A gripping, deeply moving coming-of-age novel; immensely readable, beautifully written, and highly recommended.

READ REVIEW

A GIRL RETURNED

In this slim novel by award-winning Italian author Di Pietrantonio, her first translated into English, a 13-year-old girl raised by distant relatives as their own is sent abruptly back to her birth family with little explanation.

The book opens with the unnamed narrator carrying a suitcase and a bag of shoes up the stairs to an apartment where the door is stuck closed. At last a child with untidy hair opens it. "She was my sister, but I had never seen her." The man she has until now believed to be her father is dropping her off. In the dining room, her birth mother receives her without ceremony or interest, not bothering to get up from her chair. When the girl runs back down to the car, desperate to convince her erstwhile father to take her back ("Mamma's sick, she needs my help. I'm not staying here, I don't know those people"), he removes her bodily from the front seat and drives away. "The tire marks and I remained on the asphalt....The air smelled of burning rubber. When I raised my head, someone from the family that was mine against my will was looking down from the second-floor windows." Raised an only child in a comfortable, middle-class home, accustomed to days at the beach and dance lessons, she finds herself in an apartment crowded with violent strangers. There's not enough to eat, and no bed has been arranged for her. She sleeps on a mattress stuffed with sheep's wool, holding the sole of her sister's foot against her cheek: "I had nothing else, in that darkness inhabited by breath." In spare, haunting prose, Di Pietrantonio shows a girl struggling not only to understand, but to survive and belong. "You haven't known poverty," her birth mother tells her, "poverty is more than hunger." Class inequality, misogyny, and sexism are all at work as well. Late in the novel, in a scene both harrowing and illuminating, her two worlds overlap when she and her sister visit the house of the woman who raised her.

A gripping, deeply moving coming-of-age novel; immensely readable, beautifully written, and highly recommended.

Pub Date: July 2, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-60945-528-6

Page Count: 176

Publisher: Europa Editions

Review Posted Online: May 12, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 2019

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet

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

Did you like this book?

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

Did you like this book?

more