by Blair Hurley ‧ RELEASE DATE: April 18, 2023
A remarkable exploration of what it is to believe, to lose, and to start again.
Hurley probes the complexities of religious extremism, fraught family relationships, and the legacies of abuse in her subtle but engrossing second novel.
Nora is a hospice nurse struggling to come to terms with life outside the apocalyptic Christian cult in which she was raised. The cult leader, Nora’s father, teaches that “once the sin is in you, it only ever goes deeper,” and the relationship between faith and fear is arguably the core of the novel, which Hurley explores with deep empathy. The combination of a declining economy and increasingly volatile political milieu leads a group of disaffected people to come together to search for a better life. Hurley writes that the “plagues” of the contemporary U.S. are “amorphous and baffling: job losses, opioids, deaths of despair”—and shows how these systemic failures can be used to manipulate desperate people. Nora speaks in tongues to the growing cult, foreseeing the end of the world and promising that by following her father, they’ll be led to salvation. When the group relocates to the remote wilderness of Michigan’s Upper Peninsula, Hurley captures the area's harsh natural beauty in glorious prose, providing the reader some respite in a novel with very few points of light. The visceral descriptions of the cult’s survival techniques—hunting, boiling pine needles for protein, making herbal treatments for beaten women—draw the reader into the dark, insular world hidden among the trees. Hurley’s writing is beguiling, working analogously to the rhetoric of the cult. Even as the reader witnesses the manipulations, lies, and performances, it’s clear how familiarity, family, and isolation work to draw lost souls in. Nora’s eventual escape, her life in Chicago, and battle to stay away from the remaining cult members speak to the ways trauma haunts people. By paying specific attention to the misogyny Nora experiences during and after her time in the cult, Hurley exposes the violence done to women as ubiquitous—and categorically not limited to secular society. This is a deeply intimate novel, capturing what is in essence a survivor’s tale.A remarkable exploration of what it is to believe, to lose, and to start again.
Pub Date: April 18, 2023
Page Count: 280
Publisher: Ig Publishing
Review Posted Online: March 13, 2023
Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2023
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by Barbara Kingsolver ‧ RELEASE DATE: Oct. 18, 2022
An angry, powerful book seething with love and outrage for a community too often stereotyped or ignored.
Awards & Accolades
Best Books Of 2022
New York Times Bestseller
Pulitzer Prize Winner
Inspired by David Copperfield, Kingsolver crafts a 21st-century coming-of-age story set in America’s hard-pressed rural South.
It’s not necessary to have read Dickens’ famous novel to appreciate Kingsolver’s absorbing tale, but those who have will savor the tough-minded changes she rings on his Victorian sentimentality while affirming his stinging critique of a heartless society. Our soon-to-be orphaned narrator’s mother is a substance-abusing teenage single mom who checks out via OD on his 11th birthday, and Demon’s cynical, wised-up voice is light-years removed from David Copperfield’s earnest tone. Yet readers also see the yearning for love and wells of compassion hidden beneath his self-protective exterior. Like pretty much everyone else in Lee County, Virginia, hollowed out economically by the coal and tobacco industries, he sees himself as someone with no prospects and little worth. One of Kingsolver’s major themes, hit a little too insistently, is the contempt felt by participants in the modern capitalist economy for those rooted in older ways of life. More nuanced and emotionally engaging is Demon’s fierce attachment to his home ground, a place where he is known and supported, tested to the breaking point as the opiate epidemic engulfs it. Kingsolver’s ferocious indictment of the pharmaceutical industry, angrily stated by a local girl who has become a nurse, is in the best Dickensian tradition, and Demon gives a harrowing account of his descent into addiction with his beloved Dori (as naïve as Dickens’ Dora in her own screwed-up way). Does knowledge offer a way out of this sinkhole? A committed teacher tries to enlighten Demon’s seventh grade class about how the resource-rich countryside was pillaged and abandoned, but Kingsolver doesn’t air-brush his students’ dismissal of this history or the prejudice encountered by this African American outsider and his White wife. She is an art teacher who guides Demon toward self-expression, just as his friend Tommy provokes his dawning understanding of how their world has been shaped by outside forces and what he might be able to do about it.An angry, powerful book seething with love and outrage for a community too often stereotyped or ignored.
Pub Date: Oct. 18, 2022
Page Count: 560
Review Posted Online: July 13, 2022
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2022
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by Nathan Hill ‧ RELEASE DATE: Sept. 26, 2023
A warmhearted satire that chronicles our “perfectly, stupidly, dreadfully elegant” accommodations to life.
A bittersweet novel of love gained, lost, and regained over the course of decades.
“They stare across the alley, into dark apartments, and they don’t know it, but they’re staring at each other.” It’s not an outtake from Hitchcock’s Rear Window but instead the wistful longings of two lonely people. Jack Baker, newly arrived in Chicago from Kansas in the 1990s, is a talented photographer who bristles when practical-minded people ask him what his work is about—to say nothing of why he works with Polaroids, which, a hipster friend reminds him, “are mass-produced, instant, cheap, impermanent.” Yes, and that’s the point, for though Jack comes from the windblown prairie, he’s pretty avant-garde. Elizabeth Augustine is a quadruple major at DePaul, “five majors if you count theater, which I have no talent for but enjoy nonetheless,” and exactly the woman Jack hoped he would meet. Life proceeds: That arty hipster becomes a real estate mogul who plants them in a development very much outside their price range until Elizabeth pulls down the big bucks from the psychological research firm that gives Hill’s latest its simple title. “Basically they were a watchdog group, a subcontractor for the FDA and FTC, sniffing out bullshit,” Hill writes, but Elizabeth, scraping by while Jack pulls down pennies as an adjunct professor, discovers that there’s hay to be made creating bullshit rather than exposing it—making airplane seats narrower, for instance, and then selling once normal-sized seats at a premium. Hill romps through our soufflélike culture with a nice sendup of academic literature and broad jabs at memes ranging from organic food (“one-hundred-percent bioavailable”) to progressive parenting, open marriage, and cult behavior (“Elizabeth knew...that the thing that most effectively strengthened and deepened delusions was being surrounded by people who shared the same delusions”) while delivering a story that suggests that while love may not conquer all, it makes a good start.A warmhearted satire that chronicles our “perfectly, stupidly, dreadfully elegant” accommodations to life.
Pub Date: Sept. 26, 2023
Page Count: 624
Review Posted Online: June 21, 2023
Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2023
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