So many cars and guns, so many screw-ups, so many dead bodies—they all blur together after a while.

BONNIE

Schwarz’s fictionalized biography of Bonnie Parker, who, with Clyde Barrow, gained notoriety as part of a wave of Depression-era outlaws, will divide readers along generational lines.

For those too young to remember the 1967 movie Bonnie and Clyde, this play-by-play account of the couple’s far-from-successful criminal career offers a grim introduction to a gang of characters hopelessly downtrodden, psychopathic, or sometimes both. Readers who came of age around the time of the iconic film—a mix of comedy, graphic violence, and visual romanticism that made outlaws into larger-than-life romantic figures—will see Warren Beatty and Faye Dunaway on every page (as when Bonnie notices Clyde’s dimple for the first time) and will wonder at the necessity of this ploddingly detailed, all-too-earthbound retelling. But the novel’s opening offers even those who remember the movie a fresh, touching view of Bonnie before Clyde—the bright, sensitive child more plucky than headstrong evolving into a young woman still innocent but with “big dreams, no patience.” Briefly married at 16, Bonnie is waitressing in Dallas, Texas, when she meets Clyde, whose courtship is charming and conventional in its first weeks until he’s arrested while sleeping on her (always devoted) mother’s couch. Sent to jail in March 1930, Clyde convinces Bonnie to help him escape. Recaptured, he’s sent to a harsher prison. When he’s released two years later, they hit the road, living off Clyde’s robberies, which often go wrong and sometimes end in someone’s death. They’re joined in their dreary capers by a few hardened criminals but mostly by boys like W.D., riding along for the excitement until implicated too deeply to easily leave. By 1934, Bonnie is destitute, in constant pain from a car accident, drinking and popping pills. Still committed to deluded loser Clyde, she continues writing romantic poetry although her own romantic illusions evaporated long ago.

So many cars and guns, so many screw-ups, so many dead bodies—they all blur together after a while.

Pub Date: July 7, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-4767-4545-9

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Atria

Review Posted Online: April 13, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 2020

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For devoted Hannah fans in search of a good cry.

THE FOUR WINDS

The miseries of the Depression and Dust Bowl years shape the destiny of a Texas family.

“Hope is a coin I carry: an American penny, given to me by a man I came to love. There were times in my journey when I felt as if that penny and the hope it represented were the only things that kept me going.” We meet Elsa Wolcott in Dalhart, Texas, in 1921, on the eve of her 25th birthday, and wind up with her in California in 1936 in a saga of almost unrelieved woe. Despised by her shallow parents and sisters for being sickly and unattractive—“too tall, too thin, too pale, too unsure of herself”—Elsa escapes their cruelty when a single night of abandon leads to pregnancy and forced marriage to the son of Italian immigrant farmers. Though she finds some joy working the land, tending the animals, and learning her way around Mama Rose's kitchen, her marriage is never happy, the pleasures of early motherhood are brief, and soon the disastrous droughts of the 1930s drive all the farmers of the area to despair and starvation. Elsa's search for a better life for her children takes them out west to California, where things turn out to be even worse. While she never overcomes her low self-esteem about her looks, Elsa displays an iron core of character and courage as she faces dust storms, floods, hunger riots, homelessness, poverty, the misery of migrant labor, bigotry, union busting, violent goons, and more. The pedantic aims of the novel are hard to ignore as Hannah embodies her history lesson in what feels like a series of sepia-toned postcards depicting melodramatic scenes and clichéd emotions.

For devoted Hannah fans in search of a good cry.

Pub Date: Feb. 9, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-2501-7860-2

Page Count: 464

Publisher: St. Martin's

Review Posted Online: Nov. 18, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2020

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A compelling portrait of a marriage gone desperately sour.

THE MYSTERY OF MRS. CHRISTIE

In December 1926, mystery writer Agatha Christie really did disappear for 11 days. Was it a hoax? Or did her husband resort to foul play?

When Agatha meets Archie on a dance floor in 1912, the obscure yet handsome pilot quickly sweeps her off her feet with his daring. Archie seems smitten with her. Defying her family’s expectations, Agatha consents to marry Archie rather than her intended, the reliable yet boring Reggie Lucy. Although the war keeps them apart, straining their early marriage, Agatha finds meaningful work as a nurse and dispensary assistant, jobs that teach her a lot about poisons, knowledge that helps shape her early short stories and novels. While Agatha’s career flourishes after the war, Archie suffers setback after setback. Determined to keep her man happy, Agatha finds herself cooking elaborate meals, squelching her natural affections for their daughter (after all, Archie must always feel like the most important person in her life), and downplaying her own troubles, including her grief over her mother's death. Nonetheless, Archie grows increasingly morose. In fact, he is away from home the day Agatha disappears. By the time Detective Chief Constable Kenward arrives, Agatha has already been missing for a day. After discovering—and burning—a mysterious letter from Agatha, Archie is less than eager to help the police. His reluctance and arrogance work against him, and soon the police, the newspapers, the Christies’ staff, and even his daughter’s classmates suspect him of harming his wife. Benedict concocts a worthy mystery of her own, as chapters alternate between Archie’s negotiation of the investigation and Agatha’s recounting of their relationship. She keeps the reader guessing: Which narrator is reliable? Who is the real villain?

A compelling portrait of a marriage gone desperately sour.

Pub Date: Dec. 29, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-4926-8272-1

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Sourcebooks Landmark

Review Posted Online: Sept. 30, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 2020

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