Written in lyrical and propulsive prose, a searing debut.

OPEN WATER

A riveting love story that celebrates the cultural significance of Black artists and examines the ways systemic racism figures into every aspect of the lives of young Black men.

A photographer in his early 20s meets his friend Samuel for drinks at a pub in southeast London and finds himself instantly attracted to Samuel’s girlfriend, a dancer and university student. These two unnamed figures—the book employs an unusual second-person narration, addressing the photographer as "you"—find their lives entangled almost immediately. Both know what it means to be young and Black in London, having won scholarships to attend elite private schools where they felt constantly out of place and now attempting to navigate artistic paths. The relationship becomes increasingly intimate as a jealous Samuel breaks up with the young woman, and the unnamed two collaborate on a photography project, capturing portraits of Black Londoners. Though they dance around the question of love, they find themselves spending days on end with each other, and he begins to spend more and more nights at the flat she shares with her mother, at first on the couch and eventually in her bed. As the two negotiate what it means to turn a strong and invaluable friendship into a relationship, he finds himself unable to articulate his fears and traumas to her, withdrawing in order to process memories of racial violence and police brutality, either witnessed or experienced firsthand. Black art becomes both balm and mirror for the photographer as he by turns hides from and wrestles with questions that may determine the course of his relationship: How can you find sanctuary in love when systemic forces seem determinedly against you? And how do you express vulnerability and fear when you are socialized to bottle up your emotions, to present a mask of strength?

Written in lyrical and propulsive prose, a searing debut.

Pub Date: April 13, 2021

ISBN: 978-0-8021-5794-2

Page Count: 160

Publisher: Black Cat/Grove

Review Posted Online: March 3, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2021

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Light on suspense but still a solid page-turner.

THE LAST THING HE TOLD ME

When a devoted husband and father disappears, his wife and daughter set out to find him.

Hannah Hall is deeply in love with her husband of one year, Owen Michaels. She’s also determined to win over his 16-year-old daughter, Bailey, who has made it very clear that she’s not thrilled with her new stepmother. Despite the drama, the family is mostly a happy one. They live in a lovely houseboat in Sausalito; Hannah is a woodturner whose handmade furniture brings in high-dollar clientele; and Owen works for The Shop, a successful tech firm. Their lives are shattered, however, when Hannah receives a note saying “Protect her” and can’t reach Owen by phone. Then there’s the bag full of cash Bailey finds in her school locker and the shocking news that The Shop’s CEO has been taken into custody. Hannah learns that the FBI has been investigating the firm for about a year regarding some hot new software they took to market before it was fully functional, falsifying their financial statements. Hannah refuses to believe her husband is involved in the fraud, and a U.S. marshal assigned to the case claims Owen isn’t a suspect. Hannah doesn’t know whom to trust, though, and she and Bailey resolve to root out the clues that might lead to Owen. They must also learn to trust one another. Hannah’s narrative alternates past and present, detailing her early days with Owen alongside her current hunt for him, and author Dave throws in a touch of danger and a few surprises. But what really drives the story is the evolving nature of Hannah and Bailey’s relationship, which is by turns poignant and frustrating but always realistic.

Light on suspense but still a solid page-turner.

Pub Date: May 4, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-5011-7134-5

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: Feb. 10, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2021

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For devoted Hannah fans in search of a good cry.

THE FOUR WINDS

The miseries of the Depression and Dust Bowl years shape the destiny of a Texas family.

“Hope is a coin I carry: an American penny, given to me by a man I came to love. There were times in my journey when I felt as if that penny and the hope it represented were the only things that kept me going.” We meet Elsa Wolcott in Dalhart, Texas, in 1921, on the eve of her 25th birthday, and wind up with her in California in 1936 in a saga of almost unrelieved woe. Despised by her shallow parents and sisters for being sickly and unattractive—“too tall, too thin, too pale, too unsure of herself”—Elsa escapes their cruelty when a single night of abandon leads to pregnancy and forced marriage to the son of Italian immigrant farmers. Though she finds some joy working the land, tending the animals, and learning her way around Mama Rose's kitchen, her marriage is never happy, the pleasures of early motherhood are brief, and soon the disastrous droughts of the 1930s drive all the farmers of the area to despair and starvation. Elsa's search for a better life for her children takes them out west to California, where things turn out to be even worse. While she never overcomes her low self-esteem about her looks, Elsa displays an iron core of character and courage as she faces dust storms, floods, hunger riots, homelessness, poverty, the misery of migrant labor, bigotry, union busting, violent goons, and more. The pedantic aims of the novel are hard to ignore as Hannah embodies her history lesson in what feels like a series of sepia-toned postcards depicting melodramatic scenes and clichéd emotions.

For devoted Hannah fans in search of a good cry.

Pub Date: Feb. 9, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-2501-7860-2

Page Count: 464

Publisher: St. Martin's

Review Posted Online: Nov. 18, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2020

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