Lyrical and breezy. A story about the power of friendships and the importance of savoring life’s simple blessings.

BREADFRUIT

The charming second installment of Vaite’s Tahitian trilogy.

When we last saw Materena Mahi, on the island of Tahiti (in Frangipani, Feb. 2006), her children were grown and starting lives of their own. Vaite turns the clock back a decade or so here, reflecting on the time when this matriarch was building her family. The title refers to the legendary tree that provides nourishment for Tahitian families when money is scarce. With the help of the breadfruit tree, Materena finds there’s always enough food to satisfy her family. Money may be tight in Materena’s home, but there’s an abundance of love and strong opinions—even the children are sassy. The story follows Materena and Pito, her longtime partner and lover, as they ponder marriage, tackle parenting and try to cope with intrusive, yet well-meaning family members who surround them in their small island home. Materena is obsessed with love—be it weddings, love songs or love stories—and she longs to feel appreciated and admired by her man. Tired of merely being Pito’s woman, Materena won’t rest until Pito recognizes their union in a meaningful way. Vaite explores the meaning of marriage and the value of living free from society’s expectations, once again transporting her readers to a faraway land where family comes first and where there’s always time to stop and share. Materena is a patient listener, always giving the storyteller her undivided attention, and for this reason, all the best stories from the “coconut radio” (island gossip) make their way to her ears. The recanted island legends and family lore can be a bit rambling at times, but Materena embraces each gossip session with an open mind and open heart.

Lyrical and breezy. A story about the power of friendships and the importance of savoring life’s simple blessings.

Pub Date: Sept. 4, 2006

ISBN: 0-316-01658-6

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Back Bay/Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2006

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Read this for insights about writing, about losing one’s mother, about dealing with a cranky sous-chef and a difficult...

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WRITERS & LOVERS

A Boston-area waitress manages debt, grief, medical troubles, and romantic complications as she finishes her novel.

“There are so many things I can’t think about in order to write in the morning,” Casey explains at the opening of King’s (Euphoria, 2014, etc.) latest. The top three are her mother’s recent death, her crushing student loans, and the married poet she recently had a steaming-hot affair with at a writer’s colony. But having seen all but one of her writer friends give up on the dream, 31-year-old Casey is determined to stick it out. After those morning hours at her desk in her teensy garage apartment, she rides her banana bike to work at a restaurant in Harvard Square—a setting the author evokes in delicious detail, recalling Stephanie Danler’s Sweetbitter, though with a lighter touch. Casey has no sooner resolved to forget the infidel poet than a few more writers show up on her romantic radar. She rejects a guy at a party who reveals he’s only written 11 1/2 pages in three years—“That kind of thing is contagious”—to find herself torn between a widowed novelist with two young sons and a guy with an irresistible broken tooth from the novelist's workshop. Casey was one of the top two golfers in the country when she was 14, and the mystery of why she gave up the sport altogether is entangled with the mystery of her estrangement from her father, the latter theme familiar from King’s earlier work. In fact, with its young protagonist, its love triangle, and its focus on literary ambition, this charmingly written coming-of-age story would be an impressive debut novel. But after the originality and impact of Euphoria, it might feel a bit slight.

Read this for insights about writing, about losing one’s mother, about dealing with a cranky sous-chef and a difficult four-top.

Pub Date: March 3, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-8021-4853-7

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Grove

Review Posted Online: Sept. 2, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2019

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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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