An outstanding, unsentimental portrait of family, love, and unavoidable hardships.

A WINTER NIGHT

A woman in her 30s strives to overcome doubts regarding her romance with a bartender in this novel.

Angie Dugan has no fond memories of her past relationships. The 34-year-old social worker at Lindell Retirement Home in Dunston, New York, has been seeing bartender Matt for well over a month. She fears she’ll do something to drive him away. Years ago, her mom, Lavinia, walked out on her family: She was fed up with her husband Potter’s alcoholism. Though Lavinia soon returned for her five children, Angie continues to have abandonment issues. She consequently keeps people at arm’s length and has difficulty trusting Matt. He certainly doesn’t make it easy; he’s good friends with Sharon, a server at The Watering Hole, where he works. Evidently, Matt and Sharon had a relationship, but is it over, as he claims? Making matters worse is Potter, whose recent problems with his wife, Mary Beth, seem to have driven the recovering alcoholic to drink excessively. As Angie counsels her beloved but troubled father, she tries pushing out negative thoughts concerning Matt in case what the two have is indeed love. Parrish fills her story with indelible characters, most notably the Dugans, who have appeared in her earlier novels. Family propels the narrative, from Angie’s siblings to Matt’s addict sister, Jen, and even a few Lindell residents. The tale delivers a realistic depiction of loving relationships and, as such, is often gloomy. Angie, for example, unquestionably loves her family, undeterred by her sister Marta’s apparent indifference or Potter’s stumbles. At the same time, her burgeoning romance with Matt is thoroughly engaging. Since readers have the same information as Angie, they may likewise wonder about Matt’s intermittently suspicious behavior. The author’s crisp prose keenly details Angie’s predicament, as when she chastises herself for a “nasty sardonic voice” that has become her “default setting.”

An outstanding, unsentimental portrait of family, love, and unavoidable hardships. (dedication, author bio)

Pub Date: March 16, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-950730-60-5

Page Count: 248

Publisher: Unsolicited Press

Review Posted Online: Aug. 21, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1, 2020

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Murder most foul and mayhem most entertaining. Another worthy page-turner from a protean master.

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BILLY SUMMERS

The ever prolific King moves from his trademark horror into the realm of the hard-boiled noir thriller.

“He’s not a normal person. He’s a hired assassin, and if he doesn’t think like who and what he is, he’ll never get clear.” So writes King of his title character, whom the Las Vegas mob has brought in to rub out another hired gun who’s been caught and is likely to talk. Billy, who goes by several names, is a complex man, a Marine veteran of the Iraq War who’s seen friends blown to pieces; he’s perhaps numbed by PTSD, but he’s goal-oriented. He’s also a reader—Zola’s novel Thérèse Raquin figures as a MacGuffin—which sets his employer’s wheels spinning: If a reader, then why not have him pretend he’s a writer while he’s waiting for the perfect moment to make his hit? It wouldn’t be the first writer, real or imagined, King has pressed into service, and if Billy is no Jack Torrance, there’s a lovely, subtle hint of the Overlook Hotel and its spectral occupants at the end of the yarn. It’s no spoiler to say that whereas Billy carries out the hit with grim precision, things go squirrelly, complicated by his rescue of a young woman—Alice—after she’s been roofied and raped. Billy’s revenge on her behalf is less than sweet. As a memoir grows in his laptop, Billy becomes more confident as a writer: “He doesn’t know what anyone else might think, but Billy thinks it’s good,” King writes of one day’s output. “And good that it’s awful, because awful is sometimes the truth. He guesses he really is a writer now, because that’s a writer’s thought.” Billy’s art becomes life as Alice begins to take an increasingly important part in it, crisscrossing the country with him to carry out a final hit on an errant bad guy: “He flopped back on the sofa, kicked once, and fell on the floor. His days of raping children and murdering sons and God knew what else were over.” That story within a story has a nice twist, and Billy’s battered copy of Zola’s book plays a part, too.

Murder most foul and mayhem most entertaining. Another worthy page-turner from a protean master.

Pub Date: Aug. 3, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-982173-61-6

Page Count: 528

Publisher: Scribner

Review Posted Online: June 2, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2021

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As the pieces of this magical literary puzzle snap together, a flicker of hope is sparked for our benighted world.

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CLOUD CUCKOO LAND

An ancient Greek manuscript connects humanity's past, present, and future.

Stranger, whoever you are, open this to learn what will amaze you” wrote Antonius Diogenes at the end of the first century C.E.—and millennia later, Pulitzer Prize winner Doerr is his fitting heir. Around Diogenes' manuscript, "Cloud Cuckoo Land"—the author did exist, but the text is invented—Doerr builds a community of readers and nature lovers that transcends the boundaries of time and space. The protagonist of the original story is Aethon, a shepherd whose dream of escaping to a paradise in the sky leads to a wild series of adventures in the bodies of beast, fish, and fowl. Aethon's story is first found by Anna in 15th-century Constantinople; though a failure as an apprentice seamstress, she's learned ancient Greek from an elderly scholar. Omeir, a country boy of the same period, is rejected by the world for his cleft lip—but forms the deepest of connections with his beautiful oxen, Moonlight and Tree. In the 1950s, Zeno Ninis, a troubled ex–GI in Lakeport, Idaho, finds peace in working on a translation of Diogenes' recently recovered manuscript. In 2020, 86-year-old Zeno helps a group of youngsters put the story on as a play at the Lakeport Public Library—unaware that an eco-terrorist is planting a bomb in the building during dress rehearsal. (This happens in the first pages of the book and continues ticking away throughout.) On a spaceship called the Argos bound for Beta Oph2 in Mission Year 65, a teenage girl named Konstance is sequestered in a sealed room with a computer named Sybil. How could she possibly encounter Zeno's translation? This is just one of the many narrative miracles worked by the author as he brings a first-century story to its conclusion in 2146.

As the pieces of this magical literary puzzle snap together, a flicker of hope is sparked for our benighted world.

Pub Date: Sept. 28, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-982168-43-8

Page Count: 656

Publisher: Scribner

Review Posted Online: June 29, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2021

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