A tantalizingly kaleidoscopic look at an event that altered its witnesses’ lives forever.

LIES

BASED ON TRUE STORIES

Six witnesses relate their divergent interpretations of a violent incident that took place during the Civil War in this novel based on true stories.

Caroline Anderson lives in Greenbrier County, Virginia, at the Elmhurst house, a “magnificent place” before the Civil War erupted. President Martin Van Buren once picnicked there, but it has since decayed into ruins from neglect. Caroline’s husband, John, suddenly joins the Confederate Army, never to be seen or heard from again, leaving her to fend for herself and her two stepchildren, 8-year-old Sally and glum teenager Samuel. When bedraggled Union soldiers come marching through town, a group of them forcibly enters Caroline’s home, first looking for medical supplies and then for a reprieve from their nomadic discomfort. On May 22, 1863, while Elmhurst is occupied by “horrid Yankees,” a “dreadful incident” occurs, one that leaves two men, one of them a Union soldier, dead. Years later, the incident is investigated by Gen. George L. Scarborough, under the authority of the Department of State. This ingeniously inventive novel by Smith is largely composed of the records of the testimony culled by Scarborough, collected from interviews with six witnesses, including Caroline and two of the soldiers who were in her home that day. The plot is bewitching—the author slowly, with aching suspense, inches toward the incident in question. Meanwhile, a romantic tension and rivalry brews between Caroline and Capt. James Tobin, a “sweet talking” and “handsome” soldier who will be among those who witness the event. Smith cleverly juxtaposes the different accounts, illuminating the paradoxical nature of storytelling, which reveals and conceals simultaneously. As Caroline explains, “What I mean to say is: the information you are after cannot be told in one simple story since it is actually many tales stitched up with each other.”

A tantalizingly kaleidoscopic look at an event that altered its witnesses’ lives forever.

Pub Date: Dec. 1, 2016

ISBN: 978-1-942294-09-2

Page Count: 265

Publisher: Quarrier Press

Review Posted Online: April 13, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2020

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The World War II Hollywood setting is colorful, but it’s just a B picture.

MERCURY PICTURES PRESENTS

An ambitious young Italian woman makes her way among the émigrés of 1930s and ’40s Hollywood.

Maria Lagana has come to Los Angeles after her father is sentenced to confino—internal exile—for his anti-fascist advocacy in Mussolini’s Italy. Living with her mother in the Italian American neighborhood of Lincoln Heights—also home to a trio of no-nonsense great-aunts forever dressed in black—Maria finds work as a typist at Mercury Pictures International, working in the office of studio head Artie Feldman, a fast-talking showman with a collection of toupées for every occasion. In time, the letters from her father stop, and Maria becomes an associate producer, Artie’s trusted right hand, as well as the secret lover of Eddie Lu, a Chinese American actor relegated to roles as Japanese villains. When a young Italian immigrant turns up at her door introducing himself as Vincent Cortese, Maria’s past—and the mystery of what happened to her father—crashes into her present. Like the author’s earlier novels, the award-winning A Constellation of Vital Phenomena (2013) and The Tsar of Love and Techno (2015), this one builds a discrete world and shows how its denizens are shaped—often warped—by circumstance. But the Hollywood setting feels overfamiliar and the characters curiously uninvolving. While the prose frequently sings, there are also ripely overwritten passages: At a party, the “thunking heels of lindy-hopping couples dimpled the boozy air”; fireworks are described as a “molten asterisk in the heavens to which the body on the ground is a footnote.”

The World War II Hollywood setting is colorful, but it’s just a B picture.

Pub Date: July 19, 2022

ISBN: 978-0-451-49520-4

Page Count: 432

Publisher: Hogarth

Review Posted Online: March 30, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2022

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Ford raises fascinating questions, but a rushed ending too neatly ties up the answers in an unconvincing, sentimental bow.

THE MANY DAUGHTERS OF AFONG MOY

Covering 250 years, Ford’s new novel traces the way states of consciousness involving extreme moments of pain or joy interconnect seven generations of Chinese women.

Embedded images—airplanes, ships, waves—and the occasional ghostly vision highlight how these women’s lives reverberate as the focus moves back and forth in time. In 1942 China, Faye Moy, a nurse in her 50s who’s working with American forces, feels an eerie connection to a dying young pilot in whose pocket she finds a newspaper photograph of herself as a teenager and a note in her own handwriting that says, “FIND ME.” Finding oneself and/or one’s soul mate becomes the throughline of the book. Faye’s great-grandmother Afong Moy, the first Chinese woman in America, dies in childbirth after a short career being exhibited as a curiosity in the 1830s. Faye’s mother, Lai King (Afong’s granddaughter), sails to Canton after her parents’ deaths in San Francisco’s Chinatown fire of 1892. Onboard ship she bonds with a young White boy, also an orphan, and nurses him when contagion strikes. When Faye is 14, she has an illegitimate daughter who is adopted and raised in England. Presumably that girl is Zoe Moy, who, in 1927, attends the famously progressive Summerhill School, where a disastrous social experiment in fascism destroys her relationship with a beloved poetry teacher. In 2014, Zoe’s emotionally fragile granddaughter, Greta, loses both her skyrocketing tech career and the love of her life at the hands of an evil capitalist. While several earlier Moys receive aid and guidance from Buddhist monks, Greta’s troubled poet daughter, Dorothy, turns to both Buddhism and radical scientific treatment to uncover and understand how past crises, emotional, physical, and spiritual, are destabilizing her current life in 2045. Expect long treatises on anamnesis, quantum biology, and reincarnation before traveling with Dorothy’s adult daughter in 2086.

Ford raises fascinating questions, but a rushed ending too neatly ties up the answers in an unconvincing, sentimental bow.

Pub Date: Aug. 2, 2022

ISBN: 978-1-9821-5821-7

Page Count: 384

Publisher: Atria

Review Posted Online: May 11, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 2022

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