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THE BOY WALKER

A funny, affecting novel about fragmented lives that slip the leash.

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In Perlstein’s (Slick!, 2011) winsome fable, a protective dog and the therapeutic effects of stand-up comedy help heal a wounded family.

Abbie Greenbaum is a 25-year-old slacker in San Francisco who coasts through a life centered on desultory dog-walking gigs and a garage band. He still lives with his dad, Morty, an American studies professor who specializes in deep ruminations on TV comedy. Morty’s English bulldog, Brutus, who’s chief among Abbie’s canine charges, narrates their story with a stately aplomb befitting his advanced age and arthritic hips. Brutus so identifies with his masters that he considers himself a fellow Jew; in his own mind, he’s adopted the name Baruch and presides benignly over Morty’s frequent observances of Jewish memorial rituals. There’s a lot for Morty to mourn, as his daughter, Sara, and wife, Lenore, died years ago—a tragedy that overshadows his strained relationship with Abbie. Another girl named Sarah, a motor-mouthed 10-year-old with Down syndrome, bounces into Abbie’s dog-walking routine along with her mother, Rivka, a half-Jewish, half-Chinese professional stand-up comic. Over the course of the story, Abbie gets embroiled in a friend’s half-baked drug-dealing scheme, Morty comes down with lung cancer, and both become infatuated with Rivka, who prods Morty through her stand-up comedy class. Perlstein’s novel has some twee conceits that might have overwhelmed it, particularly the plummy, stentorian narrative voice of Brutus, who sounds like Henry James scoping out a nightclub (“Understanding my role as Abbie’s wingman—and aware of the attraction that an English Bulldog of my stature maintains for women of all ages—I gazed instead into the young Latina’s eyes as might Rudolph Valentino in the era of silent films”). Fortunately, the author’s gift for sharp, empathetic human characterizations rescues the proceedings. He steeps the story in well-observed renditions of West Coast Jewish culture, from homey dinner routines to the theory and practice of stand-up comedy, in which kvetching is the wellspring of artistic revelation. Perlstein offsets the shtick with psychological depth and nuance, keeping it charming throughout.

A funny, affecting novel about fragmented lives that slip the leash.

Pub Date: Feb. 15, 2014

ISBN: N/A

Page Count: -

Publisher: Dog Ear Publisher

Review Posted Online: Dec. 24, 2013

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2014

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IT ENDS WITH US

Packed with riveting drama and painful truths, this book powerfully illustrates the devastation of abuse—and the strength of...

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Hoover’s (November 9, 2015, etc.) latest tackles the difficult subject of domestic violence with romantic tenderness and emotional heft.

At first glance, the couple is edgy but cute: Lily Bloom runs a flower shop for people who hate flowers; Ryle Kincaid is a surgeon who says he never wants to get married or have kids. They meet on a rooftop in Boston on the night Ryle loses a patient and Lily attends her abusive father’s funeral. The provocative opening takes a dark turn when Lily receives a warning about Ryle’s intentions from his sister, who becomes Lily’s employee and close friend. Lily swears she’ll never end up in another abusive home, but when Ryle starts to show all the same warning signs that her mother ignored, Lily learns just how hard it is to say goodbye. When Ryle is not in the throes of a jealous rage, his redeeming qualities return, and Lily can justify his behavior: “I think we needed what happened on the stairwell to happen so that I would know his past and we’d be able to work on it together,” she tells herself. Lily marries Ryle hoping the good will outweigh the bad, and the mother-daughter dynamics evolve beautifully as Lily reflects on her childhood with fresh eyes. Diary entries fancifully addressed to TV host Ellen DeGeneres serve as flashbacks to Lily’s teenage years, when she met her first love, Atlas Corrigan, a homeless boy she found squatting in a neighbor’s house. When Atlas turns up in Boston, now a successful chef, he begs Lily to leave Ryle. Despite the better option right in front of her, an unexpected complication forces Lily to cut ties with Atlas, confront Ryle, and try to end the cycle of abuse before it’s too late. The relationships are portrayed with compassion and honesty, and the author’s note at the end that explains Hoover’s personal connection to the subject matter is a must-read.

Packed with riveting drama and painful truths, this book powerfully illustrates the devastation of abuse—and the strength of the survivors.

Pub Date: Aug. 2, 2016

ISBN: 978-1-5011-1036-8

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Atria

Review Posted Online: May 30, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2016

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DEVOLUTION

A tasty, if not always tasteful, tale of supernatural mayhem that fans of King and Crichton alike will enjoy.

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Are we not men? We are—well, ask Bigfoot, as Brooks does in this delightful yarn, following on his bestseller World War Z(2006).

A zombie apocalypse is one thing. A volcanic eruption is quite another, for, as the journalist who does a framing voice-over narration for Brooks’ latest puts it, when Mount Rainier popped its cork, “it was the psychological aspect, the hyperbole-fueled hysteria that had ended up killing the most people.” Maybe, but the sasquatches whom the volcano displaced contributed to the statistics, too, if only out of self-defense. Brooks places the epicenter of the Bigfoot war in a high-tech hideaway populated by the kind of people you might find in a Jurassic Park franchise: the schmo who doesn’t know how to do much of anything but tries anyway, the well-intentioned bleeding heart, the know-it-all intellectual who turns out to know the wrong things, the immigrant with a tough backstory and an instinct for survival. Indeed, the novel does double duty as a survival manual, packed full of good advice—for instance, try not to get wounded, for “injury turns you from a giver to a taker. Taking up our resources, our time to care for you.” Brooks presents a case for making room for Bigfoot in the world while peppering his narrative with timely social criticism about bad behavior on the human side of the conflict: The explosion of Rainier might have been better forecast had the president not slashed the budget of the U.S. Geological Survey, leading to “immediate suspension of the National Volcano Early Warning System,” and there’s always someone around looking to monetize the natural disaster and the sasquatch-y onslaught that follows. Brooks is a pro at building suspense even if it plays out in some rather spectacularly yucky episodes, one involving a short spear that takes its name from “the sucking sound of pulling it out of the dead man’s heart and lungs.” Grossness aside, it puts you right there on the scene.

A tasty, if not always tasteful, tale of supernatural mayhem that fans of King and Crichton alike will enjoy.

Pub Date: June 16, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-9848-2678-7

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Del Rey/Ballantine

Review Posted Online: Feb. 9, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2020

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