A quietly effective novel that believably portrays Jewish life under Roman rule, the seeds of Christianity, and a woman’s...

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Danya: A Woman of Ancient Galilee

A woman in first-century Palestine struggles to adapt, flourish, and find love and meaning.

This quasi-historical novel tells the story of Danya, who grows up in Nazareth during tumultuous times in Roman-occupied Palestine. Jewish rebels like her brother Lev fight to liberate their “sad, beautiful land,” impoverished by Roman taxation, while more prosperous Jews acquiesce. When the Romans seek retribution after a Jewish raid that the 13-year-old, self-educated Danya wanted to join, her father moves the family to Jerusalem to stay with her half brother, Chuza, for safety. After a Jewish uprising at the Temple Mount and a subsequent massacre by Roman forces, a Roman soldier kills Danya’s innocent father. Fourteen-year-old Danya is married off to an old Jewish priest, Tobiah, although she’s in love with a younger Jewish rebel, the real-life Judah ben Hezekiah, a “red-haired, roughly dressed leader of men.” She grows to love her conservative, aristocratic husband and bears him three children, suppressing her rebel sympathies in deference to his reluctant acceptance of Roman rule. When Tobiah dies unexpectedly, his estate goes to their oldest son, still a youth. Danya’s “avaricious, lustful, scheming” half brother plots to take advantage of the widow and her son and marry her teenage daughter. Along the way, Yeshua, the historical Jesus, and Miryam, his mother, intersect with Danya and her family. Thoroughly researched and perceptively written, this novel mainly presents interior relationships and feelings. Still, McGivern (Language Stories: Teaching Language to Developmentally Disabled Children, 1978) gives a convincing account of how families might have lived in first-century Palestine and of the troubling physical and psychological adjustments necessary for survival and in which practical considerations displace idealistic dreams. The author skillfully interweaves the lives of fictional and real-life characters to spin a convincing yarn and refrains from making the young Jesus too pious. The book succeeds in unearthing the Jewish roots of Christianity, embodied in the character of Danya, who is advised by Miryam to “act with love and compassion and justice.”

A quietly effective novel that believably portrays Jewish life under Roman rule, the seeds of Christianity, and a woman’s battles for survival.

Pub Date: N/A

ISBN: N/A

Page Count: 316

Publisher: WOW Press

Review Posted Online: Jan. 25, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2016

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A tasty, if not always tasteful, tale of supernatural mayhem that fans of King and Crichton alike will enjoy.

DEVOLUTION

Are we not men? We are—well, ask Bigfoot, as Brooks does in this delightful yarn, following on his bestseller World War Z (2006).

A zombie apocalypse is one thing. A volcanic eruption is quite another, for, as the journalist who does a framing voice-over narration for Brooks’ latest puts it, when Mount Rainier popped its cork, “it was the psychological aspect, the hyperbole-fueled hysteria that had ended up killing the most people.” Maybe, but the sasquatches whom the volcano displaced contributed to the statistics, too, if only out of self-defense. Brooks places the epicenter of the Bigfoot war in a high-tech hideaway populated by the kind of people you might find in a Jurassic Park franchise: the schmo who doesn’t know how to do much of anything but tries anyway, the well-intentioned bleeding heart, the know-it-all intellectual who turns out to know the wrong things, the immigrant with a tough backstory and an instinct for survival. Indeed, the novel does double duty as a survival manual, packed full of good advice—for instance, try not to get wounded, for “injury turns you from a giver to a taker. Taking up our resources, our time to care for you.” Brooks presents a case for making room for Bigfoot in the world while peppering his narrative with timely social criticism about bad behavior on the human side of the conflict: The explosion of Rainier might have been better forecast had the president not slashed the budget of the U.S. Geological Survey, leading to “immediate suspension of the National Volcano Early Warning System,” and there’s always someone around looking to monetize the natural disaster and the sasquatch-y onslaught that follows. Brooks is a pro at building suspense even if it plays out in some rather spectacularly yucky episodes, one involving a short spear that takes its name from “the sucking sound of pulling it out of the dead man’s heart and lungs.” Grossness aside, it puts you right there on the scene.

A tasty, if not always tasteful, tale of supernatural mayhem that fans of King and Crichton alike will enjoy.

Pub Date: June 16, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-9848-2678-7

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Del Rey/Ballantine

Review Posted Online: Feb. 10, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2020

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Kin “[find] each other’s lives inscrutable” in this rich, sharp story about the way identity is formed.

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THE VANISHING HALF

Inseparable identical twin sisters ditch home together, and then one decides to vanish.

The talented Bennett fuels her fiction with secrets—first in her lauded debut, The Mothers (2016), and now in the assured and magnetic story of the Vignes sisters, light-skinned women parked on opposite sides of the color line. Desiree, the “fidgety twin,” and Stella, “a smart, careful girl,” make their break from stultifying rural Mallard, Louisiana, becoming 16-year-old runaways in 1954 New Orleans. The novel opens 14 years later as Desiree, fleeing a violent marriage in D.C., returns home with a different relative: her 8-year-old daughter, Jude. The gossips are agog: “In Mallard, nobody married dark....Marrying a dark man and dragging his blueblack child all over town was one step too far.” Desiree's decision seals Jude’s misery in this “colorstruck” place and propels a new generation of flight: Jude escapes on a track scholarship to UCLA. Tending bar as a side job in Beverly Hills, she catches a glimpse of her mother’s doppelgänger. Stella, ensconced in white society, is shedding her fur coat. Jude, so black that strangers routinely stare, is unrecognizable to her aunt. All this is expertly paced, unfurling before the book is half finished; a reader can guess what is coming. Bennett is deeply engaged in the unknowability of other people and the scourge of colorism. The scene in which Stella adopts her white persona is a tour de force of doubling and confusion. It calls up Toni Morrison’s The Bluest Eye, the book's 50-year-old antecedent. Bennett's novel plays with its characters' nagging feelings of being incomplete—for the twins without each other; for Jude’s boyfriend, Reese, who is trans and seeks surgery; for their friend Barry, who performs in drag as Bianca. Bennett keeps all these plot threads thrumming and her social commentary crisp. In the second half, Jude spars with her cousin Kennedy, Stella's daughter, a spoiled actress.

Kin “[find] each other’s lives inscrutable” in this rich, sharp story about the way identity is formed.

Pub Date: June 2, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-525-53629-1

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Riverhead

Review Posted Online: March 15, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2020

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