A thought-provoking, comforting story that will likely inspire readers to ponder their family history, their spiritual...

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A KOPEK IN THE DUST

A SPIRITUAL JOURNEY WRAPPED IN AN IMMIGRANT TALE

Crafted like memoir, this fictional version of an immigrant’s journey brims with familial affection and spiritual yearning.

Abe Rutkiewicz is 8 years old when his family makes a stealthy flight from their Polish shtetl to cross the Atlantic. The year is 1901, and rumors of pogroms had driven Abe’s father to find a better life in New York. Reunited in Brooklyn, the newly renamed Roth family settles into adjusting to immigrant life: living in tenements and poverty, adapting to a rapidly changing world and sacrificing comfort so their children can realize the family’s dreams. Pickar describes Abe’s journey from childhood to adulthood in meticulous detail, and there’s little here that is revelatory. But the portrayal of this loving family’s steady rise to success is so gentle, and at times lyrical, it’s like being wrapped in an heirloom quilt: There’s a bit of must, but there are also the smells of Grandmother’s cooking and the softness achieved by the passing of time. Yet this is not simply another immigrant tale. When Abe’s trajectory follows that of the American Dream—college, Navy research during World War II, marriage and children, a college professorship—the novel turns toward his spiritual journey. Early on, Jacob Roth’s rigid orthodoxy turns his Abe toward mathematics and science and, as he became more fluent in the philosophy of Spinoza and the nature of physics, toward the question of religion and its purpose. When asked what is the greatest mystery to a physicist, Abe responds, “why there is something, instead of nothing.” Contemplating the relationship between God and nature, Abe is drawn toward the Unitarian-Universalist Church, where he finds a harmonious balance of science and faith. Meanwhile, life goes on, babies are born, family members depart and an aging Abe and wife Rosie spend more time in nature, finding peace in the beauty of the Appalachian Trail. The ending is inevitable and yet still may evoke tears.

A thought-provoking, comforting story that will likely inspire readers to ponder their family history, their spiritual beliefs and even the universe.

Pub Date: March 27, 2012

ISBN: 978-1469789743

Page Count: 300

Publisher: iUniverse

Review Posted Online: Feb. 21, 2013

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Follett's fans will enjoy this jaunt through the days before England was merry.

THE EVENING AND THE MORNING

Murder, sex, and unholy ambition threaten to overwhelm the glimmers of light in Dark Ages England in this prequel to The Pillars of the Earth (1989).

A Viking raid in 997 C.E. kills Edgar’s one true love, Sungifu, and he vows never to love another—but come on, he’s only 18. The young man is a talented builder who has strong personal values. Weighing the consequences of helping a slave escape, he muses, “Perhaps there were principles more important than the rule of law.” Meanwhile, Lady Ragna is a beautiful French noblewoman who comes to Shiring, marries the local ealdorman, Wilwulf, and starts a family. Much of the action takes place in Dreng’s Ferry, a tiny hamlet with “half a dozen houses and a church.” Dreng is a venal, vicious ferryman who hurls his slave’s newborn child into a river and is only one of several characters whose death readers will eagerly root for. Bishop Wynstan lusts to become an archbishop and will crush anyone who stands in his way. He clashes with Ragna as she announces she is lord of the Vale of Outhen. “Wait!” he says to the people, “Are you going to be ruled by a mere woman?” (Wynstan’s fate is delicious.) Aldred is a kindly monk who harbors an unrequited love for Edgar, who in turn loves Ragna but knows it’s hopeless: Although widowed after Wilwulf’s sudden death, she remains above Edgar’s station. There are plenty of other colorful people in this richly told, complex story: slaves, rapists, fornicators, nobles, murderers, kind and decent people, and men of the cloth with “Whore’s Leprosy.” The plot at its core, though, is boy meets girl—OK, Edgar meets Ragna—and a whole lot of trouble stands in the way of their happiness. They are attractive and sympathetic protagonists, and more’s the pity they’re stuck in the 11th century. Readers may guess the ending well before Page 900—yes, it’s that long—but Follett is a powerful storyteller who will hold their attention anyway.

Follett's fans will enjoy this jaunt through the days before England was merry.

Pub Date: Sept. 15, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-52-595498-9

Page Count: 928

Publisher: Viking

Review Posted Online: July 1, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2020

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Slow moving and richly layered.

THE SEARCHER

A retired cop takes one last case in this stand-alone novel from the creator of the Dublin Murder Squad.

Originally from North Carolina, Cal Hooper has spent the last 30 years in Chicago. “A small place. A small town in a small country”: That’s what he’s searching for when he moves to the West of Ireland. His daughter is grown, his wife has left him, so Cal is on his own—until a kid named Trey starts hanging around. Trey’s brother is missing. Everyone believes that Brendan has run off just like his father did, but Trey thinks there’s more to the story than just another young man leaving his family behind in search of money and excitement in the city. Trey wants the police detective who just emigrated from America to find out what’s really happened to Brendan. French is deploying a well-worn trope here—in fact, she’s deploying a few. Cal is a new arrival to an insular community, and he’s about to discover that he didn’t leave crime and violence behind when he left the big city. Cal is a complex enough character, though, and it turns out that the mystery he’s trying to solve is less shocking than what he ultimately discovers. French's latest is neither fast-paced nor action-packed, and it has as much to do with Cal’s inner life as it does with finding Brendan. Much of what mystery readers are looking for in terms of action is squeezed into the last third of the novel, and the morally ambiguous ending may be unsatisfying for some. But French’s fans have surely come to expect imperfect allegiance to genre conventions, and the author does, ultimately, deliver plenty of twists, shocking revelations, and truly chilling moments.

Slow moving and richly layered.

Pub Date: Oct. 6, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-73-522465-0

Page Count: 464

Publisher: Viking

Review Posted Online: July 14, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2020

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