This uplifting book should resonate with those looking for a simple and inspiring rags-to-riches tale.

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Rendezvous with Destiny

A historical fiction novel presents the story of a woman succeeding against all odds.

Padgett Harvey, the daughter of mixed-race parents—one white, the other Native American, of the Maliseet tribe—grows up in the 1950s near the small town of Houlton, Maine, in a comfortable, loving home. Things take a turn for the worse for Padgett, however, as her parents are killed in a hate crime. Without a home, she must move to her Grandma and Uncle George’s house in “The Flats,” a disadvantaged part of town where Native Americans live. Despite these setbacks, Padgett is able to flourish at school, making friends and becoming a star student. On the eve of starting high school, though, her grandmother’s house burns down, and Padgett must go into foster care. Still, she remains undaunted, and continues to excel in her studies, receiving a scholarship to study finance at Syracuse University, and graduating from high school as valedictorian. In her graduation speech, Padgett promises that she will “return to Houlton, to the people who have supported me, and dedicate my time and whatever fortune I may have, to improving the lot of my tribe, the Maliseet. I want to see them out of the shacks at the dump and living in real homes as part of this community we all love. That is my goal, and also, I believe, my destiny.” This directive, along with Padgett’s work in the New York financial sector, makes up the back half of the book, as she and Sean Patrick McGuinness, another Houlton native who prospers despite a meager upbringing, plan an event that will help the Maliseet gain federal recognition. Fields’ (The Ghosts of Evergreen, 2015, etc.) novel commendably discusses issues of racism and the challenges that Native Americans have faced in this country, but his characterization often lacks nuance—the villains in the story can be cartoonish, and the heroes lack any flaws, making Padgett’s eventual triumphs unsurprising. Emotionally, though, it’s hard not to feel good reading a success story like this, and there’s enough humor to keep the narrative moving along briskly. But a smattering of copy errors throughout detracts from the reading experience (for example, the character Erika Fitzpatrick is later spelled “Erick”).

This uplifting book should resonate with those looking for a simple and inspiring rags-to-riches tale.  

Pub Date: May 11, 2015

ISBN: 978-1-5089-3865-1

Page Count: 400

Publisher: CreateSpace

Review Posted Online: Oct. 4, 2016

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A daring concept not so daringly developed.

THE BOOK OF LONGINGS

In Kidd’s (The Invention of Wings, 2014, etc.) feminist take on the New Testament, Jesus has a wife whose fondest longing is to write.

Ana is the daughter of Matthias, head scribe to Herod Antipas, tetrarch of Galilee. She demonstrates an exceptional aptitude for writing, and Matthias, for a time, indulges her with reed pens, papyri, and other 16 C.E. office supplies. Her mother disapproves, but her aunt, Yaltha, mentors Ana in the ways of the enlightened women of Alexandria, from whence Yaltha, suspected of murdering her brutal husband, was exiled years before. Yaltha was also forced to give up her daughter, Chaya, for adoption. As Ana reaches puberty, parental tolerance of her nonconformity wanes, outweighed by the imperative to marry her off. Her adopted brother, Judas—yes, that Judas—is soon disowned for his nonconformity—plotting against Antipas. On the very day Ana, age 14, meets her prospective betrothed, the repellent Nathanial, in the town market, she also encounters Jesus, a young tradesman, to whom she’s instantly drawn. Their connection deepens after she encounters Jesus in the cave where she is concealing her writings about oppressed women. When Nathanial dies after his betrothal to Ana but before their marriage, Ana is shunned for insufficiently mourning him—and after refusing to become Antipas’ concubine, she is about to be stoned until Jesus defuses the situation with that famous admonition. She marries Jesus and moves into his widowed mother’s humble compound in Nazareth, accompanied by Yaltha. There, poverty, not sexism, prohibits her from continuing her writing—office supplies are expensive. Kidd skirts the issue of miracles, portraying Jesus as a fully human and, for the period, accepting husband—after a stillbirth, he condones Ana’s practice of herbal birth control. A structural problem is posed when Jesus’ active ministry begins—what will Ana’s role be? Problem avoided when, notified by Judas that Antipas is seeking her arrest, she and Yaltha journey to Alexandria in search of Chaya. In addition to depriving her of the opportunity to write the first and only contemporaneous gospel, removing Ana from the main action destroys the novel’s momentum.

A daring concept not so daringly developed.

Pub Date: April 21, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-525-42976-0

Page Count: 432

Publisher: Viking

Review Posted Online: Jan. 27, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2020

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A touching family drama that effectively explores the negative impact of stress on fragile relationships.

A WEEK AT THE SHORE

A middle-aged woman returns to her childhood home to care for her ailing father, confronting many painful secrets from her past.

When Mallory Aldiss gets a call from a long-ago boyfriend telling her that her elderly father has been gallivanting around town with a gun in his hand, Mallory decides it’s time to return to the small Rhode Island town that she’s been avoiding for more than a decade. Mallory’s precocious 13-year-old daughter, Joy, is thrilled that she'll get to meet her grandfather at long last, and an aunt, too, and she'll finally see the place where her mother grew up. When they arrive in Bay Bluff, it’s barely a few hours before Mallory bumps into her old flame, Jack, the only man she’s ever really loved. Gone is the rebellious young person she remembers, and in his place stands a compassionate, accomplished adult. As they try to reconnect, Mallory realizes that the same obstacle that pushed them apart decades earlier is still standing in their way: Jack blames Mallory’s father for his mother’s death. No one knows exactly how Jack’s mother died, but Jack thinks a love affair between her and Mallory’s father had something to do with it. As Jack and Mallory chase down answers, Mallory also tries to repair her rocky relationships with her two sisters and determine why her father has always been so hard on her. Told entirely from Mallory’s perspective, the novel has a haunting, nostalgic quality. Despite the complex and overlapping layers to the history of Bay Bluff and its inhabitants, the book at times trudges too slowly through Mallory’s meanderings down Memory Lane. Even so, Delinsky sometimes manages to pick up the pace, and in those moments the beauty and nuance of this complicated family tale shine through. Readers who don’t mind skimming past details that do little to advance the plot may find that the juicier nuggets and realistically rendered human connections are worth the effort.

A touching family drama that effectively explores the negative impact of stress on fragile relationships.

Pub Date: May 19, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-250-11951-3

Page Count: 416

Publisher: St. Martin's

Review Posted Online: March 2, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2020

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