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THE REVOLVING HEART

A superb, captivating work from a promising new literary voice.

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A call from an old friend in need leads a struggling playwright to come to terms with his complex history in Augello’s debut novel.

Donatello “Duck” Marcino is a master pizza chef, an unsuccessful playwright, and a narcoleptic. Amy is a suicidal, alcoholic single mother. The two were inseparable in their teenage years, during which they often babysat for the much younger Sarah Carpenter, whose mother was a less-than-ideal parent. A day at the beach in the 1990s changed their lives immeasurably, though, as Sarah went missing. Duck still has no idea what really happened that day, as he fell asleep on the beach as a result of his narcolepsy. It was generally assumed that Sarah drowned, although Amy claimed that the school drama teacher, Michael Ronan, whom Duck idolized, kidnapped the girl. However, police found no evidence that this was the case. Duck later left New Jersey for California, but a distress call from Amy 20 years later draws him back to his hometown to confront old demons. Duck, accompanied by his remarkably tolerant girlfriend, Kelly, immerses himself in the world he left behind and comes to a new, harrowing understanding of the events surrounding Sarah’s disappearance. Augello’s novel is a beautifully crafted fictional study of the long-term impact of neglect and abuse. Although the initial setup is reminiscent of a crime novel, the story gradually settles into a more reflective narrative about the choices that people make, the bonds they forge, and the obligations they can’t escape, however much they might try. The prose style is first-rate, featuring hints of Douglas Coupland and Philip Roth, cut through with the flavor of Beat Generation narratives. Augello shows a knack for sharp, believable dialogue, and his character construction is impressive. The unsettling malice of male aggression simmers throughout the story, as well, without ever feeling over-the-top.

A superb, captivating work from a promising new literary voice.

Pub Date: April 16, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-68433-477-3

Page Count: 244

Publisher: Black Rose Writing

Review Posted Online: March 18, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 2020

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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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SANDWICH

A moving, hilarious reminder that parenthood, just like life, means constant change.

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During an annual beach vacation, a mother confronts her past and learns to move forward.

Her family’s annual trip to Cape Cod is always the highlight of Rocky’s year—even more so now that her children are grown and she cherishes what little time she gets with them. Rocky is deep in the throes of menopause, picking fights with her loving husband and occasionally throwing off her clothes during a hot flash, much to the chagrin of her family. She’s also dealing with her parents, who are crammed into the same small summer house (with one toilet that only occasionally spews sewage everywhere) and who are aging at an alarmingly rapid rate. Rocky’s life is full of change, from her body to her identity—she frequently flashes back to the vacations of years past, when her children were tiny. Although she’s grateful for the family she has, she mourns what she’s lost. Newman (author of the equally wonderful We All Want Impossible Things, 2022) imbues Rocky’s internal struggles with importance and gravity, all while showcasing her very funny observations about life and parenting. She examines motherhood with a raw honesty that few others manage—she remembers the hard parts, the depths of despair, panic, and anxiety that can happen with young children, and she also recounts the joy in a way that never feels saccharine. She has a gift for exploring the real, messy contradictions in human emotions. As Rocky puts it, “This may be the only reason we were put on this earth. To say to each other, I know how you feel.”

A moving, hilarious reminder that parenthood, just like life, means constant change.

Pub Date: June 18, 2024

ISBN: 9780063345164

Page Count: 240

Publisher: Harper/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: March 23, 2024

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2024

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