by Charlene Bell Dietz ‧ RELEASE DATE: N/A
A robust imagining of the life of a largely unsung hero.
A historical novel inspired by the life of one of Maryland’s earliest English colonists.
Dietz, the author of The Flapper, the Imposter, and the Stalker (2017), fictionalizes the story of Margaret Brent, a wealthy Englishwoman who becomes a prominent figure in Maryland in the mid-17th century. The story opens in England, where she, along with the rest of her family, worries that her economic and social privilege may not protect her as the Protestant government increases restrictions on their Catholic faith. When her cousin Lord Baltimore encourages the Brents to consider moving to the Colony that his father established across the Atlantic, where Catholics are free to worship, Margaret is hesitant. She’s finally swayed by Baltimore’s offer of land and other rights to anyone, including women, who brings servants to settle in the Colony. Along with three of her siblings, Margaret travels to Maryland and settles into life in her new home. Although men far outnumber women there, Margaret feels that she should remain unmarried, both for religious reasons (to devote herself only to God) and to maintain her independence. She frequently appears in front of the Colony’s governing body, speaking on her own behalf as well as for other colonists in their disputes and petitions. Margaret also takes a role in the Colony’s relationship with neighboring Native Americans, even serving as foster mother to the daughter of a Piscataway chief who converts to Christianity. When conflicts with residents of other Colonies threaten the Colony, Margaret acts as a close adviser to the governor, and he names her as his representative when he dies, leading her to play an important role in saving the community.
Although little of Margaret’s real-life history was recorded, Dietz does a good job of drawing on what’s known about her and about the early years of Maryland’s colonization to create a well-rounded, convincing portrait. Over the course of the novel, the author employs a great many vivid details (“His mossy-green silk doublet, embroidered with scrolls of golden-brown and pink-rose threads, emphasized his slashed sleeves, which in turn showed his ivory silk shirt beneath”) that bring everyday life in both England and Maryland into sharp focus. However, as a result, some readers may find the narrative to be overly wordy at times. The theme of women as a settling influence (“ ‘Worst of all,’ Margaret interrupted, ‘the country is overrun with irrational angry young men with no wives to settle them’ ”) appears throughout the book, offset by Margaret’s refusal to be anyone’s spouse, which makes for an intriguing contrast. The novel sticks closely to its protagonist’s perspective, so it does not address colonization from the point of view of the Indigenous characters, and no mention is made of enslaved people, who were also present at that time and place. For the most part, though, the book is sweeping in scope, covering Maryland’s foundational years from the perspective of a woman who played a crucial role in its existence.A robust imagining of the life of a largely unsung hero.
Pub Date: N/A
Page Count: 398
Publisher: Quill Mark Press
Review Posted Online: June 28, 2022
Review Program: Kirkus Indie
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by Mitch Albom ‧ RELEASE DATE: Nov. 14, 2023
A captivating allegory about evil, lies, and forgiveness.
Truth and deception clash in this tale of the Holocaust.
Udo Graf is proud that the Wolf has assigned him the task of expelling all 50,000 Jews from Salonika, Greece. In that city, Nico Krispis is an 11-year-old Jewish boy whose blue eyes and blond hair deceive, but whose words do not. Those who know him know he has never told a lie in his life—“Never be the one to tell lies, Nico,” his grandfather teaches him. “God is always watching.” Udo and Nico meet, and Udo decides to exploit the child’s innocence. At the train station where Jews are being jammed into cattle cars bound for Auschwitz, Udo gives Nico a yellow star to wear and persuades him to whisper among the crowd, “I heard it from a German officer. They are sending us to Poland. We will have new homes. And jobs.” The lad doesn’t know any better, so he helps persuade reluctant Jews to board the train to hell. “You were a good little liar,” Udo later tells Nico, and delights in the prospect of breaking the boy’s spirit, which is more fun and a greater challenge than killing him outright. When Nico realizes the horrific nature of what he's done, his truth-telling days are over. He becomes an inveterate liar about everything. Narrating the story is the Angel of Truth, whom according to a parable God had cast out of heaven and onto earth, where Truth shattered into billions of pieces, each to lodge in a human heart. (Obviously, many hearts have been missed.) Truth skillfully weaves together the characters, including Nico; his brother, Sebastian; Sebastian’s wife, Fannie; and the “heartless deceiver” Udo. Events extend for decades beyond World War II, until everyone’s lives finally collide in dramatic fashion. As Truth readily acknowledges, his account is loaded with twists and turns, some fortuitous and others not. Will Nico Krispis ever seek redemption? And will he find it? Author Albom’s passion shows through on every page in this well-crafted novel.A captivating allegory about evil, lies, and forgiveness.
Pub Date: Nov. 14, 2023
Page Count: 352
Review Posted Online: Sept. 21, 2023
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 2023
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by Ken Follett ‧ RELEASE DATE: Sept. 26, 2023
A treat for fans of historical fiction.
Awards & Accolades
Best Books Of 2023
New York Times Bestseller
The latest in Follett’s Kingsbridge series takes readers to a time of turbulence.
In late-18th- and early-19th-century England, Sally Clitheroe must struggle with personal tragedy in a time of great societal upheaval. After her first husband is crushed under an overloaded turnip cart, she must initially raise her son, Kit, on her own. She is an exceptionally strong woman, both physically and mentally, and is every bit a match for her second husband, Jarge Box. When he strikes his stepson, Jarge learns that he’s made a big mistake: “If you ever touch that boy again,” Sal warns, “I swear I’ll cut your throat in the middle of the night, so help me God.” Not that the young are generally respected; this is still an era when a child can be hanged for stealing 6 shillings worth of ribbon for his mother to resell for bread; when criticizing the government is a crime punishable by prison; and when two or more employees are forbidden by the 1799 Combination Act to criticize their employer. But monumental change is afoot with the beginnings of the Industrial Revolution, and it’s not all good. New spinning looms require fewer people to operate them, throwing many people out of work. Luddites, followers of Ned Ludd, destroy as many of the new machines as they can, but to no avail. Lawbreakers can sometimes avoid prison by joining the army, which ties into the dramatic set piece of this lengthy novel. When Wellington confronts Bonaparte at Waterloo, the carnage is horrific as cannonballs rip bodies to shreds. Sal and her son are central to the story. They are admirable characters without any obvious faults, but the rest of the cast has many: hanging judges, greedy businessmen, thieves, adulterers, murderers, and a bishop’s aide who harbors unseemly ambition. They are all well developed and believable, and readers will love to hate some of them.A treat for fans of historical fiction.
Pub Date: Sept. 26, 2023
Page Count: 752
Review Posted Online: June 8, 2023
Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2023
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