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THE TRACKERS

By the end, not even the characters seem to care much about who finds whom.

Frazier goes in search of the American dream amid the seemingly endless nightmare of the Great Depression.

The ambitions here are as lofty as one of those murals commissioned by the Works Progress Administration to lift the nation’s spirits and provide some income for indigent artists. One such (fictional) artwork has the same title as this novel, as young painter Valentine “Val” Welch travels west to the small town of Dawes, Wyoming, to create a mural in their post office that will capture the spirit of the country. His former art professor got him the job and has also connected him with the wealthy art patron John Long, who has extensive property there and a glamorous young wife named Eve. As first-person narrator, Val struggles to figure out what the deal is between the married couple. Then there’s the mysterious Faro, a cowboy relic of the Western past whose association with Long predates his marriage and whose relationship with Eve has a furtive element to it. (He may well provide the moral compass here.) Long has political aspirations, and Eve adds some dazzle. She also has a past that includes bumming around the country and singing in a country dancehall band, where her husband (and so many others) first became attracted to her. She also may or may not have had a previous husband, who may or may not be dead. Once she takes off, Long sends Val to find her. It’s a big country, and he’s no detective, but he doesn’t have as much difficulty as you’d think. In the process, he complicates the plot in a couple of different ways, and he, as the tracker, soon has other trackers in his pursuit. For a novel that traverses the country from Seattle to back-swamp Florida, the writing is curiously static, filled with meticulous descriptions and philosophical soliloquies, with all sorts of stilted conjecture about fate, art, and America (and no quotation marks).

By the end, not even the characters seem to care much about who finds whom.

Pub Date: April 11, 2023

ISBN: 978-0-06-294808-3

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Ecco/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Jan. 11, 2023

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2023

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THE WOMEN

A dramatic, vividly detailed reconstruction of a little-known aspect of the Vietnam War.

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A young woman’s experience as a nurse in Vietnam casts a deep shadow over her life.

When we learn that the farewell party in the opening scene is for Frances “Frankie” McGrath’s older brother—“a golden boy, a wild child who could make the hardest heart soften”—who is leaving to serve in Vietnam in 1966, we feel pretty certain that poor Finley McGrath is marked for death. Still, it’s a surprise when the fateful doorbell rings less than 20 pages later. His death inspires his sister to enlist as an Army nurse, and this turn of events is just the beginning of a roller coaster of a plot that’s impressive and engrossing if at times a bit formulaic. Hannah renders the experiences of the young women who served in Vietnam in all-encompassing detail. The first half of the book, set in gore-drenched hospital wards, mildewed dorm rooms, and boozy officers’ clubs, is an exciting read, tracking the transformation of virginal, uptight Frankie into a crack surgical nurse and woman of the world. Her tensely platonic romance with a married surgeon ends when his broken, unbreathing body is airlifted out by helicopter; she throws her pent-up passion into a wild affair with a soldier who happens to be her dead brother’s best friend. In the second part of the book, after the war, Frankie seems to experience every possible bad break. A drawback of the story is that none of the secondary characters in her life are fully three-dimensional: Her dismissive, chauvinistic father and tight-lipped, pill-popping mother, her fellow nurses, and her various love interests are more plot devices than people. You’ll wish you could have gone to Vegas and placed a bet on the ending—while it’s against all the odds, you’ll see it coming from a mile away.

A dramatic, vividly detailed reconstruction of a little-known aspect of the Vietnam War.

Pub Date: Feb. 6, 2024

ISBN: 9781250178633

Page Count: 480

Publisher: St. Martin's

Review Posted Online: Nov. 4, 2023

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2023

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THE GOD OF THE WOODS

"Don't go into the woods" takes on unsettling new meaning in Moore's blend of domestic drama and crime novel.

Many years after her older brother, Bear, went missing, Barbara Van Laar vanishes from the same sleepaway camp he did, leading to dark, bitter truths about her wealthy family.

One morning in 1975 at Camp Emerson—an Adirondacks summer camp owned by her family—it's discovered that 13-year-old Barbara isn't in her bed. A problem case whose unhappily married parents disdain her goth appearance and "stormy" temperament, Barbara is secretly known by one bunkmate to have slipped out every night after bedtime. But no one has a clue where's she permanently disappeared to, firing speculation that she was taken by a local serial killer known as Slitter. As Jacob Sluiter, he was convicted of 11 murders in the 1960s and recently broke out of prison. He's the one, people say, who should have been prosecuted for Bear's abduction, not a gardener who was framed. Leave it to the young and unproven assistant investigator, Judy Luptack, to press forward in uncovering the truth, unswayed by her bullying father and male colleagues who question whether women are "cut out for this work." An unsavory group portrait of the Van Laars emerges in which the children's father cruelly abuses their submissive mother, who is so traumatized by the loss of Bear—and the possible role she played in it—that she has no love left for her daughter. Picking up on the themes of families in search of themselves she explored in Long Bright River (2020), Moore draws sympathy to characters who have been subjected to spousal, parental, psychological, and physical abuse. As rich in background detail and secondary mysteries as it is, this ever-expansive, intricate, emotionally engaging novel never seems overplotted. Every piece falls skillfully into place and every character, major and minor, leaves an imprint.

"Don't go into the woods" takes on unsettling new meaning in Moore's blend of domestic drama and crime novel.

Pub Date: July 2, 2024

ISBN: 9780593418918

Page Count: 496

Publisher: Riverhead

Review Posted Online: April 13, 2024

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2024

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