A refreshingly nonjudgmental look at opening one’s marriage and heart.

UP FOR AIR

A married writer embarks on a polyamorous journey in this novel.

Ariana “Ari” Goody Hendricks has always done the right thing. Married to her sweetheart, Greg, whom she met at age 17, the 29-year-old freelance writer and published author lives with him in Austin, Texas—with their mutual best friend, bad boy musician Jacob “Jake” Mitchell, close by. Jake affectionately calls Ari “Goody Two Shoes.” When Greg’s grandfather’s funeral beckons the trio back to their East Tennessee roots, Ari begins to wonder whether she’s truly lived: She’s never been drunk or smoked a cigarette and, more significantly, has only emotionally and physically been with her husband. Ari broaches the idea of an open marriage to Greg once they return to Austin, and he agrees on the condition that their union “close” again if anything goes sideways. Over the next several months, Ari explores her city’s vibrant bar scene and finds a fun-loving friend in roller derby star Sheryl while enjoying passionate flings with a variety of men. But there’s one man Ari can never get out of her mind: kind and steady Alex, whom Ari met her first night at the bars and never saw again. When Alex reappears in Ari’s life and introduces her to a new world of kinky sex, the two quickly form a deeper connection that may demand more than the occasional one-night stand. Berry gives each character, from inquisitive hero Ari to protective Jake to questioning Greg, their own nuanced, complex motivations that inform their actions, and she pens sex scenes that are both titillating and (even those that involve BDSM) romantic. The love between Ari and Greg and the platonic friendship between Ari and Jake are strong and steady even as the relationships grow and change. But the novel’s greatest strength is its informed and compassionate portrayal of polyamory, from the necessary communication to the glow of newly forged connections to the realization that relationships old and new may be headed down an unexpected path.

A refreshingly nonjudgmental look at opening one’s marriage and heart.

Pub Date: Feb. 11, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-68433-632-6

Page Count: 298

Publisher: Black Rose Writing

Review Posted Online: Jan. 27, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2021

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As the pieces of this magical literary puzzle snap together, a flicker of hope is sparked for our benighted world.

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  • National Book Award Finalist

CLOUD CUCKOO LAND

An ancient Greek manuscript connects humanity's past, present, and future.

Stranger, whoever you are, open this to learn what will amaze you” wrote Antonius Diogenes at the end of the first century C.E.—and millennia later, Pulitzer Prize winner Doerr is his fitting heir. Around Diogenes' manuscript, "Cloud Cuckoo Land"—the author did exist, but the text is invented—Doerr builds a community of readers and nature lovers that transcends the boundaries of time and space. The protagonist of the original story is Aethon, a shepherd whose dream of escaping to a paradise in the sky leads to a wild series of adventures in the bodies of beast, fish, and fowl. Aethon's story is first found by Anna in 15th-century Constantinople; though a failure as an apprentice seamstress, she's learned ancient Greek from an elderly scholar. Omeir, a country boy of the same period, is rejected by the world for his cleft lip—but forms the deepest of connections with his beautiful oxen, Moonlight and Tree. In the 1950s, Zeno Ninis, a troubled ex–GI in Lakeport, Idaho, finds peace in working on a translation of Diogenes' recently recovered manuscript. In 2020, 86-year-old Zeno helps a group of youngsters put the story on as a play at the Lakeport Public Library—unaware that an eco-terrorist is planting a bomb in the building during dress rehearsal. (This happens in the first pages of the book and continues ticking away throughout.) On a spaceship called the Argos bound for Beta Oph2 in Mission Year 65, a teenage girl named Konstance is sequestered in a sealed room with a computer named Sybil. How could she possibly encounter Zeno's translation? This is just one of the many narrative miracles worked by the author as he brings a first-century story to its conclusion in 2146.

As the pieces of this magical literary puzzle snap together, a flicker of hope is sparked for our benighted world.

Pub Date: Sept. 28, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-982168-43-8

Page Count: 656

Publisher: Scribner

Review Posted Online: June 29, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2021

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Franzen’s intensely absorbing novel is amusing, excruciating, and at times unexpectedly uplifting—in a word, exquisite.

CROSSROADS

This first novel in an ambitious trilogy tracks a suburban Chicago family in a time of personal and societal turmoil.

It says a lot that, at almost 600 pages, Franzen’s latest novel, set amid the waning years of the Vietnam War, leaves you wanting more. That it does so is also very good news: It’s the first in what promises to be a sprawling trilogy, continuing to the present day, which the author has titled A Key to All Mythologies in what is presumably a wink at its far-from-modest ambitions—yes, à la Middlemarch. That reference is classic Franzen, who imbues his books with big ideas, in this case about responsibility to family, self, God, country, and one’s fellow man, among other matters, all the while digging deep into his characters’ emotions, experiences, desires, and doubts in a way that will please readers seeking to connect to books heart-first. Here, the story follows two generations of the Hildebrandt family, headed by Russ, the associate pastor of a church in the fictional town of New Prospect, Illinois, who, when we first meet him in the lead-up to Christmas 1971, is nursing a crush on a recently widowed parishioner and a grudge against the groovily charismatic leader of the church’s popular youth group, Crossroads, in which three of Russ’ four children are variously involved. Russ’ wife, Marion, who has gained weight over the years and lost her pre-maternal intensity and with it her husband’s sexual interest, is nursing a few secret preoccupations of her own, as are the couple’s three oldest children, Clem, Becky, and Perry. Each of the five characters, among whose perspectives Franzen adroitly toggles, is struggling with matters of morality and integrity, privilege and purpose, driven in part by the dueling desires for independence and connection. Their internal battles—to fight in an unjust war or unjustly let others fight in your stead, to fight their way out of a marriage or fight to stay in it, to fight for sanity or surrender to madness, to fight to define themselves and determine their paths or to cede that control to others, to name a few—are set against the backdrop of an era in which “love” is everywhere but empathy is in short supply, where hugs are liberally dispensed but real connection’s harder to come by.

Franzen’s intensely absorbing novel is amusing, excruciating, and at times unexpectedly uplifting—in a word, exquisite.

Pub Date: Oct. 5, 2021

ISBN: 978-0-374-18117-8

Page Count: 592

Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux

Review Posted Online: June 29, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2021

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