THE DISAPPOINTMENT ROOM

Phelps and Grimes’ debut tells the story of how Charles Knight, the heir apparent to Coffin Point, a large South Carolina plantation, was raised during the supposedly idyllic years before the Civil War.

The tale centers on Madeline Knight’s decision to abandon her disappointing son to the care of Munday, the nurturing “Big House” slave. Munday becomes Charles’ surrogate mother, and her daughter, Helen, is Charles’ only childhood companion. The authors skillfully weave in historical details about slavery, plantation life, national and regional politics as well as a little romance and intrigue. The Southern drawl and slaves’ Gullah dialect add authenticity, as does the presence of witchcraft and other cultural details about slaves and their privileged owners. Some strategic twists and turns hold the reader’s interest, and the characters—with the exception of the status-seeking, power-hungry Madeline—earn the reader’s empathy. Charles, Munday and Helen leave South Carolina for Boston, via war-torn Washington, D.C., where Charles confronts his long-lost mother. This bold step releases him to pursue freedom with his true family. The trio rejoices at their arrival in Boston, but racial segregation and second-class status dim their hope for freedom. Despite his happy marriage to Helen, Charles remains enslaved by dreams of returning to Coffin Point. Their experience brings readers to a new understanding of freedom, nudging us to examine our own forms of slavery—to possessions, power and status. Yet amid this serious thinking, it’s difficult to overlook some of the novel’s shortcomings. The timeline leading up to Ft. Sumter is mixed-up, and it is somewhat hard to believe Charles’ intimate knowledge of the Charleston Harbor given his sheltered upbringing. Straightening out these details and correcting some misspellings and syntax errors will make this enjoyable tale all the more engaging. Initially, the abrupt ending is disappointing, but upon reflection, readers will come to understand the brevity. The period detail, poignant story and credible characters make this a pleasurable, satisfying read. 

Pub Date: Dec. 1, 2012

ISBN: N/A

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Kurti Publishing

Review Posted Online: Dec. 22, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2012

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

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DEVOLUTION

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. 10, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2020

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Finding positivity in negative pregnancy-test results, this depiction of a marriage in crisis is nearly perfect.

ALL YOUR PERFECTS

Named for an imperfectly worded fortune cookie, Hoover's (It Ends with Us, 2016, etc.) latest compares a woman’s relationship with her husband before and after she finds out she’s infertile.

Quinn meets her future husband, Graham, in front of her soon-to-be-ex-fiance’s apartment, where Graham is about to confront him for having an affair with his girlfriend. A few years later, they are happily married but struggling to conceive. The “then and now” format—with alternating chapters moving back and forth in time—allows a hopeful romance to blossom within a dark but relatable dilemma. Back then, Quinn’s bad breakup leads her to the love of her life. In the now, she’s exhausted a laundry list of fertility options, from IVF treatments to adoption, and the silver lining is harder to find. Quinn’s bad relationship with her wealthy mother also prevents her from asking for more money to throw at the problem. But just when Quinn’s narrative starts to sound like she’s writing a long Facebook rant about her struggles, she reveals the larger issue: Ever since she and Graham have been trying to have a baby, intimacy has become a chore, and she doesn’t know how to tell him. Instead, she hopes the contents of a mystery box she’s kept since their wedding day will help her decide their fate. With a few well-timed silences, Hoover turns the fairly common problem of infertility into the more universal problem of poor communication. Graham and Quinn may or may not become parents, but if they don’t talk about their feelings, they won’t remain a couple, either.

Finding positivity in negative pregnancy-test results, this depiction of a marriage in crisis is nearly perfect.

Pub Date: July 17, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-5011-7159-8

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Atria

Review Posted Online: May 1, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2018

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