A cleareyed look at overcoming family trauma, but several subplots beg further exploration.

Memory Stones

In this debut novel, a troubled woman of 58 battles her many demons by seeking answers to her family’s disintegration and by learning to enjoy the natural world.

As Nia Meyer begins her story, she is fishing alone on the Salt River along Florida’s Gulf Coast. She details the process with an evident understanding of the natural world acquired through her late mother’s Native American heritage and her long absent father’s knowledge of the region and myriad skills. Nia’s boat becomes stuck in mud overnight as a storm rages. She withstands the ordeal, but her fear and isolation prompt long reveries, which are braided through her current situation and explain her unhappiness: “It was a long time ago, when my heart was so broken I could not breathe.” The sudden loss of her husband, a 40-year-old oncologist, sent her reluctantly into therapy decades ago with psychologist Paul Horton. He attempts to relieve her of the burden of her “memory stones”: all of her recollections, painful as well as happy. She stingily offers him small pebbles from her past. She grew up in Florida. When her mother died after becoming involved in a cultish church, their father abandoned Nia and her siblings. The four children were “adopted” by the church’s sinister leaders and unspecified abuse ensued. Nia escaped, met the successful but problematic Joel Meyer, and moved with him to Virginia, where they eventually married. Her psychotherapy enabled her to return to Florida, reconnect with family members and memories, and begin a new social life. The meandering plot touches on Nia’s childhood, her current life, her therapist’s family issues, Native American beliefs, along with much fishing lore, but most issues warrant additional coverage. The language and actions of doctors are depicted unrealistically: Horton describes Meyer’s death to his therapist: “ ‘Brain aneurysm,’ he replied. ‘It blew with such force it turned his brain into hamburger. At least, that’s what the surgeon told my patient.’ ” He later violates ethical strictures by contacting Nia’s sister on his own. The author does reveal some profound insights about abuse and dysfunction in families and how people heal.

A cleareyed look at overcoming family trauma, but several subplots beg further exploration.

Pub Date: N/A

ISBN: N/A

Page Count: -

Publisher: Dog Ear Publisher

Review Posted Online: Nov. 29, 2016

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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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Miller makes Homer pertinent to women facing 21st-century monsters.

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CIRCE

A retelling of ancient Greek lore gives exhilarating voice to a witch.

“Monsters are a boon for gods. Imagine all the prayers.” So says Circe, a sly, petulant, and finally commanding voice that narrates the entirety of Miller’s dazzling second novel. The writer returns to Homer, the wellspring that led her to an Orange Prize for The Song of Achilles (2012). This time, she dips into The Odyssey for the legend of Circe, a nymph who turns Odysseus’ crew of men into pigs. The novel, with its distinctive feminist tang, starts with the sentence: “When I was born, the name for what I was did not exist.” Readers will relish following the puzzle of this unpromising daughter of the sun god Helios and his wife, Perse, who had negligible use for their child. It takes banishment to the island Aeaea for Circe to sense her calling as a sorceress: “I will not be like a bird bred in a cage, I thought, too dull to fly even when the door stands open. I stepped into those woods and my life began.” This lonely, scorned figure learns herbs and potions, surrounds herself with lions, and, in a heart-stopping chapter, outwits the monster Scylla to propel Daedalus and his boat to safety. She makes lovers of Hermes and then two mortal men. She midwifes the birth of the Minotaur on Crete and performs her own C-section. And as she grows in power, she muses that “not even Odysseus could talk his way past [her] witchcraft. He had talked his way past the witch instead.” Circe’s fascination with mortals becomes the book’s marrow and delivers its thrilling ending. All the while, the supernatural sits intriguingly alongside “the tonic of ordinary things.” A few passages coil toward melodrama, and one inelegant line after a rape seems jarringly modern, but the spell holds fast. Expect Miller’s readership to mushroom like one of Circe’s spells.

Miller makes Homer pertinent to women facing 21st-century monsters.

Pub Date: April 10, 2018

ISBN: 978-0-316-55634-7

Page Count: 400

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: Jan. 23, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2018

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