by Byron Lane ‧ RELEASE DATE: May 30, 2023
Come for the Applebee’s-sponsored rehearsal dinner and stay for the extended journey of a goat into the next life.
In rural Louisiana, a conservative Christian mom tries to get her mind around hosting the fabulous nuptials required by her son’s marriage.
It’s a long way from New Orleans to the Polite Society Ranch, where Chrissy Durang is getting through one more school bus full of little field trippers as she awaits the arrival of her adored son, Barnett, who’s returning, she’s sure, to take the reins of the old homestead. But to her unhappy surprise, Barnett is not coming to assume responsibility for the blind chicken, the alpaca with alopecia, and the beloved dying goat, Elaine (who will be buried near her late compadres, Seinfeld, Kramer, and George). Instead, he’s coming to announce that he’s getting married, and he has fiance Ezra on his arm. The story spirals from there in two directions. In the hilarious one, Ezra’s mother, Victoria, “the alcoholic’s alcoholic, the silver-tongued complainer who only flies first-class,” and event-planner sister, Nichole, show up to organize the blessed event, planning to transform the farm into “a modern gay wonderland” with a gazebo, a brigade of fireflies, rainbow-sashed valet parkers, and more—though no separate chef for the animals, Nichole pouts, “because that guy turned out to be a fictional character from a New Yorker article I misread.” In a more serious aspect of the plot, highlighted by chapter headings that give the “Countdown to Damnation,” rigid Chrissy is unable to accept her son’s sexuality, his partner, or his plans—until finally, the virulent homophobia of her neighbors awakens a protective response. Actually, the opening of Chrissy’s mind begins when she eats several foil-wrapped packages of chocolate she finds in Ezra’s luggage that turn out to be infused with magic mushrooms. Lane's sophomore effort is over-the-top in so many clashing ways—like Schitt’s Creek meets The Laramie Project—but simpatico readers will likely throw reservations to the wind and go all in.Come for the Applebee’s-sponsored rehearsal dinner and stay for the extended journey of a goat into the next life.
Pub Date: May 30, 2023
Page Count: 336
Publisher: Henry Holt
Review Posted Online: March 13, 2023
Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2023
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by James McBride ‧ RELEASE DATE: Aug. 8, 2023
If it’s possible for America to have a poet laureate, why can’t James McBride be its storyteller-in-chief?
Awards & Accolades
Best Books Of 2023
New York Times Bestseller
McBride follows up his hit novel Deacon King Kong (2020) with another boisterous hymn to community, mercy, and karmic justice.
It's June 1972, and the Pennsylvania State Police have some questions concerning a skeleton found at the bottom of an old well in the ramshackle Chicken Hill section of Pottstown that’s been marked for redevelopment. But Hurricane Agnes intervenes by washing away the skeleton and all other physical evidence of a series of extraordinary events that began more than 40 years earlier, when Jewish and African American citizens shared lives, hopes, and heartbreak in that same neighborhood. At the literal and figurative heart of these events is Chona Ludlow, the forbearing, compassionate Jewish proprietor of the novel’s eponymous grocery store, whose instinctive kindness and fairness toward the Black families of Chicken Hill exceed even that of her husband, Moshe, who, with Chona’s encouragement, desegregates his theater to allow his Black neighbors to fully enjoy acts like Chick Webb’s swing orchestra. Many local White Christians frown upon the easygoing relationship between Jews and Blacks, especially Doc Roberts, Pottstown’s leading physician, who marches every year in the local Ku Klux Klan parade. The ties binding the Ludlows to their Black neighbors become even stronger over the years, but that bond is tested most stringently and perilously when Chona helps Nate Timblin, a taciturn Black janitor at Moshe’s theater and the unofficial leader of his community, conceal and protect a young orphan named Dodo who lost his hearing in an explosion. He isn’t at all “feeble-minded,” but the government wants to put him in an institution promising little care and much abuse. The interlocking destinies of these and other characters make for tense, absorbing drama and, at times, warm, humane comedy. McBride’s well-established skill with narrative tactics may sometimes spill toward the melodramatic here. But as in McBride’s previous works, you barely notice such relatively minor contrivances because of the depth of characterizations and the pitch-perfect dialogue of his Black and Jewish characters. It’s possible to draw a clear, straight line from McBride’s breakthrough memoir, The Color of Water (1996), to the themes of this latest work.If it’s possible for America to have a poet laureate, why can’t James McBride be its storyteller-in-chief?
Pub Date: Aug. 8, 2023
Page Count: 400
Review Posted Online: May 9, 2023
Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 2023
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by Mitch Albom ‧ RELEASE DATE: Nov. 14, 2023
A captivating allegory about evil, lies, and forgiveness.
Truth and deception clash in this tale of the Holocaust.
Udo Graf is proud that the Wolf has assigned him the task of expelling all 50,000 Jews from Salonika, Greece. In that city, Nico Krispis is an 11-year-old Jewish boy whose blue eyes and blond hair deceive, but whose words do not. Those who know him know he has never told a lie in his life—“Never be the one to tell lies, Nico,” his grandfather teaches him. “God is always watching.” Udo and Nico meet, and Udo decides to exploit the child’s innocence. At the train station where Jews are being jammed into cattle cars bound for Auschwitz, Udo gives Nico a yellow star to wear and persuades him to whisper among the crowd, “I heard it from a German officer. They are sending us to Poland. We will have new homes. And jobs.” The lad doesn’t know any better, so he helps persuade reluctant Jews to board the train to hell. “You were a good little liar,” Udo later tells Nico, and delights in the prospect of breaking the boy’s spirit, which is more fun and a greater challenge than killing him outright. When Nico realizes the horrific nature of what he's done, his truth-telling days are over. He becomes an inveterate liar about everything. Narrating the story is the Angel of Truth, whom according to a parable God had cast out of heaven and onto earth, where Truth shattered into billions of pieces, each to lodge in a human heart. (Obviously, many hearts have been missed.) Truth skillfully weaves together the characters, including Nico; his brother, Sebastian; Sebastian’s wife, Fannie; and the “heartless deceiver” Udo. Events extend for decades beyond World War II, until everyone’s lives finally collide in dramatic fashion. As Truth readily acknowledges, his account is loaded with twists and turns, some fortuitous and others not. Will Nico Krispis ever seek redemption? And will he find it? Author Albom’s passion shows through on every page in this well-crafted novel.A captivating allegory about evil, lies, and forgiveness.
Pub Date: Nov. 14, 2023
Page Count: 352
Review Posted Online: Sept. 21, 2023
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 2023
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