Not quite a spiritual thriller but a thoughtful exploration of faith, surrender, and ecstasy.

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THE DEVOTED

A young woman’s life is controlled by her Zen Buddhist master in this debut novel about spirituality and sexual power.

Nicole is having an affair with her Zen master. He spies her, a damaged spiritual seeker, in his Boston Zendo, “pretty in a half formed way,” and he begins to groom her to abandon her sense of self while he takes advantage of her naiveté. She has a troubled past, and she goes to the Zendo in search of a connection that he is happy to abuse during their backroom private sessions. Nicole is haunted by guilt from her Catholic upbringing and a harsh secret involving her past as a teenage runaway; her master uses this to wrap her around his finger. “You are mine,” he tells her. “No other teacher will want you, once you have been shaped by my instruction.” Though her master makes a point of distancing himself from the patriarchal structure and rules of Catholicism, Nicole—who once wanted to be a nun and who rebelled against a strictly religious mother—is drawn to his firm commands. Even when she wants most fervently to escape him, her body responds to his voice “like church bells, like the smell of incense.” Their sexual relationship lasts a decade. “They were teacher and student, very old, accustomed friends; [yet] each time he let his hand travel up her skirt, the shock was fresh.” When Nicole realizes the relationship is too controlling and tries to take some liberty by moving away, making a new friend, and finding a new Zendo, her master creeps his way into her new life. He finds her and forces her hand: Abandon life as she knows it to be rid of him, or submit and be his.

Not quite a spiritual thriller but a thoughtful exploration of faith, surrender, and ecstasy.

Pub Date: Aug. 7, 2018

ISBN: 978-0-393-65159-1

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Norton

Review Posted Online: May 15, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 2018

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A bold, fertile work lit by powerful images, often consumed by debate, almost old-school in its feminist commitment.

THE BOOK OF V.

Esther, the Old Testament teenager who reluctantly married a Persian king and saved her people, is connected across the ages to two more contemporary women in a sinuous, thoughtful braid of women’s unceasing struggles for liberty and identity.

Biblical Esther, second-wave feminist Vee, and contemporary mother-of-two Lily are the women whose narrative strands and differing yet sometimes parallel dilemmas are interwoven in Solomon’s (Leaving Lucy Pear, 2016, etc.) questing, unpredictable new novel. All three are grappling—some more dangerously than others—with aspects of male power versus their own self-determination. Esther, selected from 40 virgins to be the second queen—after her predecessor, Vashti, was banished (or worse)—is the strangest. Her magical powers can bring on a shocking physical transformation or reanimate a skeletal bird, yet she is still a prisoner in a gilded cage, mother to an heir, frustrated daughter of an imperiled tribe. Vee, wife of an ambitious senator in 1970s Washington, finds herself a player in a House of Cards–type scenario, pressured toward sexual humiliation by her unscrupulous husband. Lily, in 21st-century Brooklyn, has chosen motherhood over work and is fretting about the costumes for her two daughters to wear at the Purim carnival honoring Esther. Alongside questions of male dominance, issues of sexuality arise often, as do female communities, from Esther’s slave sisters to Vee’s consciousness-raising groups to Lily’s sewing circle. And while layers of overlap continue among the three women's stories—second wives, sewing, humming—so do subtly different individual choices. Finely written and often vividly imagined, this is a cerebral, interior novel devoted to the notion of womanhood as a composite construction made up of myriad stories and influences.

A bold, fertile work lit by powerful images, often consumed by debate, almost old-school in its feminist commitment.

Pub Date: May 5, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-250-25701-7

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Henry Holt

Review Posted Online: Feb. 10, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2020

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THE SCREWTAPE LETTERS

These letters from some important executive Down Below, to one of the junior devils here on earth, whose job is to corrupt mortals, are witty and written in a breezy style seldom found in religious literature. The author quotes Luther, who said: "The best way to drive out the devil, if he will not yield to texts of Scripture, is to jeer and flout him, for he cannot bear scorn." This the author does most successfully, for by presenting some of our modern and not-so-modern beliefs as emanating from the devil's headquarters, he succeeds in making his reader feel like an ass for ever having believed in such ideas. This kind of presentation gives the author a tremendous advantage over the reader, however, for the more timid reader may feel a sense of guilt after putting down this book. It is a clever book, and for the clever reader, rather than the too-earnest soul.

Pub Date: Jan. 1, 1942

ISBN: 0060652934

Page Count: 53

Publisher: Macmillan

Review Posted Online: Oct. 17, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 1943

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