An uneven, unsurprising, but still quite sweet coming-of-age novel.

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Liberating Tomas

In Marty’s (Living Beyond Rainbows, 2010) debut novel, a young, gay American has a sexual awakening in 1970s Europe.

Tomas, nicknamed “Tommy,” spends his early years in the repressive Minnesota culture of the 1950s. His religious parents are terrified of homosexuality, and the culture around him enforces conformity. “By the time he went to public school,” Marty writes, “Tommy had to deal with bullying for being a sissy.” Throughout his adolescent years, Tomas is confused and bereft of guidance. Many of his fellow students begin to challenge authority and social convention in the turbulent ’60s, but Tomas is largely outside these movements. Looking to broaden his experiences and find his identity, he decides to spend the summer of 1970 before his sophomore year of college working and traveling in Europe. For a virgin who’s always lived at home with his parents, this is a life-changing decision. Hitchhiking in foreign countries gives him confidence and freedom, and a series of well-detailed erotic adventures with other men helps him come to terms with his sexuality. At the end of the summer, he makes a bold choice to stay in Portugal with his older lover, Marco, rather than return to the University of Minnesota. Little does he know that he’s settling in Portugal at a time of revolution and social change; the country’s repressive dictator, António de Oliveira Salazar, has just died, and the people Tomas meets struggle for a more open society. The story of Tomas’ journey toward loving himself is authentic and powerful. However, there are some significant pacing issues in the novel, overall; for example, Tomas’ three months of hitchhiking take up much more space than his longer, more compelling period of living in Portugal and becoming involved in the resistance. (Depictions of hitchhiking, like hitchhiking itself, can become tedious.) Some information is relayed abruptly, or even implausibly, such as when Tomas sends a postcard to his parents casually mentioning that he has “decided that I should get more involved with the revolution here.” (The book includes 22 black-and-white photographs of cities in the text.)

An uneven, unsurprising, but still quite sweet coming-of-age novel. 

Pub Date: July 8, 2016

ISBN: 978-1-5346-1352-2

Page Count: 218

Publisher: CreateSpace

Review Posted Online: Sept. 29, 2016

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A daring concept not so daringly developed.

THE BOOK OF LONGINGS

In Kidd’s (The Invention of Wings, 2014, etc.) feminist take on the New Testament, Jesus has a wife whose fondest longing is to write.

Ana is the daughter of Matthias, head scribe to Herod Antipas, tetrarch of Galilee. She demonstrates an exceptional aptitude for writing, and Matthias, for a time, indulges her with reed pens, papyri, and other 16 C.E. office supplies. Her mother disapproves, but her aunt, Yaltha, mentors Ana in the ways of the enlightened women of Alexandria, from whence Yaltha, suspected of murdering her brutal husband, was exiled years before. Yaltha was also forced to give up her daughter, Chaya, for adoption. As Ana reaches puberty, parental tolerance of her nonconformity wanes, outweighed by the imperative to marry her off. Her adopted brother, Judas—yes, that Judas—is soon disowned for his nonconformity—plotting against Antipas. On the very day Ana, age 14, meets her prospective betrothed, the repellent Nathanial, in the town market, she also encounters Jesus, a young tradesman, to whom she’s instantly drawn. Their connection deepens after she encounters Jesus in the cave where she is concealing her writings about oppressed women. When Nathanial dies after his betrothal to Ana but before their marriage, Ana is shunned for insufficiently mourning him—and after refusing to become Antipas’ concubine, she is about to be stoned until Jesus defuses the situation with that famous admonition. She marries Jesus and moves into his widowed mother’s humble compound in Nazareth, accompanied by Yaltha. There, poverty, not sexism, prohibits her from continuing her writing—office supplies are expensive. Kidd skirts the issue of miracles, portraying Jesus as a fully human and, for the period, accepting husband—after a stillbirth, he condones Ana’s practice of herbal birth control. A structural problem is posed when Jesus’ active ministry begins—what will Ana’s role be? Problem avoided when, notified by Judas that Antipas is seeking her arrest, she and Yaltha journey to Alexandria in search of Chaya. In addition to depriving her of the opportunity to write the first and only contemporaneous gospel, removing Ana from the main action destroys the novel’s momentum.

A daring concept not so daringly developed.

Pub Date: April 21, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-525-42976-0

Page Count: 432

Publisher: Viking

Review Posted Online: Jan. 27, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2020

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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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