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THE THIRD MRS. GALWAY

A localized but no less powerful look at the prologue to Emancipation.

When an abolitionist convention comes to Utica, New York, in 1835, mayhem both public and private ensues.

In this eloquent debut, a diverse cast of characters embodies the political, class, and racial upheavals of its time and milieu, and does it all in living local color. Helen, an orphan raised in a genteel finishing school for young ladies, is wed in a quasi-arranged marriage to Galway, a prosperous older widower. Her naïveté regarding the issues of the day—in school she was taught that Southern masters treated their slaves like family—is tested when Imari and her son, Joe, escapees from a Virginia plantation, turn up in Galway’s shed. Helen’s domicile is further disrupted when Galway breaks his leg in a drunken fall, ushering quack doctor McCooke into their midst, as lecherous as he is incompetent. Meanwhile, Pryce, a young man unsure of his career path, pays more welcome attention to Helen. The streets of Utica come alive, especially as observed by minor characters—Owen Sylvanus, a conductor on the Underground Railroad, Alvan Stewart, a crusading lawyer leading the abolitionists, and Horace Wilberforce, a fishmonger and fixer. Utica’s section of the Erie Canal, where freighters are hauled by mules along a towpath, is vividly evoked. Slave catchers have arrived, not only menacing Imari and Joe, but rallying the mob against the abolitionists. Galway himself opposes abolition—instead, he advocates sending American Blacks to colonize Liberia. His servant, Maggie, who was formerly enslaved by his family, is a force to be reckoned with. Since Helen is the second Mrs. Galway, the title provides a clue to explosive family secrets. The text treads very carefully when treating the subject of slavery, and, occasionally, unavoidable echoes of today’s world lead to didactic moments that feel anachronistic. Often, when too many characters crowd into a scene, the logistics can verge on unintentional farce. But despite Sinnott’s extensive research into her hometown and its role in abolition, the pace is never slowed by excessive detail.

A localized but no less powerful look at the prologue to Emancipation.

Pub Date: July 6, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-61775-842-3

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Kaylie Jones/Akashic

Review Posted Online: May 4, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2021

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THE WOMEN

A dramatic, vividly detailed reconstruction of a little-known aspect of the Vietnam War.

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A young woman’s experience as a nurse in Vietnam casts a deep shadow over her life.

When we learn that the farewell party in the opening scene is for Frances “Frankie” McGrath’s older brother—“a golden boy, a wild child who could make the hardest heart soften”—who is leaving to serve in Vietnam in 1966, we feel pretty certain that poor Finley McGrath is marked for death. Still, it’s a surprise when the fateful doorbell rings less than 20 pages later. His death inspires his sister to enlist as an Army nurse, and this turn of events is just the beginning of a roller coaster of a plot that’s impressive and engrossing if at times a bit formulaic. Hannah renders the experiences of the young women who served in Vietnam in all-encompassing detail. The first half of the book, set in gore-drenched hospital wards, mildewed dorm rooms, and boozy officers’ clubs, is an exciting read, tracking the transformation of virginal, uptight Frankie into a crack surgical nurse and woman of the world. Her tensely platonic romance with a married surgeon ends when his broken, unbreathing body is airlifted out by helicopter; she throws her pent-up passion into a wild affair with a soldier who happens to be her dead brother’s best friend. In the second part of the book, after the war, Frankie seems to experience every possible bad break. A drawback of the story is that none of the secondary characters in her life are fully three-dimensional: Her dismissive, chauvinistic father and tight-lipped, pill-popping mother, her fellow nurses, and her various love interests are more plot devices than people. You’ll wish you could have gone to Vegas and placed a bet on the ending—while it’s against all the odds, you’ll see it coming from a mile away.

A dramatic, vividly detailed reconstruction of a little-known aspect of the Vietnam War.

Pub Date: Feb. 6, 2024

ISBN: 9781250178633

Page Count: 480

Publisher: St. Martin's

Review Posted Online: Nov. 4, 2023

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2023

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THE NIGHTINGALE

Still, a respectful and absorbing page-turner.

Hannah’s new novel is an homage to the extraordinary courage and endurance of Frenchwomen during World War II.

In 1995, an elderly unnamed widow is moving into an Oregon nursing home on the urging of her controlling son, Julien, a surgeon. This trajectory is interrupted when she receives an invitation to return to France to attend a ceremony honoring passeurs: people who aided the escape of others during the war. Cut to spring, 1940: Viann has said goodbye to husband Antoine, who's off to hold the Maginot line against invading Germans. She returns to tending her small farm, Le Jardin, in the Loire Valley, teaching at the local school and coping with daughter Sophie’s adolescent rebellion. Soon, that world is upended: The Germans march into Paris and refugees flee south, overrunning Viann’s land. Her long-estranged younger sister, Isabelle, who has been kicked out of multiple convent schools, is sent to Le Jardin by Julien, their father in Paris, a drunken, decidedly unpaternal Great War veteran. As the depredations increase in the occupied zone—food rationing, systematic looting, and the billeting of a German officer, Capt. Beck, at Le Jardin—Isabelle’s outspokenness is a liability. She joins the Resistance, volunteering for dangerous duty: shepherding downed Allied airmen across the Pyrenees to Spain. Code-named the Nightingale, Isabelle will rescue many before she's captured. Meanwhile, Viann’s journey from passive to active resistance is less dramatic but no less wrenching. Hannah vividly demonstrates how the Nazis, through starvation, intimidation and barbarity both casual and calculated, demoralized the French, engineering a community collapse that enabled the deportations and deaths of more than 70,000 Jews. Hannah’s proven storytelling skills are ideally suited to depicting such cataclysmic events, but her tendency to sentimentalize undermines the gravitas of this tale.

Still, a respectful and absorbing page-turner.

Pub Date: Feb. 3, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-312-57722-3

Page Count: 448

Publisher: St. Martin's

Review Posted Online: Nov. 19, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2014

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