by Derek Palacio ‧ RELEASE DATE: Oct. 4, 2016
Searching, heartbreaking, and achingly beautiful, the novel is as intimate as it is sweeping.
A powerful family saga, Palacio’s gorgeous and challenging debut follows the Encarnacións as they navigate the space between Hartford, Connecticut, and their native Cuba.
In 1980, Soledad Encarnación gathered her children, twins Ulises and Isabel, and emigrated from Cuba to the U.S., members of the “now-infamous” Mariel Boatlift. Her husband, Uxbal, though, resisted and then refused. “Kingdoms, he said, are hard to come by,” and indeed, “he was so certain of his position that he’d tried holding his daughter ransom....Soldedad was able to retrieve the girl only by holding Ulises hostage in return.” And so the family is split: Uxbal remains in Buey Arriba while Soledad takes the children past Miami, with its waiting Cuban community, and on to Hartford, where her “second cousin knows some people.” There, she establishes herself as a court stenographer, eventually beginning a romance with Henri Willems, a Dutch horticulturalist haunted by his family’s past. Ulises, star of his school’s Latin program and growing enormous, finds a home working Willems’ tobacco fields. “His logic was that he could scrape together a father, his old father, from bits of the Dutchman; he could resuscitate memories and eventually recall something of Uxbal besides the portrait lurking about his brain,” Palacio writes. Meanwhile, Isabel devotes herself to the dying. Her spiritual hunger is powerful, often unsettling; at 18, despite her family’s protests, she joins a convent, taking vows of chastity, poverty, and silence. But their tenuous American equilibrium is disrupted when a letter arrives from Uxbal, reasserting his existence and, unexpectedly, inadvertently, calling the family home. The fates of the Encarnacións, it becomes clear, are inextricably linked with Cuba and with each other. Palacio’s writing is deceptively simple and startlingly original, and his characters, raw, almost mythic in scope, hang on long after the last page.Searching, heartbreaking, and achingly beautiful, the novel is as intimate as it is sweeping.
Pub Date: Oct. 4, 2016
Page Count: 320
Publisher: Tim Duggan Books/Crown
Review Posted Online: July 18, 2016
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2016
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by Sally Rooney ‧ RELEASE DATE: April 16, 2019
Absolutely enthralling. Read it.
Awards & Accolades
Best Books Of 2019
New York Times Bestseller
A young Irish couple gets together, splits up, gets together, splits up—sorry, can't tell you how it ends!
Irish writer Rooney has made a trans-Atlantic splash since publishing her first novel, Conversations With Friends, in 2017. Her second has already won the Costa Novel Award, among other honors, since it was published in Ireland and Britain last year. In outline it's a simple story, but Rooney tells it with bravura intelligence, wit, and delicacy. Connell Waldron and Marianne Sheridan are classmates in the small Irish town of Carricklea, where his mother works for her family as a cleaner. It's 2011, after the financial crisis, which hovers around the edges of the book like a ghost. Connell is popular in school, good at soccer, and nice; Marianne is strange and friendless. They're the smartest kids in their class, and they forge an intimacy when Connell picks his mother up from Marianne's house. Soon they're having sex, but Connell doesn't want anyone to know and Marianne doesn't mind; either she really doesn't care, or it's all she thinks she deserves. Or both. Though one time when she's forced into a social situation with some of their classmates, she briefly fantasizes about what would happen if she revealed their connection: "How much terrifying and bewildering status would accrue to her in this one moment, how destabilising it would be, how destructive." When they both move to Dublin for Trinity College, their positions are swapped: Marianne now seems electric and in-demand while Connell feels adrift in this unfamiliar environment. Rooney's genius lies in her ability to track her characters' subtle shifts in power, both within themselves and in relation to each other, and the ways they do and don't know each other; they both feel most like themselves when they're together, but they still have disastrous failures of communication. "Sorry about last night," Marianne says to Connell in February 2012. Then Rooney elaborates: "She tries to pronounce this in a way that communicates several things: apology, painful embarrassment, some additional pained embarrassment that serves to ironise and dilute the painful kind, a sense that she knows she will be forgiven or is already, a desire not to 'make a big deal.' " Then: "Forget about it, he says." Rooney precisely articulates everything that's going on below the surface; there's humor and insight here as well as the pleasure of getting to know two prickly, complicated people as they try to figure out who they are and who they want to become.Absolutely enthralling. Read it.
Pub Date: April 16, 2019
Page Count: 288
Review Posted Online: Feb. 17, 2019
Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2019
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More About This Book
BOOK TO SCREEN
by Mark Z. Danielewski ‧ RELEASE DATE: March 6, 2000
The story's very ambiguity steadily feeds its mysteriousness and power, and Danielewski's mastery of postmodernist and...
An amazingly intricate and ambitious first novel - ten years in the making - that puts an engrossing new spin on the traditional haunted-house tale.
Texts within texts, preceded by intriguing introductory material and followed by 150 pages of appendices and related "documents" and photographs, tell the story of a mysterious old house in a Virginia suburb inhabited by esteemed photographer-filmmaker Will Navidson, his companion Karen Green (an ex-fashion model), and their young children Daisy and Chad. The record of their experiences therein is preserved in Will's film The Davidson Record - which is the subject of an unpublished manuscript left behind by a (possibly insane) old man, Frank Zampano - which falls into the possession of Johnny Truant, a drifter who has survived an abusive childhood and the perverse possessiveness of his mad mother (who is institutionalized). As Johnny reads Zampano's manuscript, he adds his own (autobiographical) annotations to the scholarly ones that already adorn and clutter the text (a trick perhaps influenced by David Foster Wallace's Infinite Jest) - and begins experiencing panic attacks and episodes of disorientation that echo with ominous precision the content of Davidson's film (their house's interior proves, "impossibly," to be larger than its exterior; previously unnoticed doors and corridors extend inward inexplicably, and swallow up or traumatize all who dare to "explore" their recesses). Danielewski skillfully manipulates the reader's expectations and fears, employing ingeniously skewed typography, and throwing out hints that the house's apparent malevolence may be related to the history of the Jamestown colony, or to Davidson's Pulitzer Prize-winning photograph of a dying Vietnamese child stalked by a waiting vulture. Or, as "some critics [have suggested,] the house's mutations reflect the psychology of anyone who enters it."The story's very ambiguity steadily feeds its mysteriousness and power, and Danielewski's mastery of postmodernist and cinema-derived rhetoric up the ante continuously, and stunningly. One of the most impressive excursions into the supernatural in many a year.
Pub Date: March 6, 2000
Page Count: 704
Review Posted Online: May 19, 2010
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2000
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