A family saga shines in its depiction of the oddities and inanities of real life and in its delving into the numerous...

Finding Albert Strange

A debut novel paints an intergenerational portrait of an Australian clan in crisis over one fateful day.

Set in the present day, the story focuses on the Saville family, living in a wealthy suburb north of Sydney. Roger, the patriarch, is an aggressive businessman set to make a profitable yet ethically unsound real estate deal against the reservations of his business partner, Lawrence Beck. One problem, though: Roger’s briefcase, holding some important documents, has vanished, and he must tackle the task of finding it while managing the many moving parts around his deal. Meanwhile his wife, Joanne, despite seemingly having it all, feels oddly empty, worried about the future though unsure of what exactly she should fear. Compounding this is the arrival of her father, the titular Albert Strange, who has come to reconnect with his daughter’s family and march with his 14-year-old granddaughter, Samantha, in the annual Anzac Day parade (“A bit like Independence Day in the States,” one character explains). It’s really more like Memorial Day: a remembrance of those who served in the military. Albert, a World War II veteran, left home when Joanne was young; she feels that time is running out to reconcile with her distant father. Willie, Joanne’s 17-year-old son who has not been home for months, starts his day in an unfamiliar apartment, trying to piece together the events of his drug-fueled night, and then ventures out into the city with two dubious friends. The narration alternates among the characters—Roger, Joanne, Lawrence, Albert, and Willie, mostly—and the storylines intersect and reflect upon one another in intriguing, thought-provoking ways. Canning’s characters are well-rounded and nuanced; although not always likable, they act realistically, and he constantly puts them in compelling situations. In addition to ace character work, the author inserts thoughtful digressions and conversations about war, memory, ethics, business, sexuality, and aging into his novel, making for an absorbing read with few slack moments. Canning’s only trip-ups occur when the action becomes too bogged down in business minutiae, but these are easy to overlook amid the overall quality of the book.

A family saga shines in its depiction of the oddities and inanities of real life and in its delving into the numerous concerns of each day.

Pub Date: Feb. 7, 2013

ISBN: 978-0-473-22130-0

Page Count: 352

Publisher: CreateSpace

Review Posted Online: Oct. 19, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15, 2016

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet

A love letter to the power of books and friendship.

Our Verdict

  • Our Verdict
  • GET IT

  • New York Times Bestseller

  • IndieBound Bestseller

THE GIVER OF STARS

Women become horseback librarians in 1930s Kentucky and face challenges from the landscape, the weather, and the men around them.

Alice thought marrying attractive American Bennett Van Cleve would be her ticket out of her stifling life in England. But when she and Bennett settle in Baileyville, Kentucky, she realizes that her life consists of nothing more than staying in their giant house all day and getting yelled at by his unpleasant father, who owns a coal mine. She’s just about to resign herself to a life of boredom when an opportunity presents itself in the form of a traveling horseback library—an initiative from Eleanor Roosevelt meant to counteract the devastating effects of the Depression by focusing on literacy and learning. Much to the dismay of her husband and father-in-law, Alice signs up and soon learns the ropes from the library’s leader, Margery. Margery doesn’t care what anyone thinks of her, rejects marriage, and would rather be on horseback than in a kitchen. And even though all this makes Margery a town pariah, Alice quickly grows to like her. Along with several other women (including one black woman, Sophia, whose employment causes controversy in a town that doesn’t believe black and white people should be allowed to use the same library), Margery and Alice supply magazines, Bible stories, and copies of books like Little Women to the largely poor residents who live in remote areas. Alice spends long days in terrible weather on horseback, but she finally feels happy in her new life in Kentucky, even as her marriage to Bennett is failing. But her powerful father-in-law doesn’t care for Alice’s job or Margery’s lifestyle, and he’ll stop at nothing to shut their library down. Basing her novel on the true story of the Pack Horse Library Project established by the Works Progress Administration in the 1930s, Moyes (Still Me, 2018, etc.) brings an often forgotten slice of history to life. She writes about Kentucky with lush descriptions of the landscape and tender respect for the townspeople, most of whom are poor, uneducated, and grateful for the chance to learn. Although Alice and Margery both have their own romances, the true power of the story is in the bonds between the women of the library. They may have different backgrounds, but their commitment to helping the people of Baileyville brings them together.

A love letter to the power of books and friendship.

Pub Date: Oct. 8, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-399-56248-8

Page Count: 400

Publisher: Pamela Dorman/Viking

Review Posted Online: July 1, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2019

Did you like this book?

Wacky plot keeps the pages turning and enduring schmaltzy romantic sequences.

MAGIC HOUR

Sisters work together to solve a child-abandonment case.

Ellie and Julia Cates have never been close. Julia is shy and brainy; Ellie gets by on charm and looks. Their differences must be tossed aside when a traumatized young girl wanders in from the forest into their hometown in Washington. The sisters’ professional skills are put to the test. Julia is a world-renowned child psychologist who has lost her edge. She is reeling from a case that went publicly sour. Though she was cleared of all wrongdoing, Julia’s name was tarnished, forcing her to shutter her Beverly Hills practice. Ellie Barton is the local police chief in Rain Valley, who’s never faced a tougher case. This is her chance to prove she is more than just a fading homecoming queen, but a scarcity of clues and a reluctant victim make locating the girl’s parents nearly impossible. Ellie places an SOS call to her sister; she needs an expert to rehabilitate this wild-child who has been living outside of civilization for years. Confronted with her professional demons, Julia once again has the opportunity to display her talents and salvage her reputation. Hannah (The Things We Do for Love, 2004, etc.) is at her best when writing from the girl’s perspective. The feral wolf-child keeps the reader interested long after the other, transparent characters have grown tiresome. Hannah’s torturously over-written romance passages are stale, but there are surprises in store as the sisters set about unearthing Alice’s past and creating a home for her.

Wacky plot keeps the pages turning and enduring schmaltzy romantic sequences.

Pub Date: March 1, 2006

ISBN: 0-345-46752-3

Page Count: 400

Publisher: Ballantine

Review Posted Online: June 24, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2005

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet
more