Romain’s emotional tale brings the interior worlds of its female characters to life.

READ REVIEW

THE TRUMPET LESSON

An arresting novel about tightly wound secrets and the art of letting go of them.

Callie Quinn is a mild-mannered translator working out of Guanajuato, Mexico. Her life is one of order and lists, and Romain (Thinking Things Through, 1996) populates it with colorful characters, including Armando Torres, a closeted gay drummer in an orchestra to whom she teaches French. A mission to recover Armando’s dog, Tavelé, eventually forces Callie to recall a long-buried secret. Armando is convinced that Pamela Fischer, a new trumpeter in the orchestra, has stolen his dog and encourages Callie to go undercover as Pamela’s new trumpet student to investigate. Armando’s overwrought behavior toes the line of believability, but his charm and childlike nature contrast well with Callie’s seriousness, making for an amusing, if sometimes-tense, dynamic. It turns out that Pamela, a black woman, was adopted, and Callie knows something of the sadness that permeates her music. As a white girl growing up in segregated Missouri in the 1960s, Callie was quiet and studious and sang in her church choir. Later, she met Noah, a young black man from a Kansas City church. Noah’s family expected him to become a “leader in [their] community” and settle down with “a respectable Negro woman.” Then Callie became pregnant with his child. In the present, when Callie’s mother comes to visit, the neatly stacked obfuscations of Callie’s life threaten to topple. Through evenly dispersed flashbacks, Romain clearly renders the complex racial dynamics of the times in which the characters lived. The novel sometimes edges toward melodrama, but the author’s generous explorations of the Guanajuato landscape and the backgrounds of her secondary characters help to round out a subtle, satisfying story.

Romain’s emotional tale brings the interior worlds of its female characters to life.

Pub Date: Sept. 24, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-63152-598-8

Page Count: 296

Publisher: She Writes Press

Review Posted Online: May 13, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2019

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Dark and unsettling, this novel’s end arrives abruptly even as readers are still moving at a breakneck speed.

THEN SHE WAS GONE

Ten years after her teenage daughter went missing, a mother begins a new relationship only to discover she can't truly move on until she answers lingering questions about the past.

Laurel Mack’s life stopped in many ways the day her 15-year-old daughter, Ellie, left the house to study at the library and never returned. She drifted away from her other two children, Hanna and Jake, and eventually she and her husband, Paul, divorced. Ten years later, Ellie’s remains and her backpack are found, though the police are unable to determine the reasons for her disappearance and death. After Ellie’s funeral, Laurel begins a relationship with Floyd, a man she meets in a cafe. She's disarmed by Floyd’s charm, but when she meets his young daughter, Poppy, Laurel is startled by her resemblance to Ellie. As the novel progresses, Laurel becomes increasingly determined to learn what happened to Ellie, especially after discovering an odd connection between Poppy’s mother and her daughter even as her relationship with Floyd is becoming more serious. Jewell’s (I Found You, 2017, etc.) latest thriller moves at a brisk pace even as she plays with narrative structure: The book is split into three sections, including a first one which alternates chapters between the time of Ellie’s disappearance and the present and a second section that begins as Laurel and Floyd meet. Both of these sections primarily focus on Laurel. In the third section, Jewell alternates narrators and moments in time: The narrator switches to alternating first-person points of view (told by Poppy’s mother and Floyd) interspersed with third-person narration of Ellie’s experiences and Laurel’s discoveries in the present. All of these devices serve to build palpable tension, but the structure also contributes to how deeply disturbing the story becomes. At times, the characters and the emotional core of the events are almost obscured by such quick maneuvering through the weighty plot.

Dark and unsettling, this novel’s end arrives abruptly even as readers are still moving at a breakneck speed.

Pub Date: April 24, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-5011-5464-5

Page Count: 368

Publisher: Atria

Review Posted Online: Feb. 6, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2018

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ANIMAL FARM

A FAIRY STORY

A modern day fable, with modern implications in a deceiving simplicity, by the author of Dickens. Dali and Others (Reynal & Hitchcock, p. 138), whose critical brilliance is well adapted to this type of satire. This tells of the revolt on a farm, against humans, when the pigs take over the intellectual superiority, training the horses, cows, sheep, etc., into acknowledging their greatness. The first hints come with the reading out of a pig who instigated the building of a windmill, so that the electric power would be theirs, the idea taken over by Napoleon who becomes topman with no maybes about it. Napoleon trains the young puppies to be his guards, dickers with humans, gradually instigates a reign of terror, and breaks the final commandment against any animal walking on two legs. The old faithful followers find themselves no better off for food and work than they were when man ruled them, learn their final disgrace when they see Napoleon and Squealer carousing with their enemies... A basic statement of the evils of dictatorship in that it not only corrupts the leaders, but deadens the intelligence and awareness of those led so that tyranny is inevitable. Mr. Orwell's animals exist in their own right, with a narrative as individual as it is apt in political parody.

Pub Date: Aug. 26, 1946

ISBN: 0452277507

Page Count: 114

Publisher: Harcourt, Brace

Review Posted Online: Nov. 2, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 1946

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