A quiet but compelling rumination on family, race, and trauma, built on the spaces in Korean folktales.

FOLKLORN

A Korean American physicist with a postdoc position in Stockholm grapples with the real and imagined ghosts of her family’s past.

Elsa Park’s time in the Antarctic conducting research on neutrinos is coming to an end, punctuated by the reappearance of a specter from her past: a girl who has played with her, advised her, and followed her since she was a child. Though Elsa left her home just outside Los Angeles for boarding school and eventually her position in Sweden, her friend’s reappearance heralds a return to her old life in California, centered around her father’s crumbling auto body shop, where she must confront the complicated ties that bind her to her father, mother, and older brother. Hanging over all this are the stories her mother told—and didn’t tell—dark tales of girls sacrificed for bells, girls lost at sea, girls used. Who is Elsa’s friend really, since no one else can see her, and what does she mean for their family? Oskar Gantelius, a Korean adoptee Elsa met in Sweden, may hold the key to her questions if she can manage to make sense of all the stories. Ruminations on physics are interspersed with Korean folktales, though intergenerational trauma means the narrative can never soar into whimsy for long. Elements of magical realism are tempered well by the realities of one Korean immigrant family. Though Elsa is often an unlikable narrator, her story is gripping and rings as true as the bell she hears in her mind.

A quiet but compelling rumination on family, race, and trauma, built on the spaces in Korean folktales.

Pub Date: April 27, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-64566-016-3

Page Count: 384

Publisher: Erewhon

Review Posted Online: March 3, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2021

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A grade-A, weirdly comforting, and familiar stew of domestic drama, slasher horror, and primeval evil.

THE BOOK OF ACCIDENTS

A family that's banished itself to the woods of rural Pennsylvania finds more than they bargained for when supernatural forces decide they would make quite a snack.

Prolific and delightfully profane, Wendig pulled off a good trick last time with his sprawling, inventive, and prescient apocalypse chronicle, Wanderers (2019). This is another doorstopper, but here he returns to macabre horror reminiscent of his supernatural Miriam Black novels, injected with a juicy dose of Stephen King–like energy. An eerie opening introduces Edmund Walker Reese, a serial killer strapped into Pennsylvania’s electric chair circa 1990 for murdering four girls—a killer who disappears the second the switch is flipped. In the present day, former Philly cop Nate Graves is stewing over the death of his abusive father, who's left him a home in the woods. Maddie, Nate’s artist wife, thinks it’s perfect for her work, not to mention a natural refuge for their hypersensitive son, Oliver, who's imbued with not only a preternatural empathy for others, but also a gift for lending the pained some solace. At Nate's new job as a Fish and Game officer, his partner, Axel Figeroa, always has one eye open for trouble because of their proximity to Ramble Rocks, where Reese committed his dirty deeds, as does the Graves' neighbor Jed Homackie, a whiskey-drinking peacenik with secrets of his own. As happens, things get weird. Nate starts seeing his dead father around every corner. Maddie experiences fugue states that aren’t simpatico with her newfound predilection for chainsaw sculpture. Oliver gets the worst of it, finding himself caught between a couple of vicious bullies and a newfound frenemy, Jake, who quickly emerges as someone­­­­—or something—far darker than he appears. The characters are eccentric and likable even if their plight isn’t quite unpredictable, and the book will be catnip to horror fans, complete with meddling kids, doppelgangers, dimensional fissures, demons, and ghosts; it's a prototypical edge-of-your-seat plunge into real terror.

A grade-A, weirdly comforting, and familiar stew of domestic drama, slasher horror, and primeval evil.

Pub Date: July 20, 2021

ISBN: 978-0-399-18213-6

Page Count: 544

Publisher: Del Rey

Review Posted Online: May 5, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2021

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Doerr captures the sights and sounds of wartime and focuses, refreshingly, on the innate goodness of his major characters.

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  • New York Times Bestseller

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ALL THE LIGHT WE CANNOT SEE

Doerr presents us with two intricate stories, both of which take place during World War II; late in the novel, inevitably, they intersect.

In August 1944, Marie-Laure LeBlanc is a blind 16-year-old living in the walled port city of Saint-Malo in Brittany and hoping to escape the effects of Allied bombing. D-Day took place two months earlier, and Cherbourg, Caen and Rennes have already been liberated. She’s taken refuge in this city with her great-uncle Etienne, at first a fairly frightening figure to her. Marie-Laure’s father was a locksmith and craftsman who made scale models of cities that Marie-Laure studied so she could travel around on her own. He also crafted clever and intricate boxes, within which treasures could be hidden. Parallel to the story of Marie-Laure we meet Werner and Jutta Pfennig, a brother and sister, both orphans who have been raised in the Children’s House outside Essen, in Germany. Through flashbacks we learn that Werner had been a curious and bright child who developed an obsession with radio transmitters and receivers, both in their infancies during this period. Eventually, Werner goes to a select technical school and then, at 18, into the Wehrmacht, where his technical aptitudes are recognized and he’s put on a team trying to track down illegal radio transmissions. Etienne and Marie-Laure are responsible for some of these transmissions, but Werner is intrigued since what she’s broadcasting is innocent—she shares her passion for Jules Verne by reading aloud 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea. A further subplot involves Marie-Laure’s father’s having hidden a valuable diamond, one being tracked down by Reinhold von Rumpel, a relentless German sergeant-major.

Doerr captures the sights and sounds of wartime and focuses, refreshingly, on the innate goodness of his major characters.

Pub Date: May 6, 2014

ISBN: 978-1-4767-4658-6

Page Count: 448

Publisher: Scribner

Review Posted Online: March 6, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2014

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