Lyrical, ponderous, and dense, Lispector’s latest also feels overblown.

AN APPRENTICESHIP, OR THE BOOK OF PLEASURES

A love story—of sorts—by one of Brazil’s finest writers.

This slim but intense volume is known as one of Lispector’s most accessible, or straightforward. If you’re new to her oeuvre, that might strike you as something of a joke: There is very little—if anything—in this novel that is actually “straightforward.” The plot, such as it is, involves a man and a woman—Lóri and the aptly named Ulisses—who love each other but can’t be together. Anyway, not yet. First, Lóri has a journey of sorts to complete: “The way I want you to be mine,” Ulisses tells her, “will only happen when you also want it the same way. And that will take time because you haven’t discovered whatever you need to discover.” So what does Lóri need to discover? The existentialists might have described it as a way to live authentically. Lispector writes: “The thing the human being aspires to most is to become a human being.” The novel, then, traces the story of Lóri’s becoming, which—with only a few exceptions—is an entirely inner journey. Those exceptions—an early morning swim, a few nights out for drinks with Ulisses, a cocktail party—don’t give the reader all that much to go on. By far the greatest portion of the book is taken up with long, lyrical, philosophical passages, intermittently punctuated, that describe the subtle shifts in Lóri’s thinking. These passages can feel overblown: “Had moments gone by or three thousand years? Moments according to the clock by which time is divided, three thousand years according to what Lóri felt when with heavy anguish, all dressed and made up, she reached the window.” No doubt the novel is a crucial addition to Lispector’s English-language body of work; still, it’ll likely leave more than one reader yearning for something more earth-bound.

Lyrical, ponderous, and dense, Lispector’s latest also feels overblown.

Pub Date: April 6, 2021

ISBN: 978-0-8112-3061-2

Page Count: 176

Publisher: New Directions

Review Posted Online: Feb. 10, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2021

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A tasty, if not always tasteful, tale of supernatural mayhem that fans of King and Crichton alike will enjoy.

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  • New York Times Bestseller

DEVOLUTION

Are we not men? We are—well, ask Bigfoot, as Brooks does in this delightful yarn, following on his bestseller World War Z (2006).

A zombie apocalypse is one thing. A volcanic eruption is quite another, for, as the journalist who does a framing voice-over narration for Brooks’ latest puts it, when Mount Rainier popped its cork, “it was the psychological aspect, the hyperbole-fueled hysteria that had ended up killing the most people.” Maybe, but the sasquatches whom the volcano displaced contributed to the statistics, too, if only out of self-defense. Brooks places the epicenter of the Bigfoot war in a high-tech hideaway populated by the kind of people you might find in a Jurassic Park franchise: the schmo who doesn’t know how to do much of anything but tries anyway, the well-intentioned bleeding heart, the know-it-all intellectual who turns out to know the wrong things, the immigrant with a tough backstory and an instinct for survival. Indeed, the novel does double duty as a survival manual, packed full of good advice—for instance, try not to get wounded, for “injury turns you from a giver to a taker. Taking up our resources, our time to care for you.” Brooks presents a case for making room for Bigfoot in the world while peppering his narrative with timely social criticism about bad behavior on the human side of the conflict: The explosion of Rainier might have been better forecast had the president not slashed the budget of the U.S. Geological Survey, leading to “immediate suspension of the National Volcano Early Warning System,” and there’s always someone around looking to monetize the natural disaster and the sasquatch-y onslaught that follows. Brooks is a pro at building suspense even if it plays out in some rather spectacularly yucky episodes, one involving a short spear that takes its name from “the sucking sound of pulling it out of the dead man’s heart and lungs.” Grossness aside, it puts you right there on the scene.

A tasty, if not always tasteful, tale of supernatural mayhem that fans of King and Crichton alike will enjoy.

Pub Date: June 16, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-9848-2678-7

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Del Rey/Ballantine

Review Posted Online: Feb. 10, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 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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