THE PROTOCOLS OF AMBIGUITY

In Jacobson’s debut novel, a precocious boy from a broken family feels God’s influence on his life.
The novel opens, memorably, with a 6-year-old boy receiving the Holy Spirit at a revival meeting. From the start, it’s clear that this is no ordinary child, as he’s both unusually serious and uncommonly gifted. But his dysfunctional family could derail his mission to serve Jesus: His father is, by turns, absent or violent, and the family’s frequent moves mean that the boy is often the new kid in school. It’s not until page 20 that readers learn the boy’s name (Ches); other immediate family members remain “the dad,” “the mother,” “the eldest brother” and so on. This anonymity indicates Ches’ solipsism, and suggests that his is an archetypal hero’s quest. However, it also allows readers to remain detached from the characters. Ches’ coming-of-age doesn’t follow a smooth path; he may be a genius—reading Nietzsche at age 12—and a surfing phenom, but drugs and crime also beckon him. Italicized chapter-ending passages reveal that the entire story is a series of flashbacks, and that Ches is currently hiding in a church utility room, either having a breakdown or an epiphany. However, his self-psychoanalysis seems far-fetched for an adolescent: “He pushed the paranoia back by reminding himself of his current victim status.…This thought sectionalized the guilt.” Jacobson is clearly fascinated by how people speak, and he creates distinctive voices, some in dialect, throughout the novel. He convincingly renders a Southern preacher’s twang, a teacher’s Brooklyn accent and Ches’ grandmother’s Louisianan drawl, even if they can be challenging to read—as when the preacher says, “[S]ayith Gawd, ‘I whill powur out maa speeritupon awl falesh in the layst days’!” At one point, when Ches attends a Christian interdenominational conference, Jacobson transcribes a panel discussion on glossolalia and Trinitarianism. Again, the individual voices emerge beautifully, but the scene seems irrelevant, as do various asides discussing the Trinity, as the Oneness Pentecostal church is held up as a bastion of orthodoxy. This theme, particularly in combination with the author’s mockery of Ches’ liberal humanist and feminist professors, makes the novel feel like a Trojan horse, conveying conspiracy theories and religious dogma inside a somewhat aimless plot.
A skillfully written novel, undermined by fundamentalist propaganda.

Pub Date: July 25, 2014

ISBN: 978-1480809031

Page Count: 270

Publisher: Archway Publishing

Review Posted Online: Dec. 2, 2014

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet

A tasty, if not always tasteful, tale of supernatural mayhem that fans of King and Crichton alike will enjoy.

Reader Votes

  • Readers Vote
  • 47

Our Verdict

  • Our Verdict
  • GET IT

  • New York Times Bestseller

DEVOLUTION

Are we not men? We are—well, ask Bigfoot, as Brooks does in this delightful yarn, following on his bestseller World War Z (2006).

A zombie apocalypse is one thing. A volcanic eruption is quite another, for, as the journalist who does a framing voice-over narration for Brooks’ latest puts it, when Mount Rainier popped its cork, “it was the psychological aspect, the hyperbole-fueled hysteria that had ended up killing the most people.” Maybe, but the sasquatches whom the volcano displaced contributed to the statistics, too, if only out of self-defense. Brooks places the epicenter of the Bigfoot war in a high-tech hideaway populated by the kind of people you might find in a Jurassic Park franchise: the schmo who doesn’t know how to do much of anything but tries anyway, the well-intentioned bleeding heart, the know-it-all intellectual who turns out to know the wrong things, the immigrant with a tough backstory and an instinct for survival. Indeed, the novel does double duty as a survival manual, packed full of good advice—for instance, try not to get wounded, for “injury turns you from a giver to a taker. Taking up our resources, our time to care for you.” Brooks presents a case for making room for Bigfoot in the world while peppering his narrative with timely social criticism about bad behavior on the human side of the conflict: The explosion of Rainier might have been better forecast had the president not slashed the budget of the U.S. Geological Survey, leading to “immediate suspension of the National Volcano Early Warning System,” and there’s always someone around looking to monetize the natural disaster and the sasquatch-y onslaught that follows. Brooks is a pro at building suspense even if it plays out in some rather spectacularly yucky episodes, one involving a short spear that takes its name from “the sucking sound of pulling it out of the dead man’s heart and lungs.” Grossness aside, it puts you right there on the scene.

A tasty, if not always tasteful, tale of supernatural mayhem that fans of King and Crichton alike will enjoy.

Pub Date: June 16, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-9848-2678-7

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Del Rey/Ballantine

Review Posted Online: Feb. 10, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2020

Did you like this book?

Packed with riveting drama and painful truths, this book powerfully illustrates the devastation of abuse—and the strength of...

Reader Votes

  • Readers Vote
  • 48

Our Verdict

  • Our Verdict
  • GET IT

  • New York Times Bestseller

  • IndieBound Bestseller

IT ENDS WITH US

Hoover’s (November 9, 2015, etc.) latest tackles the difficult subject of domestic violence with romantic tenderness and emotional heft.

At first glance, the couple is edgy but cute: Lily Bloom runs a flower shop for people who hate flowers; Ryle Kincaid is a surgeon who says he never wants to get married or have kids. They meet on a rooftop in Boston on the night Ryle loses a patient and Lily attends her abusive father’s funeral. The provocative opening takes a dark turn when Lily receives a warning about Ryle’s intentions from his sister, who becomes Lily’s employee and close friend. Lily swears she’ll never end up in another abusive home, but when Ryle starts to show all the same warning signs that her mother ignored, Lily learns just how hard it is to say goodbye. When Ryle is not in the throes of a jealous rage, his redeeming qualities return, and Lily can justify his behavior: “I think we needed what happened on the stairwell to happen so that I would know his past and we’d be able to work on it together,” she tells herself. Lily marries Ryle hoping the good will outweigh the bad, and the mother-daughter dynamics evolve beautifully as Lily reflects on her childhood with fresh eyes. Diary entries fancifully addressed to TV host Ellen DeGeneres serve as flashbacks to Lily’s teenage years, when she met her first love, Atlas Corrigan, a homeless boy she found squatting in a neighbor’s house. When Atlas turns up in Boston, now a successful chef, he begs Lily to leave Ryle. Despite the better option right in front of her, an unexpected complication forces Lily to cut ties with Atlas, confront Ryle, and try to end the cycle of abuse before it’s too late. The relationships are portrayed with compassion and honesty, and the author’s note at the end that explains Hoover’s personal connection to the subject matter is a must-read.

Packed with riveting drama and painful truths, this book powerfully illustrates the devastation of abuse—and the strength of the survivors.

Pub Date: Aug. 2, 2016

ISBN: 978-1-5011-1036-8

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Atria

Review Posted Online: May 31, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2016

Did you like this book?

more