A collection of painfully honest and consistently empathetic glimpses of modern American soldiers in war and peace.

ALL THE RUINED MEN

The lives of combat soldiers in America’s “forever wars.”

Glose adds his impressive voice to those of writers like Kevin Powers and Phil Klay who have produced powerful fiction about the experience of American soldiers fighting in the 21st-century wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. The 18 linked stories in this debut collection follow the fortunes of six members of a single platoon of paratroopers from the 82nd Airborne Division (in which Glose served during the 1991 Gulf War), some of whose members have experienced four tours of combat duty in four years. They gaze with an unblinking eye at the physical and emotional tolls exacted from soldiers who aren’t fighting for a great cause but instead “because it was their job, each man risking everything because he loved the man next to him. Simple as that.” The relentless fear that grips these men and their anxiety and nightmares only partially quelled by cocktails of prescription drugs when they return to a country that has little understanding of all they’ve sacrificed are recurring themes. Accounts from the war zone like “Dirge,” in which one character is killed by an IED and another sustains a disfiguring facial wound, or “The Dead Aren’t Allowed To Walk,” in which an avoidable friendly fire incident takes the life of a key member of the platoon, reveal the omnipresence of random sudden death or catastrophic injury. In settings that range from an upscale suburban neighborhood in Princeton, New Jersey (“Sacrifices”), to a seedy bar in Pensacola, Florida (“First Drunk Night Back”), Glose exposes painful truths about the devastation wreaked on these soldiers and the families that ached for their safe returns and now struggle to relate to them when they arrive home. Throughout, he makes no effort to conceal the harsh realities of these damaged lives.

A collection of painfully honest and consistently empathetic glimpses of modern American soldiers in war and peace.

Pub Date: Aug. 2, 2022

ISBN: 978-1-2502-7988-0

Page Count: 288

Publisher: St. Martin's

Review Posted Online: May 11, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 2022

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Strong storytelling in service of a stinging moral message.

HORSE

A long-lost painting sets in motion a plot intertwining the odyssey of a famed 19th-century thoroughbred and his trainer with the 21st-century rediscovery of the horse’s portrait.

In 2019, Nigerian American Georgetown graduate student Theo plucks a dingy canvas from a neighbor’s trash and gets an assignment from Smithsonian magazine to write about it. That puts him in touch with Jess, the Smithsonian’s “expert in skulls and bones,” who happens to be examining the same horse's skeleton, which is in the museum's collection. (Theo and Jess first meet when she sees him unlocking an expensive bike identical to hers and implies he’s trying to steal it—before he points hers out further down the same rack.) The horse is Lexington, “the greatest racing stallion in American turf history,” nurtured and trained from birth by Jarret, an enslaved man who negotiates with this extraordinary horse the treacherous political and racial landscape of Kentucky before and during the Civil War. Brooks, a White writer, risks criticism for appropriation by telling portions of these alternating storylines from Jarret’s and Theo’s points of view in addition to those of Jess and several other White characters. She demonstrates imaginative empathy with both men and provides some sardonic correctives to White cluelessness, as when Theo takes Jess’ clumsy apology—“I was traumatized by my appalling behavior”—and thinks, “Typical….He’d been accused, yet she was traumatized.” Jarret is similarly but much more covertly irked by well-meaning White people patronizing him; Brooks skillfully uses their paired stories to demonstrate how the poison of racism lingers. Contemporary parallels are unmistakable when a Union officer angrily describes his Confederate prisoners as “lost to a narrative untethered to anything he recognized as true.…Their fabulous notions of what evils the Federal government intended for them should their cause fail…was ingrained so deep, beyond the reach of reasonable dialogue or evidence.” The 21st-century chapters’ shocking denouement drives home Brooks’ point that too much remains the same for Black people in America, a grim conclusion only slightly mitigated by a happier ending for Jarret.

Strong storytelling in service of a stinging moral message.

Pub Date: June 14, 2022

ISBN: 978-0-39-956296-9

Page Count: 416

Publisher: Viking

Review Posted Online: March 16, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2022

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A whimsical fantasy about learning what’s important in life.

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THE MIDNIGHT LIBRARY

An unhappy woman who tries to commit suicide finds herself in a mysterious library that allows her to explore new lives.

How far would you go to address every regret you ever had? That’s the question at the heart of Haig’s latest novel, which imagines the plane between life and death as a vast library filled with books detailing every existence a person could have. Thrust into this mysterious way station is Nora Seed, a depressed and desperate woman estranged from her family and friends. Nora has just lost her job, and her cat is dead. Believing she has no reason to go on, she writes a farewell note and takes an overdose of antidepressants. But instead of waking up in heaven, hell, or eternal nothingness, she finds herself in a library filled with books that offer her a chance to experience an infinite number of new lives. Guided by Mrs. Elm, her former school librarian, she can pull a book from the shelf and enter a new existence—as a country pub owner with her ex-boyfriend, as a researcher on an Arctic island, as a rock star singing in stadiums full of screaming fans. But how will she know which life will make her happy? This book isn't heavy on hows; you won’t need an advanced degree in quantum physics or string theory to follow its simple yet fantastical logic. Predicting the path Nora will ultimately choose isn’t difficult, either. Haig treats the subject of suicide with a light touch, and the book’s playful tone will be welcome to readers who like their fantasies sweet if a little too forgettable.

A whimsical fantasy about learning what’s important in life.

Pub Date: Sept. 29, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-52-555947-4

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Viking

Review Posted Online: July 14, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2020

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