Sharply observed and warmly understanding—another fine piece of work from this talented author.

CARRY THE ONE

From a 1983 wedding through Election Day 2008, Anshaw (Lucky in the Corner, 2002, etc.) tracks a Chicago family unsettled by a fatal accident.

It’s no accident that the driver of the car that kills 10-year-old Casey Redman is the extremely stoned girlfriend of Nick, brother of the bride. Nick’s growing addiction is one of the subplots in a tender but often somber story centered on his family. His sister Carmen, whose marriage to Matt sets the plot in motion (and doesn’t last long), is a political activist, marginally more acceptable to their deeply conventional mother Loretta than sibling Alice, an artist and lesbian who suffers an agonizing passion for Matt’s sexually conflicted sister Maude. At least Carmen produces a child, while Alice has made the mistake of competing with their father Horace, an egocentric, domineering painter. Olivia, the stoned driver, goes to jail and straightens up; for a while after she gets out, it seems she’ll keep Nick in line, but he loves getting high too much. Nick, Alice and Carmen are all haunted by memories of the dead girl—Alice knows her series of paintings of Casey are her best work but refuses to show them—yet Anshaw doesn’t suggest the accident fundamentally changed the arcs of their lives; her understanding of human fallibility and existential contingency is too subtle for that kind of artistic determinism. Instead, she quietly follows her characters through the usual stuff of growing up and growing older: marriages, breakups, material success and spiritual uncertainty. Not since Roxana Robinson’s Cost (2008) has a novel so bluntly depicted the impact of addiction on a family, but that isn’t the whole story here. Loving but judgmental Carmen and skittish but fundamentally sound Alice have their own odysseys to pursue; Carmen’s evolving relationships with Gabe, son from her first marriage, and with Rob, the second husband who’s not at all what she thought she wanted, are particularly sensitively drawn.

Sharply observed and warmly understanding—another fine piece of work from this talented author.

Pub Date: March 6, 2012

ISBN: 978-1-4516-3688-8

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: Jan. 23, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2012

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Doerr captures the sights and sounds of wartime and focuses, refreshingly, on the innate goodness of his major characters.

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ALL THE LIGHT WE CANNOT SEE

Doerr presents us with two intricate stories, both of which take place during World War II; late in the novel, inevitably, they intersect.

In August 1944, Marie-Laure LeBlanc is a blind 16-year-old living in the walled port city of Saint-Malo in Brittany and hoping to escape the effects of Allied bombing. D-Day took place two months earlier, and Cherbourg, Caen and Rennes have already been liberated. She’s taken refuge in this city with her great-uncle Etienne, at first a fairly frightening figure to her. Marie-Laure’s father was a locksmith and craftsman who made scale models of cities that Marie-Laure studied so she could travel around on her own. He also crafted clever and intricate boxes, within which treasures could be hidden. Parallel to the story of Marie-Laure we meet Werner and Jutta Pfennig, a brother and sister, both orphans who have been raised in the Children’s House outside Essen, in Germany. Through flashbacks we learn that Werner had been a curious and bright child who developed an obsession with radio transmitters and receivers, both in their infancies during this period. Eventually, Werner goes to a select technical school and then, at 18, into the Wehrmacht, where his technical aptitudes are recognized and he’s put on a team trying to track down illegal radio transmissions. Etienne and Marie-Laure are responsible for some of these transmissions, but Werner is intrigued since what she’s broadcasting is innocent—she shares her passion for Jules Verne by reading aloud 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea. A further subplot involves Marie-Laure’s father’s having hidden a valuable diamond, one being tracked down by Reinhold von Rumpel, a relentless German sergeant-major.

Doerr captures the sights and sounds of wartime and focuses, refreshingly, on the innate goodness of his major characters.

Pub Date: May 6, 2014

ISBN: 978-1-4767-4658-6

Page Count: 448

Publisher: Scribner

Review Posted Online: March 6, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2014

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Wingate sheds light on a shameful true story of child exploitation but is less successful in engaging readers in her...

BEFORE WE WERE YOURS

Avery Stafford, a lawyer, descendant of two prominent Southern families and daughter of a distinguished senator, discovers a family secret that alters her perspective on heritage.

Wingate (Sisters, 2016, etc.) shifts the story in her latest novel between present and past as Avery uncovers evidence that her Grandma Judy was a victim of the Tennessee Children’s Home Society and is related to a woman Avery and her father meet when he visits a nursing home. Although Avery is living at home to help her parents through her father’s cancer treatment, she is also being groomed for her own political career. Readers learn that investigating her family’s past is not part of Avery's scripted existence, but Wingate's attempts to make her seem torn about this are never fully developed, and descriptions of her chemistry with a man she meets as she's searching are also unconvincing. Sections describing the real-life orphanage director Georgia Tann, who stole poor children, mistreated them, and placed them for adoption with wealthy clients—including Joan Crawford and June Allyson—are more vivid, as are passages about Grandma Judy and her siblings. Wingate’s fans and readers who enjoy family dramas will find enough to entertain them, and book clubs may enjoy dissecting the relationship and historical issues in the book.

Wingate sheds light on a shameful true story of child exploitation but is less successful in engaging readers in her fictional characters' lives.

Pub Date: June 6, 2017

ISBN: 978-0-425-28468-1

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Ballantine

Review Posted Online: March 21, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2017

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