by Asako Serizawa ‧ RELEASE DATE: July 14, 2020
Cultures collide and sometimes meld in an assured debut.
The past spills out into history and encroaches on the future in Japanese-born, Boston-based writer Serizawa’s first book of short stories.
Two poles dominate Serizawa’s short fiction: Japan and the U.S. (California in particular). One historical event looms over both: the war between Japan and the U.S. in the 1940s, an event that, she writes in an author’s note, “didn’t start and end with specific people and events; its roots reach back to values seeded long ago, and its sundering effects have hardly lost their spark and propulsion.” Her characters aren’t always sure what those values are. One woman, resolutely of the present moment in the era of “Neoliberal Self-Destruction,” disappears at the end of a looping mystery, perhaps a member, perhaps the very embodiment, of a group called Bakteria, which “leaked a trove of undeclassified material related to a Japanese bacteriological warfare unit from the Second World War, whose crimes the U.S. government had notoriously helped cover up, shielding its members in exchange for their data harvested from human experimentation.” Was her disappearance a prank, a kidnapping, a CIA plot, an act of terrorism? We’re left to guess. In another story, some of the last pilots of the Imperial Army, knowing that they won’t return, lift off into the sky to “meet several hundred enemy fighters,” dutifully plunging like so many Icaruses into the ocean. A Japanese woman recalls the hoods that she and her neighbors wore to protect themselves from American firebombing: “they were just padded pieces of cloth, another thing our government cooked up. Still, we put them on, you know, half of us running around with our hoods on fire.” Serizawa writes elegantly if matter-of-factly of the horrific and the nostalgic alike, as when one narrator recalls a childhood visit to her grandparents in Japan, learning an ancient ritual: “clapping her hands three times and pressing her palms together, eyes closed, a prayer for Fuji-san, his mountain god. Keeper of health.”Cultures collide and sometimes meld in an assured debut.
Pub Date: July 14, 2020
Page Count: 288
Review Posted Online: May 3, 2020
Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 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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BOOK TO SCREEN
by Mitch Albom ‧ RELEASE DATE: Nov. 14, 2023
A captivating allegory about evil, lies, and forgiveness.
Awards & Accolades
New York Times Bestseller
Truth and deception clash in this tale of the Holocaust.
Udo Graf is proud that the Wolf has assigned him the task of expelling all 50,000 Jews from Salonika, Greece. In that city, Nico Krispis is an 11-year-old Jewish boy whose blue eyes and blond hair deceive, but whose words do not. Those who know him know he has never told a lie in his life—“Never be the one to tell lies, Nico,” his grandfather teaches him. “God is always watching.” Udo and Nico meet, and Udo decides to exploit the child’s innocence. At the train station where Jews are being jammed into cattle cars bound for Auschwitz, Udo gives Nico a yellow star to wear and persuades him to whisper among the crowd, “I heard it from a German officer. They are sending us to Poland. We will have new homes. And jobs.” The lad doesn’t know any better, so he helps persuade reluctant Jews to board the train to hell. “You were a good little liar,” Udo later tells Nico, and delights in the prospect of breaking the boy’s spirit, which is more fun and a greater challenge than killing him outright. When Nico realizes the horrific nature of what he's done, his truth-telling days are over. He becomes an inveterate liar about everything. Narrating the story is the Angel of Truth, whom according to a parable God had cast out of heaven and onto earth, where Truth shattered into billions of pieces, each to lodge in a human heart. (Obviously, many hearts have been missed.) Truth skillfully weaves together the characters, including Nico; his brother, Sebastian; Sebastian’s wife, Fannie; and the “heartless deceiver” Udo. Events extend for decades beyond World War II, until everyone’s lives finally collide in dramatic fashion. As Truth readily acknowledges, his account is loaded with twists and turns, some fortuitous and others not. Will Nico Krispis ever seek redemption? And will he find it? Author Albom’s passion shows through on every page in this well-crafted novel.A captivating allegory about evil, lies, and forgiveness.
Pub Date: Nov. 14, 2023
Page Count: 352
Review Posted Online: Sept. 21, 2023
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 2023
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