An engaging, though unpolished tale of an ice age migration.

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The SealEaters, 20,000 BC

BOOK FIVE OF WINDS OF CHANGE, A PREHISTORIC FICTION SERIES ON THE PEOPLING OF THE AMERICAS

From the Winds of Change series , Vol. 5

An epic novel examines a possible prehistoric immigration to the Americas.

In this volume, Matthews (Tuksook’s Story, 2014, etc.) introduces a group of heroes who call themselves the SealEaters, who need to leave their coastal home before encroaching glaciers push them into the sea. An expedition sets out to inspect the land on the far side of the ocean in search of a new home. When the members reach land, they split up—not least because Reg, the leader, is abusive and hated—and subsequent chapters follow their individual paths. In one section, a SealEater named Murke assesses the terrain: “We loved the great grassland, but it was very time consuming to cross it to the land where the trees began. It was, we thought, not a place for the SealEaters to live. We needed to have the closeness of forest.” The SealEaters encounter tribes already living in the area, some hostile and others willing to welcome the immigrants. The SealEaters teach their hosts how to make their unique spear points, and several marry into the communities they find. Others return to bring the rest of their people to the new world, and find that the tribe has grown stronger thanks to Reg’s absence. Matthews, a thorough researcher, draws a detailed portrait of ice age life, particularly as she narrates the creation of the spear points: “He twisted the stone back and forth looking across the edges he’d made. He’d cease tapping and rub briskly a stone across the newly formed edge to dull it.” The prose, however, is often disjointed (“She smiled. She made the sign for breaking a stick or bone. She shook her head negatively”; “He was reaching the end of his patience and available points to make”) and some of the primitive terminology (“thinking place” for “mind” and “go black” for “sleep”) can be grating. Readers seeking dynamic female characters will not find them among the primarily male protagonists, who engage with the women as wives to be taken. Despite these flaws, Matthews has produced an adventure story that plausibly explores a leading theory of human migration, bringing an imagination to the scant facts contained in the archaeological record. The multitude of characters moves the book in the direction of a saga, allowing it to represent a wide experience of prehistory.

An engaging, though unpolished tale of an ice age migration.

Pub Date: Dec. 30, 2015

ISBN: 978-1-59433-600-3

Page Count: 314

Publisher: Publication Consultants

Review Posted Online: Feb. 1, 2016

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A promising debut that’s awake to emotional, political, and cultural tensions across time and continents.

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HOMEGOING

A novel of sharply drawn character studies immersed in more than 250 hard, transformative years in the African-American diaspora.

Gyasi’s debut novel opens in the mid-1700s in what is now Ghana, as tribal rivalries are exploited by British and Dutch colonists and slave traders. The daughter of one tribal leader marries a British man for financial expediency, then learns that the “castle” he governs is a holding dungeon for slaves. (When she asks what’s held there, she’s told “cargo.”) The narrative soon alternates chapters between the Ghanans and their American descendants up through the present day. On either side of the Atlantic, the tale is often one of racism, degradation, and loss: a slave on an Alabama plantation is whipped “until the blood on the ground is high enough to bathe a baby”; a freedman in Baltimore fears being sent back South with the passage of the Fugitive Slave Act; a Ghanan woman is driven mad from the abuse of a missionary and her husband’s injury in a tribal war; a woman in Harlem is increasingly distanced from (and then humiliated by) her husband, who passes as white. Gyasi is a deeply empathetic writer, and each of the novel’s 14 chapters is a savvy character portrait that reveals the impact of racism from multiple perspectives. It lacks the sweep that its premise implies, though: while the characters share a bloodline, and a gold-flecked stone appears throughout the book as a symbolic connector, the novel is more a well-made linked story collection than a complex epic. Yet Gyasi plainly has the talent to pull that off: “I will be my own nation,” one woman tells a British suitor early on, and the author understands both the necessity of that defiance and how hard it is to follow through on it.

A promising debut that’s awake to emotional, political, and cultural tensions across time and continents.

Pub Date: June 7, 2016

ISBN: 978-1-101-94713-5

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Knopf

Review Posted Online: March 2, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2016

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

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ALL THE LIGHT WE CANNOT SEE

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 6, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2014

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