One of the great Native American - and American - stories, and a great gift to all of us, from one of our very best writers.

THIRTEEN MOONS

The recent resurgence in historical fiction arguably dates from the critical and popular success of North Carolinian Charles Frazier's memorable first novel, Cold Mountain.  A romantic epic in the classic mold, this richly detailed saga of a Civil War deserter's homeward odyssey won the 1997 National Book Award and inspired a haunting 2003 feature film.

Classical precedent likewise informs and shapes Frazier's long-awaited second novel, in which a rootless and restless protagonist, like Cold Mountain's embattled hero, Inman, expends the energies of a long lifetime seeking permanent reunion with the only woman he'll ever love, who loves him in return yet moves in and out of his yearning orbit during the decades they are apart, but never entirely trusts him nor can bring herself to share his patchwork experience. Like the beleaguered heroes of the books that are his lifelong sustenance, he's a visionary fixated on an ever-receding ideal:  the noble knight Lancelot, cursed and burdened by his own divided and enervated loyalties. She is Claire Featherstone, the ethereally beautiful young wife of a "white" (i.e. half-breed) Indian who prospers as a landowner and patriarch in the Cherokee Nation that stretches westward from the Carolinas to Oklahoma. He is Will Cooper, an orphan and "bound boy" sold by his relatives to an "antique gentleman" who places adolescent Will in a moribund trading post on the edge of "the [Cherokee] Nation" - from which humble beginning he earns a vast fortune, bonds closely with his Cherokee neighbors and mentors (his conflicted friendship with the mercurial Featherstone overshadowed by his filial devotion to the equally prominent chief known as Bear), studies law and represents "his people" against the repressive policies of Indian-hating President Andrew Jackson, becomes a state senator and an itinerant buffer between the red men's and white men's worlds, all the while pursuing the memory, the dream and the promise of the elusive Claire. Thirteen Moons brings this vanished world thrillingly to life, retelling the agonizing stories of "the Removal" (of Indians from their ancestral lands) and the lie of "Reconstruction"; creating literally dozens of heart-stopping word pictures (e.g. autumn's display of "a few stunted pumpkins still glowing in the fields and a few persistent apples hanging red in the skeletal orchards"); building unforgettable characterizations of the sorrow-laden everyman Will (whom we first, then finally, glimpse as a reclusive anachronism, weathered by "a near century of living"); unpredictable Featherstone and stoical Beat (a character Faulkner might have created); Claire who belongs to no man, ancient medicine woman Granny Squirrel, and all the uprooted and dispossessed souls enduring "the days and nights, the thirteen moons" of each accumulating year, while making their final journey "to the Nightland".

One of the great Native American - and American - stories, and a great gift to all of us, from one of our very best writers.

Pub Date: Oct. 3, 2006

ISBN: 0-375-50932-1

Page Count: 432

Publisher: Random House

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

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A clever and current book about a complicated woman and her romantic relationships.

CONVERSATIONS WITH FRIENDS

The story of the entangled affairs of a group of exceedingly smart and self-possessed creative types.

Frances, an aloof and intelligent 21-year-old living in Dublin, is an aspiring poet and communist. She performs her spoken-word pieces with her best friend and ex-lover, Bobbi, who is equally intellectual but gregarious where Frances is shy and composed where Frances is awkward. When Melissa, a notable writer and photographer, approaches the pair to offer to do a profile of them, they accept excitedly. While Bobbi is taken with Melissa, Frances becomes infatuated by her life—her success, her beautiful home, her actor husband, Nick. Nick is handsome and mysterious and, it turns out, returns Frances’ attraction. Although he can sometimes be withholding of his affection (he struggles with depression), they begin a passionate affair. Frances and Nick’s relationship makes difficult the already tense (for its intensity) relationship between Frances and Bobbi. In the midst of this complicated dynamic, Frances is also managing endometriosis and neglectful parents—an abusive, alcoholic father and complicit mother. As a narrator, Frances describes all these complex fragments in an ethereal and thoughtful but self-loathing way. Rooney captures the mood and voice of contemporary women and their interpersonal connections and concerns without being remotely predictable. In her debut novel, she deftly illustrates psychology’s first lesson: that everyone is doomed to repeat their patterns.

A clever and current book about a complicated woman and her romantic relationships.

Pub Date: July 11, 2017

ISBN: 978-0-451-49905-9

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Hogarth

Review Posted Online: April 18, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 2017

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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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