At once original, poignant, brutal, and beautiful; for fans of literary and historical novels.


This historical novel traces the real and imagined exploits of Pancho Villa as a youth, bandito, and hero of the revolution while examining the question of what, exactly, constitutes truth in storytelling.

MacKenzie spins his debut tale in language spiced with just the right hint of a Latin lilt to lend verisimilitude and poetic cadence: “The sky was not clearer then nor was the air of a purer smell but in my memory both these things seem as though they were true and so they are.” This theme of a story being true because of the way it is remembered or told runs throughout; and so we see Villa as everything from abused peasant to brutish thug to fair and respected leader. When barely 16, Villa walks in on a confrontation between his mother and sister and landowner Don Agustín López Negrete. He shoots Don Agustín and escapes into the inhospitable sierra, thus launching him into a world outside the law. During his criminal career, he steals cattle, shoots people, achieves daring escapes, and, depending on what versions you believe, becomes everything from Robin Hood to a sociopath. His fellow bandits are Refugio Alvarado and Ignacio Parra. Ignacio is a drunk, but Refugio, an eloquent speaker who can rouse the peasants against the dons, gives Villa his first inkling of a political outlook on their activities. At last Villa wearies of his brigand life and opens a butcher shop. But the peace is short-lived. He is soon back on the run and assumes his role as a commander of the Constitutionalist Army in the Mexican Revolution, where he now commits noble acts such as sparing the life of the man who killed his mother. MacKenzie’s fascinating literary picaresque is told in stark, beautiful imagery: “The night was vacant and dull, the square silent save for the insects that clicked and chirped back up in the trees like little boxes of metal and bone.”

At once original, poignant, brutal, and beautiful; for fans of literary and historical novels.

Pub Date: N/A


Page Count: 271

Publisher: MadHat Press

Review Posted Online: March 7, 2018

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Packed with riveting drama and painful truths, this book powerfully illustrates the devastation of abuse—and the strength of...

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Hoover’s (November 9, 2015, etc.) latest tackles the difficult subject of domestic violence with romantic tenderness and emotional heft.

At first glance, the couple is edgy but cute: Lily Bloom runs a flower shop for people who hate flowers; Ryle Kincaid is a surgeon who says he never wants to get married or have kids. They meet on a rooftop in Boston on the night Ryle loses a patient and Lily attends her abusive father’s funeral. The provocative opening takes a dark turn when Lily receives a warning about Ryle’s intentions from his sister, who becomes Lily’s employee and close friend. Lily swears she’ll never end up in another abusive home, but when Ryle starts to show all the same warning signs that her mother ignored, Lily learns just how hard it is to say goodbye. When Ryle is not in the throes of a jealous rage, his redeeming qualities return, and Lily can justify his behavior: “I think we needed what happened on the stairwell to happen so that I would know his past and we’d be able to work on it together,” she tells herself. Lily marries Ryle hoping the good will outweigh the bad, and the mother-daughter dynamics evolve beautifully as Lily reflects on her childhood with fresh eyes. Diary entries fancifully addressed to TV host Ellen DeGeneres serve as flashbacks to Lily’s teenage years, when she met her first love, Atlas Corrigan, a homeless boy she found squatting in a neighbor’s house. When Atlas turns up in Boston, now a successful chef, he begs Lily to leave Ryle. Despite the better option right in front of her, an unexpected complication forces Lily to cut ties with Atlas, confront Ryle, and try to end the cycle of abuse before it’s too late. The relationships are portrayed with compassion and honesty, and the author’s note at the end that explains Hoover’s personal connection to the subject matter is a must-read.

Packed with riveting drama and painful truths, this book powerfully illustrates the devastation of abuse—and the strength of the survivors.

Pub Date: Aug. 2, 2016

ISBN: 978-1-5011-1036-8

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Atria

Review Posted Online: May 30, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2016

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A flabby, fervid melodrama of a high-strung Southern family from Conroy (The Great Santini, The Lords of Discipline), whose penchant for overwriting once again obscures a genuine talent. Tom Wingo is an unemployed South Carolinian football coach whose internist wife is having an affair with a pompous cardiac man. When he hears that his fierce, beautiful twin sister Savannah, a well-known New York poet, has once again attempted suicide, he escapes his present emasculation by flying north to meet Savannah's comely psychiatrist, Susan Lowenstein. Savannah, it turns out, is catatonic, and before the suicide attempt had completely assumed the identity of a dead friend—the implication being that she couldn't stand being a Wingo anymore. Susan (a shrink with a lot of time on her hands) says to Tom, "Will you stay in New York and tell me all you know?" and he does, for nearly 600 mostly-bloated pages of flashbacks depicting The Family Wingo of swampy Colleton County: a beautiful mother, a brutal shrimper father (the Great Santini alive and kicking), and Tom and Savannah's much-admired older brother, Luke. There are enough traumas here to fall an average-sized mental ward, but the biggie centers around Luke, who uses the skills learned as a Navy SEAL in Vietnam to fight a guerrilla war against the installation of a nuclear power plant in Colleton and is killed by the authorities. It's his death that precipitates the nervous breakdown that costs Tom his job, and Savannah, almost, her life. There may be a barely-glimpsed smaller novel buried in all this succotash (Tom's marriage and life as a football coach), but it's sadly overwhelmed by the book's clumsy central narrative device (flashback ad infinitum) and Conroy's pretentious prose style: ""There are no verdicts to childhood, only consequences, and the bright freight of memory. I speak now of the sun-struck, deeply lived-in days of my past.

Pub Date: Oct. 21, 1986

ISBN: 0553381547

Page Count: 686

Publisher: Houghton Mifflin

Review Posted Online: Oct. 30, 2013

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 1986

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