This imaginative, alluring novel from an acclaimed Canadian author unspools steadily and grippingly and may earn Gowdy many...

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LITTLE SISTER

The electrifying story of a cinema owner who finds herself living another woman’s life whenever it storms.

Something strange is happening to Rose Bowan, a woman in her mid-30s who, with her mother, runs the old Toronto repertory movie theater they inherited from Rose’s father. Every time a thunderstorm rolls in Rose finds herself transported into the body of another woman, a “small, kinetic” book editor named Harriet Smith, who Rose quickly ascertains is having an affair with a ruggedly sexy married man with whom she works. Harriet’s moodily dramatic, mildly dangerous life could not be more different from Rose’s. Rose lives with her mother, whose symptoms of dementia are rapidly increasing, and has been dating the same unexciting boyfriend for years, a shorter-than-she-is meteorologist with a lazy eye who is 10 years Rose's senior and resembles the singer Paul Simon. Gowdy (Helpless, 2007, etc.) describes Victor as “much the same” as Rose in that he's “a serious, steady person, a person of strict routines.” But Rose’s equilibrium is completely upset by her recurring episodes, and she finds herself drawn not only to them, but to searching for Harriet outside of them as well. What’s going on? Are Rose’s out-of-body (and into another) episodes a side effect of “silent migraines,” as Victor posits? Are they extremely and eerily vivid dreams? Or are they something harder to explain? And what, if anything, do Rose’s episodes have to do with the childhood death of her younger sister, Ava? Gowdy sucks readers into this suspenseful, supernatural story like a strong wind in a squall. We are right there with Rose as she tries to piece together her disconnected experiences as Harriet into a cohesive picture and to take action on Harriet’s behalf. Ultimately, the episodes lead Rose to more clearly understand her own experiences and to act on her own behalf as well.

This imaginative, alluring novel from an acclaimed Canadian author unspools steadily and grippingly and may earn Gowdy many new fans stateside.

Pub Date: May 23, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-941040-60-7

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Tin House

Review Posted Online: April 4, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2017

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A love letter to the power of books and friendship.

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THE GIVER OF STARS

Women become horseback librarians in 1930s Kentucky and face challenges from the landscape, the weather, and the men around them.

Alice thought marrying attractive American Bennett Van Cleve would be her ticket out of her stifling life in England. But when she and Bennett settle in Baileyville, Kentucky, she realizes that her life consists of nothing more than staying in their giant house all day and getting yelled at by his unpleasant father, who owns a coal mine. She’s just about to resign herself to a life of boredom when an opportunity presents itself in the form of a traveling horseback library—an initiative from Eleanor Roosevelt meant to counteract the devastating effects of the Depression by focusing on literacy and learning. Much to the dismay of her husband and father-in-law, Alice signs up and soon learns the ropes from the library’s leader, Margery. Margery doesn’t care what anyone thinks of her, rejects marriage, and would rather be on horseback than in a kitchen. And even though all this makes Margery a town pariah, Alice quickly grows to like her. Along with several other women (including one black woman, Sophia, whose employment causes controversy in a town that doesn’t believe black and white people should be allowed to use the same library), Margery and Alice supply magazines, Bible stories, and copies of books like Little Women to the largely poor residents who live in remote areas. Alice spends long days in terrible weather on horseback, but she finally feels happy in her new life in Kentucky, even as her marriage to Bennett is failing. But her powerful father-in-law doesn’t care for Alice’s job or Margery’s lifestyle, and he’ll stop at nothing to shut their library down. Basing her novel on the true story of the Pack Horse Library Project established by the Works Progress Administration in the 1930s, Moyes (Still Me, 2018, etc.) brings an often forgotten slice of history to life. She writes about Kentucky with lush descriptions of the landscape and tender respect for the townspeople, most of whom are poor, uneducated, and grateful for the chance to learn. Although Alice and Margery both have their own romances, the true power of the story is in the bonds between the women of the library. They may have different backgrounds, but their commitment to helping the people of Baileyville brings them together.

A love letter to the power of books and friendship.

Pub Date: Oct. 8, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-399-56248-8

Page Count: 400

Publisher: Pamela Dorman/Viking

Review Posted Online: July 1, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2019

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A deeply satisfying novel, both sensuously vivid and remarkably poignant.

THE UNSEEN

Norwegian novelist Jacobsen folds a quietly powerful coming-of-age story into a rendition of daily life on one of Norway’s rural islands a hundred years ago in a novel that was shortlisted for the 2017 Man Booker International Prize.

Ingrid Barrøy, her father, Hans, mother, Maria, grandfather Martin, and slightly addled aunt Barbro are the owners and sole inhabitants of Barrøy Island, one of numerous small family-owned islands in an area of Norway barely touched by the outside world. The novel follows Ingrid from age 3 through a carefree early childhood of endless small chores, simple pleasures, and unquestioned familial love into her more ambivalent adolescence attending school off the island and becoming aware of the outside world, then finally into young womanhood when she must make difficult choices. Readers will share Ingrid’s adoration of her father, whose sense of responsibility conflicts with his romantic nature. He adores Maria, despite what he calls her “la-di-da” ways, and is devoted to Ingrid. Twice he finds work on the mainland for his sister, Barbro, but, afraid she’ll be unhappy, he brings her home both times. Rooted to the land where he farms and tied to the sea where he fishes, Hans struggles to maintain his family’s hardscrabble existence on an island where every repair is a struggle against the elements. But his efforts are Sisyphean. Life as a Barrøy on Barrøy remains precarious. Changes do occur in men’s and women’s roles, reflected in part by who gets a literal chair to sit on at meals, while world crises—a war, Sweden’s financial troubles—have unexpected impact. Yet the drama here occurs in small increments, season by season, following nature’s rhythm through deaths and births, moments of joy and deep sorrow. The translator’s decision to use roughly translated phrases in conversation—i.e., “Tha’s goen’ nohvar” for "You’re going nowhere")—slows the reading down at first but ends up drawing readers more deeply into the world of Barrøy and its prickly, intensely alive inhabitants.

A deeply satisfying novel, both sensuously vivid and remarkably poignant.

Pub Date: April 7, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-77196-319-0

Page Count: 272

Publisher: Biblioasis

Review Posted Online: Jan. 13, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2020

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