by Ari Braverman ‧ RELEASE DATE: July 7, 2020
An original, compelling, and enigmatic first novel.
Watching an elderly parent become frail and ill is never easy, but it's even more difficult when the relationship is fraught.
The unnamed 33-year-old narrator of this unsettling debut not only has to help her once-neglectful and often haughty mom sell her house and downsize, she also has to deal with her mother’s physical decline. The two live thousands of miles apart, in two dissimilar but never-identified locales. The woman lives with her male partner in a cozy rental and both work in never-defined jobs that allow them a modicum of social mobility. The novel presents their relationship as comfortable, settled, and their day-to-day interactions unfold alongside the woman’s planned and random encounters with people known only as "the neighbor," an elderly woman dying of kidney disease; "the cousin"; "the hard stranger"; "the father" and "the stepmother"; "the coworker"; "the pretty-necked friend"; and "the bad-lucked friend." Who she is with each of these people varies, but self-doubt is never far from the surface. Her weight, always a source of discomfort, is a constant concern, but readers have no idea if the narrator is actually overweight or if this fixation is a delusion. Whatever, it creates tension, and it is only after the woman and her mother have readied the family home for sale that eating cupcakes together becomes a rite of release. Class and religious differences are alluded to, as well, since the father is Jewish and the mother is not, but the many possible meanings of these identifiers are left hanging. In the end, it is up to the reader to parse meaning from each and every incident, many of them bizarre and some of them shocking.An original, compelling, and enigmatic first novel.
Pub Date: July 7, 2020
Page Count: 176
Publisher: Melville House
Review Posted Online: April 12, 2020
Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 2020
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by Kristin Hannah ‧ RELEASE DATE: Feb. 6, 2024
A dramatic, vividly detailed reconstruction of a little-known aspect of the Vietnam War.
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
Page Count: 480
Publisher: St. Martin's
Review Posted Online: Nov. 4, 2023
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2023
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More About This Book
BOOK TO SCREEN
by Barbara Kingsolver ‧ RELEASE DATE: Oct. 18, 2022
An angry, powerful book seething with love and outrage for a community too often stereotyped or ignored.
Awards & Accolades
Best Books Of 2022
New York Times Bestseller
Pulitzer Prize Winner
Inspired by David Copperfield, Kingsolver crafts a 21st-century coming-of-age story set in America’s hard-pressed rural South.
It’s not necessary to have read Dickens’ famous novel to appreciate Kingsolver’s absorbing tale, but those who have will savor the tough-minded changes she rings on his Victorian sentimentality while affirming his stinging critique of a heartless society. Our soon-to-be orphaned narrator’s mother is a substance-abusing teenage single mom who checks out via OD on his 11th birthday, and Demon’s cynical, wised-up voice is light-years removed from David Copperfield’s earnest tone. Yet readers also see the yearning for love and wells of compassion hidden beneath his self-protective exterior. Like pretty much everyone else in Lee County, Virginia, hollowed out economically by the coal and tobacco industries, he sees himself as someone with no prospects and little worth. One of Kingsolver’s major themes, hit a little too insistently, is the contempt felt by participants in the modern capitalist economy for those rooted in older ways of life. More nuanced and emotionally engaging is Demon’s fierce attachment to his home ground, a place where he is known and supported, tested to the breaking point as the opiate epidemic engulfs it. Kingsolver’s ferocious indictment of the pharmaceutical industry, angrily stated by a local girl who has become a nurse, is in the best Dickensian tradition, and Demon gives a harrowing account of his descent into addiction with his beloved Dori (as naïve as Dickens’ Dora in her own screwed-up way). Does knowledge offer a way out of this sinkhole? A committed teacher tries to enlighten Demon’s seventh grade class about how the resource-rich countryside was pillaged and abandoned, but Kingsolver doesn’t air-brush his students’ dismissal of this history or the prejudice encountered by this African American outsider and his White wife. She is an art teacher who guides Demon toward self-expression, just as his friend Tommy provokes his dawning understanding of how their world has been shaped by outside forces and what he might be able to do about it.An angry, powerful book seething with love and outrage for a community too often stereotyped or ignored.
Pub Date: Oct. 18, 2022
Page Count: 560
Review Posted Online: July 13, 2022
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2022
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