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DEVIL MAKES THREE

A fine-grained, if at times overly upholstered tale of humanitarian and political tragedy.

Natives, expats, and interlopers navigate the aftermath of Haiti’s violent 1991 coup.

Fountain’s second novel, following the National Book Critics Circle Award–winning Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk (2012), opens shortly after the deposition of Jean-Bertrand Aristide by the Caribbean nation’s military leaders. Matt Amaker, an American running a scuba-diving business for tourists, hopes the matter will soon blow over; but Audrey O’Donnell, a CIA agent managing money funneled into Haiti by the U.S. government, has a better glimpse of how upended the country is, to the point of getting a perverse thrill from it (“here was the world in miniature, a hothouse geopolitical lab where trends, functions, and methods were stripped bare for the interested student to view”); and Misha, a native Haitian and sister of Matt’s business partner, becomes a witness to the depths of the coup’s violence when she works as a clerk in a hospital struggling to keep up with the flood of victims. Desperate to keep working, Matt pursues a treasure-hunting scheme, heading to a quiet shore to find some cannons and other potentially lucrative remnants of a Spanish galleon. In the process, he digs up further trouble—and a metaphor for the long history of colonialist abuses that, Fountain suggests, keep driving Haiti to the brink. Fountain has made dozens of trips to Haiti, which fueled half the stories in his superb 2006 debut, Brief Encounters With Che Guevara (and made him an exemplar of Malcolm Gladwell’s “10,000 hours” rule for mastery); his grasp of the country’s folklore and history is worked satisfyingly deep into this book’s pages. But the execution can be disappointingly flat in comparison to other white-man-in-a-foreign-land practitioners like Paul Theroux, Norman Rush, Graham Greene, and Russell Banks; not quite a thriller about treasure-seeking nor a study of spycraft nor realist historical fiction, the book displays Fountain’s smarts but also meanders and lectures.

A fine-grained, if at times overly upholstered tale of humanitarian and political tragedy.

Pub Date: Sept. 26, 2023

ISBN: 9781250776518

Page Count: 544

Publisher: Flatiron Books

Review Posted Online: June 21, 2023

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2023

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THE WOMEN

A dramatic, vividly detailed reconstruction of a little-known aspect of the Vietnam War.

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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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THE GOD OF THE WOODS

"Don't go into the woods" takes on unsettling new meaning in Moore's blend of domestic drama and crime novel.

Many years after her older brother, Bear, went missing, Barbara Van Laar vanishes from the same sleepaway camp he did, leading to dark, bitter truths about her wealthy family.

One morning in 1975 at Camp Emerson—an Adirondacks summer camp owned by her family—it's discovered that 13-year-old Barbara isn't in her bed. A problem case whose unhappily married parents disdain her goth appearance and "stormy" temperament, Barbara is secretly known by one bunkmate to have slipped out every night after bedtime. But no one has a clue where's she permanently disappeared to, firing speculation that she was taken by a local serial killer known as Slitter. As Jacob Sluiter, he was convicted of 11 murders in the 1960s and recently broke out of prison. He's the one, people say, who should have been prosecuted for Bear's abduction, not a gardener who was framed. Leave it to the young and unproven assistant investigator, Judy Luptack, to press forward in uncovering the truth, unswayed by her bullying father and male colleagues who question whether women are "cut out for this work." An unsavory group portrait of the Van Laars emerges in which the children's father cruelly abuses their submissive mother, who is so traumatized by the loss of Bear—and the possible role she played in it—that she has no love left for her daughter. Picking up on the themes of families in search of themselves she explored in Long Bright River (2020), Moore draws sympathy to characters who have been subjected to spousal, parental, psychological, and physical abuse. As rich in background detail and secondary mysteries as it is, this ever-expansive, intricate, emotionally engaging novel never seems overplotted. Every piece falls skillfully into place and every character, major and minor, leaves an imprint.

"Don't go into the woods" takes on unsettling new meaning in Moore's blend of domestic drama and crime novel.

Pub Date: July 2, 2024

ISBN: 9780593418918

Page Count: 496

Publisher: Riverhead

Review Posted Online: April 13, 2024

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2024

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