A brutal, mesmerizing, and historically compelling war story with a fully drawn protagonist.



A historical novel brings readers deep into the agonizing battles of World War II’s final year on the European front and the trials in Germany following the Allied victory.

William Connelly was raised in privilege, part of Philadelphia’s Main Line elite. His grandfather was a penniless Irish immigrant who, through fortitude and good fortune, opened his own brickyard, which his two sons expanded into a prominent paving company. Now his uncle is a United States congressman. But despite his access to a safer stateside deployment, Will, an Army lieutenant with a law degree, ships out to join the 106th Infantry Division. In December 1944, Will is stationed in Belgium when word comes that the Germans, who had been in retreat, are mounting a major new offensive. Will unexpectedly finds himself thrust onto the battlefield, to which, despite being seriously wounded, he returns, in one capacity or another, until the end of the conflict on the European front. On May 5, 1945, two days before the official armistice, Will is ordered to help liberate a “prison” camp. The shock of what he finds in the Mauthausen concentration camp in northern Austria, even more than the brutalities he witnessed in combat, is a turning point for him. He remains in Germany for several more years, attached to Gen. George S. Patton’s JAG Corps, prosecuting war criminals. These trials, less well-known than the Nuremberg Tribunals, were held at the notorious Dachau concentration camp and are riveting. A bit less than half the book graphically depicts the excruciating details of battle. Familiar luminaries make appearances, but this portion of the narrative is propelled by action and gore—it’s highly informative but tough to read. The postwar section focuses more on the scars of war, the traumas that kept soldiers like Will rooted in place, unable to return home quickly after what they had witnessed. McNulty (The Parachutist’s Daughter, 2011) delivers a vivid, fully developed hero. The author is a skillful writer, both in prose and dialogue. A few missing words can be easily overlooked, although one linguistic quirk is puzzling: He consistently writes “padded” when “patted” is required (“Will padded him on the shoulder”).

A brutal, mesmerizing, and historically compelling war story with a fully drawn protagonist.

Pub Date: Dec. 21, 2017

ISBN: 978-0-9993788-4-7

Page Count: 444

Publisher: Bashton Publications

Review Posted Online: Feb. 23, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 2018

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Kin “[find] each other’s lives inscrutable” in this rich, sharp story about the way identity is formed.

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Inseparable identical twin sisters ditch home together, and then one decides to vanish.

The talented Bennett fuels her fiction with secrets—first in her lauded debut, The Mothers (2016), and now in the assured and magnetic story of the Vignes sisters, light-skinned women parked on opposite sides of the color line. Desiree, the “fidgety twin,” and Stella, “a smart, careful girl,” make their break from stultifying rural Mallard, Louisiana, becoming 16-year-old runaways in 1954 New Orleans. The novel opens 14 years later as Desiree, fleeing a violent marriage in D.C., returns home with a different relative: her 8-year-old daughter, Jude. The gossips are agog: “In Mallard, nobody married dark....Marrying a dark man and dragging his blueblack child all over town was one step too far.” Desiree's decision seals Jude’s misery in this “colorstruck” place and propels a new generation of flight: Jude escapes on a track scholarship to UCLA. Tending bar as a side job in Beverly Hills, she catches a glimpse of her mother’s doppelgänger. Stella, ensconced in white society, is shedding her fur coat. Jude, so black that strangers routinely stare, is unrecognizable to her aunt. All this is expertly paced, unfurling before the book is half finished; a reader can guess what is coming. Bennett is deeply engaged in the unknowability of other people and the scourge of colorism. The scene in which Stella adopts her white persona is a tour de force of doubling and confusion. It calls up Toni Morrison’s The Bluest Eye, the book's 50-year-old antecedent. Bennett's novel plays with its characters' nagging feelings of being incomplete—for the twins without each other; for Jude’s boyfriend, Reese, who is trans and seeks surgery; for their friend Barry, who performs in drag as Bianca. Bennett keeps all these plot threads thrumming and her social commentary crisp. In the second half, Jude spars with her cousin Kennedy, Stella's daughter, a spoiled actress.

Kin “[find] each other’s lives inscrutable” in this rich, sharp story about the way identity is formed.

Pub Date: June 2, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-525-53629-1

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Riverhead

Review Posted Online: March 15, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2020

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More Hallmarkiana, from a shameless expert in the genre.


High-stakes weepmeister Sparks (A Walk to Remember, 1999, etc.) opts for a happy ending his fourth time out. His writing has improved—though it's still the equivalent of paint-by-numbers—and he makes use this time of at least a vestige of credible psychology.

That vestige involves the deep dark secret—it has something to do with his father's death when son Taylor was nine—that haunts kind, good 36-year-old local contractor Taylor McAden and makes him withdraw from relationships whenever they start getting serious enough to maybe get permanent. He's done this twice before, and now he does it again with pretty and sweet single mother Denise Holton, age 29, who's moved from Atlanta to Taylor's town of Edenton, North Carolina, in order to devote her time more fully to training her four-year-old son Kyle to overcome the peculiar impediment he has that keeps him from achieving normal language acquisition. Okay? When Denise has a car accident in a bad storm, she's rescued by volunteer fireman Taylor—who also rescues little Kyle after he wanders away from his injured mom in the storm. Love blooms in the weeks that follow—until Taylor suddenly begins putting on the brakes. What is it that holds him back, when there just isn't any question but that he loves Denise and vice versa-not to mention that he's "great" with Kyle, just like a father? It will require a couple of near-death experiences (as fireman Taylor bravely risks his life to save others); emotional steadiness from the intelligent, good, true Denise; and the terrible death of a dear and devoted friend before Taylor will come to the point at last of confiding to Denise the terrible memory of how his father died—and the guilt that's been its legacy to Taylor. The psychological dam broken, love will at last be able to flow.

More Hallmarkiana, from a shameless expert in the genre.

Pub Date: Sept. 19, 2000

ISBN: 0-446-52550-2

Page Count: 352

Publisher: N/A

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2000

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