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A BUFFALO SOLDIER'S STORY - SESQUICENTENNIAL EDITION

An ambitious and lush tale set during the Civil War and Reconstruction.

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Rogers (The Laced Chameleon, 2014, etc.) tells the story of a runaway slave–turned–Buffalo Soldier in this historical novel.

When his father is gunned down during a Union raid on a Confederate supply caravan, young Isaac Rice is understandably distraught. And yet he is fascinated that the Union soldiers conducting the raid are men like him: Gullah-speaking slaves from South Carolina’s rice plantations. Inspired by their changed lots in life, Isaac knows he must join the Union cause. With newfound certainty, he tells his sweetheart back on the plantation: “I’ma run t’night.” Isaac works his way up through menial positions in the Army until after the war, when he receives a proper assignment: he is to be a member of the new 10th Cavalry Regiment of Buffalo Soldiers. This role will take him to the frontier and America’s new conflict: not one between North and South, but one for the West, where blacks, whites, Native Americans, and Mexicans are scrambling to build a future—or to hang on desperately to a fading past. Surrounding Isaac is a cast of characters that offers other perspectives on these tumultuous times: Billy Duke, a dedicated Confederate guerrilla who keeps the war going long after the South surrenders; Rachel Black, a former slave who attains an education and battles her way to Mississippi’s postwar Constitutional Convention; Ortega, an Apache warrior who wants nothing more than to drive the whites away from his land; and Alejandra Luna, a Mexican exile seeking a new life and medical career in the United States. Rogers shrewdly balances the multiple points of view and is not afraid to complicate the reader’s understandings of the ways in which race and gender functioned during the Civil War and Reconstruction. Thoroughly researched and studded with historical cameos—both famous and obscure—the novel succeeds in its attempt to paint an accurate picture of the period. While the author’s desire to cram in as much history as possible sometimes exacts a toll on the story’s momentum and character development, the book as a whole is an impressive feat of historical fiction, offering many traditionally underrepresented perspectives in a sprawling work of love and warfare.

An ambitious and lush tale set during the Civil War and Reconstruction.

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 2015

ISBN: 978-1-63490-696-8

Page Count: 516

Publisher: Booklocker

Review Posted Online: June 2, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2016

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THE UNSEEN

A deeply satisfying novel, both sensuously vivid and remarkably poignant.

Norwegian novelist Jacobsen folds a quietly powerful coming-of-age story into a rendition of daily life on one of Norway’s rural islands a hundred years ago in a novel that was shortlisted for the 2017 Man Booker International Prize.

Ingrid Barrøy, her father, Hans, mother, Maria, grandfather Martin, and slightly addled aunt Barbro are the owners and sole inhabitants of Barrøy Island, one of numerous small family-owned islands in an area of Norway barely touched by the outside world. The novel follows Ingrid from age 3 through a carefree early childhood of endless small chores, simple pleasures, and unquestioned familial love into her more ambivalent adolescence attending school off the island and becoming aware of the outside world, then finally into young womanhood when she must make difficult choices. Readers will share Ingrid’s adoration of her father, whose sense of responsibility conflicts with his romantic nature. He adores Maria, despite what he calls her “la-di-da” ways, and is devoted to Ingrid. Twice he finds work on the mainland for his sister, Barbro, but, afraid she’ll be unhappy, he brings her home both times. Rooted to the land where he farms and tied to the sea where he fishes, Hans struggles to maintain his family’s hardscrabble existence on an island where every repair is a struggle against the elements. But his efforts are Sisyphean. Life as a Barrøy on Barrøy remains precarious. Changes do occur in men’s and women’s roles, reflected in part by who gets a literal chair to sit on at meals, while world crises—a war, Sweden’s financial troubles—have unexpected impact. Yet the drama here occurs in small increments, season by season, following nature’s rhythm through deaths and births, moments of joy and deep sorrow. The translator’s decision to use roughly translated phrases in conversation—i.e., “Tha’s goen’ nohvar” for "You’re going nowhere")—slows the reading down at first but ends up drawing readers more deeply into the world of Barrøy and its prickly, intensely alive inhabitants.

A deeply satisfying novel, both sensuously vivid and remarkably poignant.

Pub Date: April 7, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-77196-319-0

Page Count: 272

Publisher: Biblioasis

Review Posted Online: Jan. 12, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2020

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ALL THE LIGHT WE CANNOT SEE

Doerr captures the sights and sounds of wartime and focuses, refreshingly, on the innate goodness of his major characters.

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Doerr presents us with two intricate stories, both of which take place during World War II; late in the novel, inevitably, they intersect.

In August 1944, Marie-Laure LeBlanc is a blind 16-year-old living in the walled port city of Saint-Malo in Brittany and hoping to escape the effects of Allied bombing. D-Day took place two months earlier, and Cherbourg, Caen and Rennes have already been liberated. She’s taken refuge in this city with her great-uncle Etienne, at first a fairly frightening figure to her. Marie-Laure’s father was a locksmith and craftsman who made scale models of cities that Marie-Laure studied so she could travel around on her own. He also crafted clever and intricate boxes, within which treasures could be hidden. Parallel to the story of Marie-Laure we meet Werner and Jutta Pfennig, a brother and sister, both orphans who have been raised in the Children’s House outside Essen, in Germany. Through flashbacks we learn that Werner had been a curious and bright child who developed an obsession with radio transmitters and receivers, both in their infancies during this period. Eventually, Werner goes to a select technical school and then, at 18, into the Wehrmacht, where his technical aptitudes are recognized and he’s put on a team trying to track down illegal radio transmissions. Etienne and Marie-Laure are responsible for some of these transmissions, but Werner is intrigued since what she’s broadcasting is innocent—she shares her passion for Jules Verne by reading aloud 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea. A further subplot involves Marie-Laure’s father’s having hidden a valuable diamond, one being tracked down by Reinhold von Rumpel, a relentless German sergeant-major.

Doerr captures the sights and sounds of wartime and focuses, refreshingly, on the innate goodness of his major characters.

Pub Date: May 6, 2014

ISBN: 978-1-4767-4658-6

Page Count: 448

Publisher: Scribner

Review Posted Online: March 5, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2014

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