An engaging and beguiling novel about prejudice, relationships and the possibilities of redemption.

TAKE ME HOME

The “home” of the title is the minuscule (and aptly named) settlement of Dire, Wyo., where Addie Maine revisits a locus of love and loss 40 years after the tragic events that had transpired there.

In the 1880s, Addie travels from Kentucky to Wyoming at the behest of her brother, Tommy, who had settled in those unpromising surroundings and was trying to make his way as a homesteader/coal miner. Addie finds herself helping out in any way she can, primarily by shooting rabbits and entering into a business relationship with Wing Lee, a Chinese immigrant who’d moved from San Francisco to Wyoming along with a number of his fellow countrymen. While Wing is a cook, most of his peers are coal miners, and their willingness to work for extremely low wages causes resentment among the white population. At this time prejudice against the Chinese is rife, for they’re seen as bestial and subhuman. When Tommy is killed in a mine collapse, she marries the laconic, depressed and depressing Finn Atso Muukkonen, who is both unable and unwilling to consummate their relationship. Addie finds herself more and more attracted to Wing, and despite cultural prejudices it’s clear that he’s attracted to her as well. One day they give in to their sexual impulses, and Addie finds herself carrying Wing’s child. Eventually, tension between the white and Asian cultures gets so extreme that anti-Chinese riots break out, and a number of Chinese are killed, including Wing, but in a final gesture of generosity he makes Addie’s escape from Dire possible and allows her to go to California to start a new life. Leung (Lost Men, 2007, etc.) tells most of his story through flashbacks, as Addie travels back to Dire in the 1920s, largely to confirm whether it was her own husband who had shot her during the riots 40 years earlier.

An engaging and beguiling novel about prejudice, relationships and the possibilities of redemption.

Pub Date: Oct. 1, 2010

ISBN: 978-0-06-176907-8

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Harper/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Aug. 5, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2010

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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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