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THE STOLEN CHILD

A well-crafted, fast-paced story about how a single encounter can shape a person’s whole life.

In the 1970s, haunted by a choice he made during World War I, an elderly Rhode Island man enlists the help of a college dropout in a last-ditch attempt to make amends.

Shortly after the U.S. enters World War I in 1917, Nick Burns finds himself on a farm in rural France. He’s killing time by painting a mural on a stone wall when he meets one of the farm’s residents, a feisty young woman named Camille Chastain, who dismisses his mural as the work of an amateur. While married and heavily pregnant, Camille has no aspirations to be a wife or a mother, only an artist. When German forces reach Nick’s trench amid bursts of artillery fire one night, she appears holding two bundles—her newborn son and an array of paintings—and entrusts him with their safety before fleeing into the nearby woods. What Nick does next dogs him for decades. Upon returning to the U.S., Nick tries to resume life but can’t forget about Camille or her child. Despite marrying another woman, he spends the next 57 years tortured by the seeming impossibility of discovering their fates. In 1974, isolated, depressed, and bitter, he receives a strange new lease on life: a terminal cancer diagnosis. Motivated by the knowledge that his time is limited, Nick and newly hired assistant Jenny, an IHOP waitress reeling from the unexpected derailment of her college career, embark on a search for answers that takes them through France and Italy before concluding at a derelict exhibit once run by Enzo Piccolo, a Neapolitan artisan. In traveling with Nick, Jenny hopes to see the world and, maybe, find her own place in it. Told in chapters that alternate among three perspectives—Nick’s, Jenny’s, and Enzo’s—the story is compelling, skillfully told, and meticulously structured, though a few beats veer a little too close to cliche to ring entirely true. Of particular note are Hood’s detailed descriptions of the different historical settings (Paris, small-town France, Rome, Tuscany, Naples), which feel rooted in research and heighten the authenticity of the narrative.

A well-crafted, fast-paced story about how a single encounter can shape a person’s whole life.

Pub Date: May 7, 2024

ISBN: 9780393609806

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Norton

Review Posted Online: Feb. 3, 2024

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2024

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THE WOMEN

A dramatic, vividly detailed reconstruction of a little-known aspect of the Vietnam War.

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A young woman’s experience as a nurse in Vietnam casts a deep shadow over her life.

When we learn that the farewell party in the opening scene is for Frances “Frankie” McGrath’s older brother—“a golden boy, a wild child who could make the hardest heart soften”—who is leaving to serve in Vietnam in 1966, we feel pretty certain that poor Finley McGrath is marked for death. Still, it’s a surprise when the fateful doorbell rings less than 20 pages later. His death inspires his sister to enlist as an Army nurse, and this turn of events is just the beginning of a roller coaster of a plot that’s impressive and engrossing if at times a bit formulaic. Hannah renders the experiences of the young women who served in Vietnam in all-encompassing detail. The first half of the book, set in gore-drenched hospital wards, mildewed dorm rooms, and boozy officers’ clubs, is an exciting read, tracking the transformation of virginal, uptight Frankie into a crack surgical nurse and woman of the world. Her tensely platonic romance with a married surgeon ends when his broken, unbreathing body is airlifted out by helicopter; she throws her pent-up passion into a wild affair with a soldier who happens to be her dead brother’s best friend. In the second part of the book, after the war, Frankie seems to experience every possible bad break. A drawback of the story is that none of the secondary characters in her life are fully three-dimensional: Her dismissive, chauvinistic father and tight-lipped, pill-popping mother, her fellow nurses, and her various love interests are more plot devices than people. You’ll wish you could have gone to Vegas and placed a bet on the ending—while it’s against all the odds, you’ll see it coming from a mile away.

A dramatic, vividly detailed reconstruction of a little-known aspect of the Vietnam War.

Pub Date: Feb. 6, 2024

ISBN: 9781250178633

Page Count: 480

Publisher: St. Martin's

Review Posted Online: Nov. 4, 2023

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2023

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LONG ISLAND

A moving portrait of rueful middle age and the failure to connect.

An acclaimed novelist revisits the central characters of his best-known work.

At the end of Brooklyn (2009), Eilis Lacey departed Ireland for the second and final time—headed back to New York and the Italian American husband she had secretly married after first traveling there for work. In her hometown of Enniscorthy, she left behind Jim Farrell, a young man she’d fallen in love with during her visit, and the inevitable gossip about her conduct. Tóibín’s 11th novel introduces readers to Eilis 20 years later, in 1976, still married to Tony Fiorello and living in the titular suburbia with their two teenage children. But Eilis’ seemingly placid existence is disturbed when a stranger confronts her, accusing Tony of having an affair with his wife—now pregnant—and threatening to leave the baby on their doorstep. “She’d known men like this in Ireland,” Tóibín writes. “Should one of them discover that their wife had been unfaithful and was pregnant as a result, they would not have the baby in the house.” This shock sends Eilis back to Enniscorthy for a visit—or perhaps a longer stay. (Eilis’ motives are as inscrutable as ever, even to herself.) She finds the never-married Jim managing his late father’s pub; unbeknownst to Eilis (and the town), he’s become involved with her widowed friend Nancy, who struggles to maintain the family chip shop. Eilis herself appears different to her old friends: “Something had happened to her in America,” Nancy concludes. Although the novel begins with a soap-operatic confrontation—and ends with a dramatic denouement, as Eilis’ fate is determined in a plot twist worthy of Edith Wharton—the author is a master of quiet, restrained prose, calmly observing the mores and mindsets of provincial Ireland, not much changed from the 1950s.

A moving portrait of rueful middle age and the failure to connect.

Pub Date: May 7, 2024

ISBN: 9781476785110

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Scribner

Review Posted Online: Feb. 3, 2024

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2024

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