, the brisk pacing—particularly the comic beats—is spotlessly achieved, and the dialogue is crisp and compulsively readable. At one point, Pete and his father discuss the concept of reality. Dad: “For what it’s worth, a handy definition of Reality is precisely that which does not cease to exist when you stop believing in it.” Pete: “Philip K. Dick?” Dad: “Ah...so you’ve heard that one before.” Religious and atheist readers alike should find their certainties wonderfully upset.

A terrifically energetic, modern update of Dante.

Pub Date: May 3, 2016

ISBN: 978-0-9968613-2-8

Page Count: 362

Publisher: Lost Pilgrim Press

Review Posted Online: Aug. 1, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2017

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A touching family drama that effectively explores the negative impact of stress on fragile relationships.

A WEEK AT THE SHORE

A middle-aged woman returns to her childhood home to care for her ailing father, confronting many painful secrets from her past.

When Mallory Aldiss gets a call from a long-ago boyfriend telling her that her elderly father has been gallivanting around town with a gun in his hand, Mallory decides it’s time to return to the small Rhode Island town that she’s been avoiding for more than a decade. Mallory’s precocious 13-year-old daughter, Joy, is thrilled that she'll get to meet her grandfather at long last, and an aunt, too, and she'll finally see the place where her mother grew up. When they arrive in Bay Bluff, it’s barely a few hours before Mallory bumps into her old flame, Jack, the only man she’s ever really loved. Gone is the rebellious young person she remembers, and in his place stands a compassionate, accomplished adult. As they try to reconnect, Mallory realizes that the same obstacle that pushed them apart decades earlier is still standing in their way: Jack blames Mallory’s father for his mother’s death. No one knows exactly how Jack’s mother died, but Jack thinks a love affair between her and Mallory’s father had something to do with it. As Jack and Mallory chase down answers, Mallory also tries to repair her rocky relationships with her two sisters and determine why her father has always been so hard on her. Told entirely from Mallory’s perspective, the novel has a haunting, nostalgic quality. Despite the complex and overlapping layers to the history of Bay Bluff and its inhabitants, the book at times trudges too slowly through Mallory’s meanderings down Memory Lane. Even so, Delinsky sometimes manages to pick up the pace, and in those moments the beauty and nuance of this complicated family tale shine through. Readers who don’t mind skimming past details that do little to advance the plot may find that the juicier nuggets and realistically rendered human connections are worth the effort.

A touching family drama that effectively explores the negative impact of stress on fragile relationships.

Pub Date: May 19, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-250-11951-3

Page Count: 416

Publisher: St. Martin's

Review Posted Online: March 2, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2020

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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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