Bizarre and sometimes gloomy but a charming drollness prevails.

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SO SPECIAL IN DAYVILLE

Residents are in danger of federal agents destroying their small U.S. town just to eliminate a singular threat in Gill’s darkly amusing debut.

Dayville is a place of government-fixed wages and prohibited unions. Third-world salaries allow companies to compete globally but also prompt the town’s rampant homelessness. Ajeno, 400-plus pounds, prefers staying inside his Eden Palace apartment, eating cookies baked by roomie/fiancee Crystal, an elementary schoolteacher. He does occasionally leave the abode, getting himself a gig as cook at Mom’s Diner. His co-worker Enrique Ruiz is undercover for the cartel, working an operation that could hide individuals from any law enforcement using radar. Federal agent John Doe is aware of such an operation in Dayville, just not anyone specifically involved. He believes the most cost-effective way to neutralize the threat is to blow the dam and flood the town. Though Crystal cares for Ajeno and wants a baby with him, others don’t warm up to him. Ruiz, for one, distrusts him—Ajeno’s surname is Garcia but he doesn’t look Mexican—and believes he’s a cop or a cartel enemy. Doe likewise deems Ajeno suspicious; the fact that he draws so much attention to himself makes him either a terrible choice for cartel operative or the perfect one. Ruiz’s operation, meanwhile, entails coercing certain individuals into giving up necessary codes, leading to a shockingly fruitless kidnapping and Ruiz getting roughed up. But if the federal agents can’t identify Ruiz as the operative, Dayville and everyone in it will be gone forever. Despite the town’s lowly status and looming annihilation, Gill’s tale is comical and rife with kooky characters. There’s homeless Sally, obsessively reciting a mantra with the hope she won’t die in particularly brutal fashion; Eden Palace resident Beth, arguing with her multiple personalities; and kids in Crystal’s class, discussing beloved pets (rodents, cockroaches, etc.). Some of the humor is wonderfully absurd. The Dayville mayor and Doe negotiate over how many minutes before the dam explodes the agent will send a text-message warning. But the story’s generally sincere, starting with Ajeno. He comes across as naïve, seemingly oblivious to disparaging remarks on his weight, and is sometimes equated with an infant, as when his “baby-like face pouts.” But he’s not completely endearing; he’s more interested in Meeper Cheeper Chocolate Peepers than serious conversations with Crystal. A theme of family, too, augments the unity within Dayville. Tenants of Eden Palace, for example, have formed their own family. Crystal lost her parents, and Ajeno’s mom essentially disowned him, convinced that, despite what hospital records say, she didn’t give birth to him. A flashback with the couple reveals one of the more peculiar meet-cutes that readers are likely to encounter. The final act adds a ticking-clock scenario. Federal agents are anxious to set up explosives at the dam while a somewhat impatient cartel sends other members to Dayville. Hints throughout of an outlandish turn come to a head with an ending that will spark either laughs or head-scratching.

Bizarre and sometimes gloomy but a charming drollness prevails.

Pub Date: June 23, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-64111-008-2

Page Count: 261

Publisher: Palmetto Publishing Group

Review Posted Online: Aug. 2, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2017

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A touching family drama that effectively explores the negative impact of stress on fragile relationships.

A WEEK AT THE SHORE

A middle-aged woman returns to her childhood home to care for her ailing father, confronting many painful secrets from her past.

When Mallory Aldiss gets a call from a long-ago boyfriend telling her that her elderly father has been gallivanting around town with a gun in his hand, Mallory decides it’s time to return to the small Rhode Island town that she’s been avoiding for more than a decade. Mallory’s precocious 13-year-old daughter, Joy, is thrilled that she'll get to meet her grandfather at long last, and an aunt, too, and she'll finally see the place where her mother grew up. When they arrive in Bay Bluff, it’s barely a few hours before Mallory bumps into her old flame, Jack, the only man she’s ever really loved. Gone is the rebellious young person she remembers, and in his place stands a compassionate, accomplished adult. As they try to reconnect, Mallory realizes that the same obstacle that pushed them apart decades earlier is still standing in their way: Jack blames Mallory’s father for his mother’s death. No one knows exactly how Jack’s mother died, but Jack thinks a love affair between her and Mallory’s father had something to do with it. As Jack and Mallory chase down answers, Mallory also tries to repair her rocky relationships with her two sisters and determine why her father has always been so hard on her. Told entirely from Mallory’s perspective, the novel has a haunting, nostalgic quality. Despite the complex and overlapping layers to the history of Bay Bluff and its inhabitants, the book at times trudges too slowly through Mallory’s meanderings down Memory Lane. Even so, Delinsky sometimes manages to pick up the pace, and in those moments the beauty and nuance of this complicated family tale shine through. Readers who don’t mind skimming past details that do little to advance the plot may find that the juicier nuggets and realistically rendered human connections are worth the effort.

A touching family drama that effectively explores the negative impact of stress on fragile relationships.

Pub Date: May 19, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-250-11951-3

Page Count: 416

Publisher: St. Martin's

Review Posted Online: March 2, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2020

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A love letter to the power of books and friendship.

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THE GIVER OF STARS

Women become horseback librarians in 1930s Kentucky and face challenges from the landscape, the weather, and the men around them.

Alice thought marrying attractive American Bennett Van Cleve would be her ticket out of her stifling life in England. But when she and Bennett settle in Baileyville, Kentucky, she realizes that her life consists of nothing more than staying in their giant house all day and getting yelled at by his unpleasant father, who owns a coal mine. She’s just about to resign herself to a life of boredom when an opportunity presents itself in the form of a traveling horseback library—an initiative from Eleanor Roosevelt meant to counteract the devastating effects of the Depression by focusing on literacy and learning. Much to the dismay of her husband and father-in-law, Alice signs up and soon learns the ropes from the library’s leader, Margery. Margery doesn’t care what anyone thinks of her, rejects marriage, and would rather be on horseback than in a kitchen. And even though all this makes Margery a town pariah, Alice quickly grows to like her. Along with several other women (including one black woman, Sophia, whose employment causes controversy in a town that doesn’t believe black and white people should be allowed to use the same library), Margery and Alice supply magazines, Bible stories, and copies of books like Little Women to the largely poor residents who live in remote areas. Alice spends long days in terrible weather on horseback, but she finally feels happy in her new life in Kentucky, even as her marriage to Bennett is failing. But her powerful father-in-law doesn’t care for Alice’s job or Margery’s lifestyle, and he’ll stop at nothing to shut their library down. Basing her novel on the true story of the Pack Horse Library Project established by the Works Progress Administration in the 1930s, Moyes (Still Me, 2018, etc.) brings an often forgotten slice of history to life. She writes about Kentucky with lush descriptions of the landscape and tender respect for the townspeople, most of whom are poor, uneducated, and grateful for the chance to learn. Although Alice and Margery both have their own romances, the true power of the story is in the bonds between the women of the library. They may have different backgrounds, but their commitment to helping the people of Baileyville brings them together.

A love letter to the power of books and friendship.

Pub Date: Oct. 8, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-399-56248-8

Page Count: 400

Publisher: Pamela Dorman/Viking

Review Posted Online: July 1, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2019

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