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

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A BUFFALO SOLDIER'S STORY - SESQUICENTENNIAL EDITION

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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Miller makes Homer pertinent to women facing 21st-century monsters.

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CIRCE

A retelling of ancient Greek lore gives exhilarating voice to a witch.

“Monsters are a boon for gods. Imagine all the prayers.” So says Circe, a sly, petulant, and finally commanding voice that narrates the entirety of Miller’s dazzling second novel. The writer returns to Homer, the wellspring that led her to an Orange Prize for The Song of Achilles (2012). This time, she dips into The Odyssey for the legend of Circe, a nymph who turns Odysseus’ crew of men into pigs. The novel, with its distinctive feminist tang, starts with the sentence: “When I was born, the name for what I was did not exist.” Readers will relish following the puzzle of this unpromising daughter of the sun god Helios and his wife, Perse, who had negligible use for their child. It takes banishment to the island Aeaea for Circe to sense her calling as a sorceress: “I will not be like a bird bred in a cage, I thought, too dull to fly even when the door stands open. I stepped into those woods and my life began.” This lonely, scorned figure learns herbs and potions, surrounds herself with lions, and, in a heart-stopping chapter, outwits the monster Scylla to propel Daedalus and his boat to safety. She makes lovers of Hermes and then two mortal men. She midwifes the birth of the Minotaur on Crete and performs her own C-section. And as she grows in power, she muses that “not even Odysseus could talk his way past [her] witchcraft. He had talked his way past the witch instead.” Circe’s fascination with mortals becomes the book’s marrow and delivers its thrilling ending. All the while, the supernatural sits intriguingly alongside “the tonic of ordinary things.” A few passages coil toward melodrama, and one inelegant line after a rape seems jarringly modern, but the spell holds fast. Expect Miller’s readership to mushroom like one of Circe’s spells.

Miller makes Homer pertinent to women facing 21st-century monsters.

Pub Date: April 10, 2018

ISBN: 978-0-316-55634-7

Page Count: 400

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: Jan. 23, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2018

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Still, a respectful and absorbing page-turner.

THE NIGHTINGALE

Hannah’s new novel is an homage to the extraordinary courage and endurance of Frenchwomen during World War II.

In 1995, an elderly unnamed widow is moving into an Oregon nursing home on the urging of her controlling son, Julien, a surgeon. This trajectory is interrupted when she receives an invitation to return to France to attend a ceremony honoring passeurs: people who aided the escape of others during the war. Cut to spring, 1940: Viann has said goodbye to husband Antoine, who's off to hold the Maginot line against invading Germans. She returns to tending her small farm, Le Jardin, in the Loire Valley, teaching at the local school and coping with daughter Sophie’s adolescent rebellion. Soon, that world is upended: The Germans march into Paris and refugees flee south, overrunning Viann’s land. Her long-estranged younger sister, Isabelle, who has been kicked out of multiple convent schools, is sent to Le Jardin by Julien, their father in Paris, a drunken, decidedly unpaternal Great War veteran. As the depredations increase in the occupied zone—food rationing, systematic looting, and the billeting of a German officer, Capt. Beck, at Le Jardin—Isabelle’s outspokenness is a liability. She joins the Resistance, volunteering for dangerous duty: shepherding downed Allied airmen across the Pyrenees to Spain. Code-named the Nightingale, Isabelle will rescue many before she's captured. Meanwhile, Viann’s journey from passive to active resistance is less dramatic but no less wrenching. Hannah vividly demonstrates how the Nazis, through starvation, intimidation and barbarity both casual and calculated, demoralized the French, engineering a community collapse that enabled the deportations and deaths of more than 70,000 Jews. Hannah’s proven storytelling skills are ideally suited to depicting such cataclysmic events, but her tendency to sentimentalize undermines the gravitas of this tale.

Still, a respectful and absorbing page-turner.

Pub Date: Feb. 3, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-312-57722-3

Page Count: 448

Publisher: St. Martin's

Review Posted Online: Nov. 20, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2014

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