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A haunting portrait, just the kind of thing this author does so well.

Nevin continues his American Story series (Treason, 2001, etc.) with the heroic, intensely human, altogether heartbreaking story of a legendary explorer.

Meriwether Lewis (1774–1809) was noticeably different from the boys he grew up with in Albemarle County, Virginia. Bigger and stronger than most, he was also quieter, a dreamer. Ever since he could remember, he decided later, he’d had a sense of American nationhood: “of vast spaces awaiting crossing . . . of freedom to strike his mark in the world and conviction that he would do so.” Rambling, his ma told him, was a family trait, but so were those periodic bouts of inexplicable despair that swept over him, that only his indomitable will enabled him to escape. Westward exploration had long also been the dream of one of Lewis’s neighbors. He happened to be Thomas Jefferson, who recognized a kindred spirit when he saw one. While Jefferson became a statesman, Lewis became a soldier, and though their paths diverged sharply they never quite lost track of each other. Eventually, the great expedition took shape, Jefferson tapped Lewis to lead it, and together with William Clark, a former comrade in arms, he embarked on his 2,000-mile “ramble,” encountering hostile grizzlies, equally hostile Indians, uncharted rivers, strange fauna, the truly remarkable Shoshone woman Sacagawea, and other wonders on his way to the Pacific Ocean. It took two years (1804–6), and on his return Lewis was lionized. Admirers made him a territorial governor and pleaded with him to write a book, both tasks for which he was eminently unsuited and which worried him into depression. He turned first to whisky, then to drugs, hoping to confound his demons but ultimately simply surrendering to them.

A haunting portrait, just the kind of thing this author does so well.

Pub Date: May 1, 2004

ISBN: 0-312-86307-1

Page Count: 416

Publisher: Forge

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2004

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Too beholden to sentimentality and cliché, this novel fails to establish a uniquely realized perspective.

Hunter’s debut novel tracks the experiences of her family members during the Holocaust.

Sol and Nechuma Kurc, wealthy, cultured Jews in Radom, Poland, are successful shop owners; they and their grown children live a comfortable lifestyle. But that lifestyle is no protection against the onslaught of the Holocaust, which eventually scatters the members of the Kurc family among several continents. Genek, the oldest son, is exiled with his wife to a Siberian gulag. Halina, youngest of all the children, works to protect her family alongside her resistance-fighter husband. Addy, middle child, a composer and engineer before the war breaks out, leaves Europe on one of the last passenger ships, ending up thousands of miles away. Then, too, there are Mila and Felicia, Jakob and Bella, each with their own share of struggles—pain endured, horrors witnessed. Hunter conducted extensive research after learning that her grandfather (Addy in the book) survived the Holocaust. The research shows: her novel is thorough and precise in its details. It’s less precise in its language, however, which frequently relies on cliché. “You’ll get only one shot at this,” Halina thinks, enacting a plan to save her husband. “Don’t botch it.” Later, Genek, confronting a routine bit of paperwork, must decide whether or not to hide his Jewishness. “That form is a deal breaker,” he tells himself. “It’s life and death.” And: “They are low, it seems, on good fortune. And something tells him they’ll need it.” Worse than these stale phrases, though, are the moments when Hunter’s writing is entirely inadequate for the subject matter at hand. Genek, describing the gulag, calls the nearest town “a total shitscape.” This is a low point for Hunter’s writing; elsewhere in the novel, it’s stronger. Still, the characters remain flat and unknowable, while the novel itself is predictable. At this point, more than half a century’s worth of fiction and film has been inspired by the Holocaust—a weighty and imposing tradition. Hunter, it seems, hasn’t been able to break free from her dependence on it.

Too beholden to sentimentality and cliché, this novel fails to establish a uniquely realized perspective.

Pub Date: Feb. 14, 2017

ISBN: 978-0-399-56308-9

Page Count: 416

Publisher: Viking

Review Posted Online: Nov. 21, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2016

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Wacky plot keeps the pages turning and enduring schmaltzy romantic sequences.

Sisters work together to solve a child-abandonment case.

Ellie and Julia Cates have never been close. Julia is shy and brainy; Ellie gets by on charm and looks. Their differences must be tossed aside when a traumatized young girl wanders in from the forest into their hometown in Washington. The sisters’ professional skills are put to the test. Julia is a world-renowned child psychologist who has lost her edge. She is reeling from a case that went publicly sour. Though she was cleared of all wrongdoing, Julia’s name was tarnished, forcing her to shutter her Beverly Hills practice. Ellie Barton is the local police chief in Rain Valley, who’s never faced a tougher case. This is her chance to prove she is more than just a fading homecoming queen, but a scarcity of clues and a reluctant victim make locating the girl’s parents nearly impossible. Ellie places an SOS call to her sister; she needs an expert to rehabilitate this wild-child who has been living outside of civilization for years. Confronted with her professional demons, Julia once again has the opportunity to display her talents and salvage her reputation. Hannah (The Things We Do for Love, 2004, etc.) is at her best when writing from the girl’s perspective. The feral wolf-child keeps the reader interested long after the other, transparent characters have grown tiresome. Hannah’s torturously over-written romance passages are stale, but there are surprises in store as the sisters set about unearthing Alice’s past and creating a home for her.

Wacky plot keeps the pages turning and enduring schmaltzy romantic sequences.

Pub Date: March 1, 2006

ISBN: 0-345-46752-3

Page Count: 400

Publisher: Ballantine

Review Posted Online: June 24, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2005

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