An engaging, disturbing tale of love, loss, and human frailties set against cross-cultural conflicts.

MANGO RAINS

In this novel, a young American woman joins the Foreign Service and is sent to Cambodia during Southeast Asia’s turbulent 1960s.

Julia Galbraith, nearly 23, arrives in Phnom Penh in the Mango Rain season (pre-monsoon period) of 1963. It is her first overseas posting. Prince Sihanouk is still in power, playing a delicate balancing act between friendships with America and China, which are involved in the early stages of their battle in war-torn Vietnam. In Cambodia, the Khmer Serei, an anti-Sihanouk rebel group hiding in Thailand, is becoming more threatening. The political machinations in Southeast Asia during this time create an intriguing and increasingly dark backdrop. During Julia’s tenure, a military coup ousts the United States–supported Diem government in Vietnam; President John F. Kennedy is assassinated; and the American position in Cambodia becomes tenuous. But the real drama in the novel rests with the romantic liaisons, ambitions, tragedies, and disappointments of various members of the diplomatic corps and the journalists covering them, beginning with Julia, through whom readers meet the rest of the characters. Her ill-fated love affair with the handsome Charles Hourani, who is attached to the Moroccan Embassy, is just one of the narrative’s challenging relationships that change lives and often end sadly as the story eventually progresses through succeeding decades. Oman, who has some experience in the Foreign Service, offers a captivating insider glimpse of America’s diplomatic mission during a tumultuous time. Vivid images of Cambodia—the colors, aromas, flavors, and street scenes—bring readers directly into the time and place: “Fortunetellers squat on the pavement, and old men hold cages of songbirds. Dentists set up rudimentary shops on the sidewalks, their primitive tools laid out on less-than-pristine towels.” The second half of the richly descriptive and poignant book—with the exception of its first chapter, which concludes Julia’s time in Southeast Asia—consists of an assortment of catch-up vignettes that fill in the ultimate fates of most of the supporting characters. It makes for a rather melancholy finale.

An engaging, disturbing tale of love, loss, and human frailties set against cross-cultural conflicts.

Pub Date: Feb. 14, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-73323-322-4

Page Count: 282

Publisher: Galaxy Galloper Press, LLC

Review Posted Online: March 20, 2020

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An alternately farcical and poignant look at family bonds.

THE SUMMER PLACE

When a family convenes at their Cape Cod summer home for a wedding, old secrets threaten to ruin everything.

Sarah Danhauser is shocked when her beloved stepdaughter announces her engagement to her boyfriend, Gabe. After all, Ruby’s only 22, and Sarah suspects that their relationship was fast-tracked because of the time they spent together in quarantine during the early days of the pandemic. Sarah’s mother, Veronica, is thrilled, mostly because she longs to have the entire family together for one last celebration before she puts their Cape Cod summer house on the market. But getting to Ruby and Gabe’s wedding might prove more difficult than anyone thought. Sarah can’t figure out why her husband, Eli, has been so distant and distracted ever since Ruby moved home to Park Slope (bringing Gabe with her), and she's afraid he may be having an affair. Veronica is afraid that a long-ago dalliance might come back to bite her. Ruby isn’t sure how to process the conflicting feelings she’s having about her upcoming nuptials. And Sam, Sarah’s twin brother, is a recent widower who’s dealing with some pretty big romantic confusion. As the entire extended family, along with Gabe’s relatives, converges on the summer house, secrets become impossible to keep, and it quickly becomes clear that this might not be the perfect gathering Veronica was envisioning. If they make it to the wedding, will their family survive the aftermath? Weiner creates a story with all the misunderstandings and miscommunications of a screwball comedy or a Shakespeare play (think A Midsummer Night’s Dream). But the surprising, over-the-top actions of the characters are grounded by a realistic and moving look at grief and ambition (particularly for Sarah and Veronica, both of whom give up demanding creative careers early on). At times the flashbacks can slow down the story, but even when the characters are lying, cheating, and hiding from each other, they still seem like a real and loving family.

An alternately farcical and poignant look at family bonds.

Pub Date: May 10, 2022

ISBN: 978-1-5011-3357-2

Page Count: 432

Publisher: Atria

Review Posted Online: Feb. 9, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2022

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A curious fetishization of outsiders, outlaws, and the down-and-out.

THE RAVAGED

This debut novel from Walking Dead actor Reedus follows three thematically connected yet narratively unrelated people as they journey to find themselves.

Hunter, a heavily tatted Iraq War vet and self-proclaimed gearhead, attacks his boss at the bike shop after catching him kicking a dog. “Hunter was old school,” the narrator says, rough-hewn but with strong moral fiber and a heart of gold. After learning his father died in a “mysterious house fire” in California, Hunter hops on his Buell S1 motorcycle alongside his buddies Nugget and Itch for a cross-country haul to execute the will. Meanwhile, a wealthy 65-year-old executive named Jack is mugged while traveling aimlessly through South America, neither the first nor the last of his hardships. Jack abandoned his cushy, bloodless office lifestyle after his dying mother told him to “run and never look back,” words he continuously labors to unpack. Finally, Anne, an abused teenage girl in Tennessee, steals her father’s savings and .38 revolver and runs away from home, clobbering her brother upside the head with a cast-iron skillet when he tries to stop her. She connects with her friend Trot, and they join a community of train-hoppers. Co-written by Bill, the story reads like a pastiche of Robert Pirsig’s Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance and Jack Kerouac’s On the Road, the latter of which is name-dropped as “great” by multiple characters. Though occasionally hitting some beautiful imagery of the American heartland, Reedus falls victim to implausible dialogue—“Fabiola, you are reading me like a stock report,” Jack says—and overcooked language: “flesh the color of a high-dollar medium-roast coffee bean.” Frequently wordy summaries do little to develop the thinly sketched characters; we know nearly as much about them on Page 25 as on Page 250.

A curious fetishization of outsiders, outlaws, and the down-and-out.

Pub Date: May 10, 2022

ISBN: 978-1-09-416680-3

Page Count: 292

Publisher: Blackstone

Review Posted Online: March 16, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2022

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