Devil Knows

A TALE OF MURDER AND MADNESS IN AMERICA'S FIRST CENTURY

Here is a novel “ripped from the headlines”…provided you found the headlines in Salem, Massachusetts, in 1692. Yes, we’re talking about the infamous salem witch trials. With a cameo role by Ray Bradbury’s ancestor, accused witch Mary Bradbury.

Veteran journalist Kolb anchors this historical fiction to the fate of Mary Bradbury, the only convicted witch to escape with her life (from a fetid Boston prison). The two main characters in this story are the Rev. Cotton Mather and the invented character, Hopestill Foster, brought to the new world as an indentured servant. Much of the book is in flashbacks, as in the first half of the book a fanatical Mather interrogates Hopestill, delirious in the grip of the “Small pocks.” The belief in witches is mind-boggling to the modern secular mind, but it was all too tragically real then and there. The Puritans have to answer not just for the witch hunt (a useful term they bequeathed to us!), but for their brutal treatment of all dissenters, especially the Quakers. Other real people populate these pages, such as the outspoken and charismatic Anne Hutchinson (hounded out of the colony), the magisterial families of the Cottons and the Mathers, and the heroic Maj. Robert Pike and Mary’s husband, Thomas. And of course there are the Indian tribes with their shifting alliances and loyalties. This is very much the story of the hapless Hopestill, who is adrift between Indian and White society but who never loses his essential decency. Along the way there are “monstrous” births (Devil’s spawn), switched infants, purloined letters—all in a miasma of toxic righteousness. We have always felt ambivalent about our Puritan forebears, forebears who founded Harvard College while the wilderness still threatened them, and at the same time believed in witches and that God sanctioned their killing. Kolb tells the story well. The flashbacks are a particularly good narrative device, and the prose matches the unrelenting drama. Helpful cast of characters, afterword, etc. provided. Long after the book is closed, the reader will be pondering that time and place and how it still reverberates in the American psyche.

Pub Date: Sept. 23, 2015

ISBN: 978-1-942146-22-3

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Garn Press

Review Posted Online: June 28, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2016

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An enjoyable, cozy novel that touches on tough topics.

THE AUTHENTICITY PROJECT

A group of strangers who live near each other in London become fast friends after writing their deepest secrets in a shared notebook.

Julian Jessop, a septuagenarian artist, is bone-crushingly lonely when he starts “The Authenticity Project”—as he titles a slim green notebook—and begins its first handwritten entry questioning how well people know each other in his tiny corner of London. After 15 years on his own mourning the loss of his beloved wife, he begins the project with the aim that whoever finds the little volume when he leaves it in a cafe will share their true self with their own entry and then pass the volume on to a stranger. The second person to share their inner selves in the notebook’s pages is Monica, 37, owner of a failing cafe and a former corporate lawyer who desperately wants to have a baby. From there the story unfolds, as the volume travels to Thailand and back to London, seemingly destined to fall only into the hands of people—an alcoholic drug addict, an Australian tourist, a social media influencer/new mother, etc.—who already live clustered together geographically. This is a glossy tale where difficulties and addictions appear and are overcome, where lies are told and then forgiven, where love is sought and found, and where truths, once spoken, can set you free. Secondary characters, including an interracial gay couple, appear with their own nuanced parts in the story. The message is strong, urging readers to get off their smartphones and social media and live in the real, authentic world—no chain stores or brands allowed here—making friends and forming a real-life community and support network. And is that really a bad thing?

An enjoyable, cozy novel that touches on tough topics.

Pub Date: Feb. 4, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-9848-7861-8

Page Count: 368

Publisher: Pamela Dorman/Viking

Review Posted Online: Oct. 27, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15, 2019

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A strict report, worthy of sympathy.

THE CATCHER IN THE RYE

A violent surfacing of adolescence (which has little in common with Tarkington's earlier, broadly comic, Seventeen) has a compulsive impact.

"Nobody big except me" is the dream world of Holden Caulfield and his first person story is down to the basic, drab English of the pre-collegiate. For Holden is now being bounced from fancy prep, and, after a vicious evening with hall- and roommates, heads for New York to try to keep his latest failure from his parents. He tries to have a wild evening (all he does is pay the check), is terrorized by the hotel elevator man and his on-call whore, has a date with a girl he likes—and hates, sees his 10 year old sister, Phoebe. He also visits a sympathetic English teacher after trying on a drunken session, and when he keeps his date with Phoebe, who turns up with her suitcase to join him on his flight, he heads home to a hospital siege. This is tender and true, and impossible, in its picture of the old hells of young boys, the lonesomeness and tentative attempts to be mature and secure, the awful block between youth and being grown-up, the fright and sickness that humans and their behavior cause the challenging, the dramatization of the big bang. It is a sorry little worm's view of the off-beat of adult pressure, of contemporary strictures and conformity, of sentiment….

A strict report, worthy of sympathy.

Pub Date: June 15, 1951

ISBN: 0316769177

Page Count: -

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: Nov. 2, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 1951

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