THE NIGHT TRAVELERS

A worthwhile story with some excess material.

A bloodline of stubborn, courageous women navigates the horrors of World War II and its rippling aftereffects.

“Lilith,” Ally Keller murmurs reverently at first sight of her newborn daughter, the product of her brief but intense union with a Black German musician. “Her name means light.” And despite the fact that Ally—a freethinking, progressive German writer—must confine Lilith’s childhood within the increasingly oppressive, racist strictures of Nazi Germany, where Lilith is considered a mischling (a derogatory term for people of mixed-race ancestry), she proves an unquestionable beacon in Ally’s life. A preternaturally intelligent girl who learns the Pythagorean theorem by age 5 and begins studying Shakespeare at 6, Lilith grows up in relative stability, reading Ally’s poetry and imbibing the wisdom of Herr Professor (a Jewish literature scholar driven from his university). Lilith and her mother obsessively follow via radio the groundbreaking career of Jesse Owens, whose meteoric rise to greatness symbolizes the freedom that Lilith craves; meanwhile, in Nazi Germany, they’re able to venture outside only at night or during the rain, else risking harassment. As the Nuremberg Laws and Kristallnacht incite increasing chaos and S.S. raids worsen, Lilith appears before the German commission for racial purity, which labels her “inferior,” risking sterilization by the state. What follows is Ally’s immensely painful choice to send Lilith away on a departing ship, accompanied only by the Herzogs, a fleeing Jewish couple who become Lilith’s de facto parents. After what Lilith terms her “first death,” she must begin an entirely new life in Cuba, constantly aware of the way the past peeks through the cracks of her new reality—and unsure of her mother’s fate. In narrative sections that track the lives of Lilith’s daughter and other female descendants, the women grapple with the deep scars wrought by World War II along with motherhood, racism, and survivor’s guilt; the novel carefully investigates factors that shape identity along with the concept of unresolved memory. Correa’s scope here is impressive—the narrative sections span Havana to Berlin and 1931 to 2015—though the breadth sometimes lends the sense of an overstretched narrative, reducing dramatic intensity. Its characters, though, are complex and singular; their interiors are richly drawn and illustrate how history unfolds in increasingly complex ways within individual psyches despite passing time and space. Readers will appreciate the emotional payoff and emerge from the novel with a satisfying sense of catharsis even if it takes a while to achieve.

A worthwhile story with some excess material.

Pub Date: Jan. 10, 2023

ISBN: 978-1-501-18798-8

Page Count: 368

Publisher: Atria

Review Posted Online: Nov. 15, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2022

THE WOMEN

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

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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IT STARTS WITH US

Through palpable tension balanced with glimmers of hope, Hoover beautifully captures the heartbreak and joy of starting over.

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The sequel to It Ends With Us (2016) shows the aftermath of domestic violence through the eyes of a single mother.

Lily Bloom is still running a flower shop; her abusive ex-husband, Ryle Kincaid, is still a surgeon. But now they’re co-parenting a daughter, Emerson, who's almost a year old. Lily won’t send Emerson to her father’s house overnight until she’s old enough to talk—“So she can tell me if something happens”—but she doesn’t want to fight for full custody lest it become an expensive legal drama or, worse, a physical fight. When Lily runs into Atlas Corrigan, a childhood friend who also came from an abusive family, she hopes their friendship can blossom into love. (For new readers, their history unfolds in heartfelt diary entries that Lily addresses to Finding Nemo star Ellen DeGeneres as she considers how Atlas was a calming presence during her turbulent childhood.) Atlas, who is single and running a restaurant, feels the same way. But even though she’s divorced, Lily isn’t exactly free. Behind Ryle’s veneer of civility are his jealousy and resentment. Lily has to plan her dates carefully to avoid a confrontation. Meanwhile, Atlas’ mother returns with shocking news. In between, Lily and Atlas steal away for romantic moments that are even sweeter for their authenticity as Lily struggles with child care, breastfeeding, and running a business while trying to find time for herself.

Through palpable tension balanced with glimmers of hope, Hoover beautifully captures the heartbreak and joy of starting over.

Pub Date: Oct. 18, 2022

ISBN: 978-1-668-00122-6

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Atria

Review Posted Online: July 26, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2022

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