An earnest, even valiant novel that’s strong on ideas but weighed down by a weak plot and dense dialogue.

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THE FATHER

A multigenerational saga that chronicles the lives and hard times of an American family in the past, present and future.

In his debut novel, Williams tracks the Whitakers from their difficult past in the 1920s Midwest to their dystopian future in the 2050s. The story begins in 1926 with the birth of John, son of Joseph, a hardscrabble Iowa farmer. As time goes by, Joseph scratches out a living as he tries to teach and instill independence in his son. John later forsakes his farming roots to work for a manufacturing company, which heartlessly lays him off years later. John’s son, Morgan, digs ditches with brutish co-workers and bosses before going to college and getting work in North Carolina’s Research Triangle Park. He later becomes disillusioned with corporate life and lights out for Hollywood to try his hand at screenwriting. There things go south after a devastating California earthquake, although he does marry the woman of his dreams and beget a son named John. Later, corrupt politics, a rotten economy, spreading disease and other ills turn the United States into a fascist nuthouse. John sojourns in China but returns to America to try to save his compatriots with a stirring speech at the Lincoln Memorial, only to cause a riot. He winds up before a tribunal at the Library of Congress, berated by his cynical father and a bevy of conservatives, liberals and postmodernists, among others; even the Whitakers’ old home turf in Iowa falls into anarchy. Williams accurately describes what he sees as the many glaring defects of modern America, and offers an evenhanded critique of the media, culture wars, and America’s swift destruction of its physical and psychological environments. His prose shows a great deal of learning, and offers acute observations and occasional wit. But sometimes the book’s reach exceeds its grasp; it skims over many episodes, spanning more than a century in just more than 300 pages, leaving gaps in the plot. Thoughts on religion, politics and philosophy, as delivered through dialogue, sometimes sound stilted and preachy (“Hear the absurdities offered today from political manipulators; scientific illiterates; the cream of our university crop muttering their obsessive prattle”).

An earnest, even valiant novel that’s strong on ideas but weighed down by a weak plot and dense dialogue.

Pub Date: March 26, 2014

ISBN: 978-0615849126

Page Count: 326

Publisher: Combustible Books

Review Posted Online: Sept. 5, 2014

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A romantic, sad, and ultimately hopeful book that’s perfect for fans of Jojo Moyes.

GHOSTED

In Walsh’s American debut, a woman desperately tries to find out why the man she spent a whirlwind week with never called.

Sarah has just separated from her American husband and is visiting her hometown in England when she meets Eddie. He’s kind and charming, and although they only spend one week together, she falls in love. When he has to leave for a trip, she knows they’ll keep in touch—they’re already making plans for the rest of their lives. But then Eddie never calls, and Sarah’s increasingly frantic efforts to contact him are fruitless. Is he hurt? Is he dead? As her friends tell her, there’s a far greater likelihood that he’s just blowing her off—she’s been ghosted. After trying to track Eddie down at a football game, Sarah starts to become ashamed of herself—after all, she’s almost 40 years old and she’s essentially stalking a man who never called her. But as Sarah slowly learns, she and Eddie didn’t actually meet randomly—they both have a connection to an accident that happened years ago, and it may have something to do with why he disappeared. The tension quickly amps up as the secrets of Eddie’s and Sarah’s pasts are revealed, and the truth behind their connection is genuinely surprising and heartbreaking. The barriers between Sarah and Eddie seem insurmountable at times, and although their issues are resolved in a tidy manner, the emotions behind their actions are always believable. Walsh has created a deeply moving romance with an intriguing mystery and a touching portrait of grief at its heart.

A romantic, sad, and ultimately hopeful book that’s perfect for fans of Jojo Moyes.

Pub Date: July 24, 2018

ISBN: 978-0-525-52277-5

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Pamela Dorman/Viking

Review Posted Online: May 1, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2018

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An ambitious and bewitching gem of a book with mystery and passion inscribed on every page.

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THE STARLESS SEA

A withdrawn graduate student embarks on an epic quest to restore balance to the world in this long-anticipated follow-up to The Night Circus (2011).

Zachary Ezra Rawlins is a typical millennial introvert; he likes video games, escapist reading, and drinking sidecars. But when he recognizes himself in the pages of a mysterious book from the university library, he's unnerved—and determined to uncover the truth. What begins as a journey for answers turns into something much bigger, and Zachary must decide whether to trust the handsome stranger he meets at a highflying literary fundraiser in New York or to retreat back to his thesis and forget the whole affair. In a high-wire feat of metatextual derring-do, Morgenstern weaves Zachary's adventure into a stunning array of linked fables, myths, and origin stories. There are pirates and weary travelers, painters who can see the future, lovers torn asunder, a menacing Owl King, and safe harbors for all the stories of the world, far below the Earth on the golden shores of a Starless Sea. Clocking in at more than 500 pages, the novel requires patience as Morgenstern puts all the pieces in place, but it is exquisitely pleasurable to watch the gears of this epic fantasy turn once they're set in motion. As in The Night Circus, Morgenstern is at her best when she imagines worlds and rooms and parties in vivid detail, right down to the ballroom stairs "festooned with lanterns and garlands of paper dipped in gold" or a cloak carved from ice with "ships and sailors and sea monsters...lost in the drifting snow." This novel is a love letter to readers as much as an invitation: Come and see how much magic is left in the world. Fans of Neil Gaiman and V.E. Schwab, Kelly Link and Susanna Clarke will want to heed the call.

An ambitious and bewitching gem of a book with mystery and passion inscribed on every page.

Pub Date: Nov. 5, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-385-54121-3

Page Count: 512

Publisher: Doubleday

Review Posted Online: Aug. 4, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2019

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