A captivating and skillfully constructed weaving of history and romantic drama.

CONFESSIONS IN B-FLAT

A novel set in Harlem during the early 1960s explores competing factions in the civil rights movement.

Jason Tanner has just made a momentous decision. Sitting at a table in Atlanta’s Paschal’s Restaurant with the major leaders of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s nonviolent protest campaign—including a young man named John Lewis, who would become a civil rights icon— Jason volunteers to set up a grassroots outreach storefront in New York City. His parents are not pleased that their eldest child, who had never stepped foot outside of Georgia until he joined King’s march on Washington, D.C., is heading up north to a city filled with danger. Meanwhile, in that very city, Anita Hopkins, born in Brooklyn, is attending a Malcolm X rally. “You don’t have a peaceful revolution. You don’t have a turn-the-cheek revolution. There’s no such thing as a nonviolent revolution,” he intones. Anita cheers along with the crowd, handing out leaflets and encouraging his supporters. In September 1963, Jason boards the bus from Atlanta to New York. As passengers disembark at a Philadelphia rest stop, he strikes up a conversation with a beautiful young woman sitting across the aisle. And so the “do-gooder” Georgia boy meets the fiery, street-wise city girl. Their first encounter does not end well. Hill’s enjoyable, well-paced, and deftly structured novel, which features historical photographs, is filled with musical allusions, including a Christmas Motown spectacular at the Apollo Theater. Her descriptions of the sights, aromas, and tempo of Harlem—the ’60s Northern Black cultural and intellectual center—in all its diversity, are vivid and reflected through two strong, fully drawn protagonists. They are opposite sides of a coin—he is shy and uncertain about his future in New York; she is an exuberant poet with a beautiful voice. He is gentle, speaking in a soft Southern cadence; she is passionate and edgy. He is a pacifist; she is a militant. But the vibrancy of Harlem, the excitement of listening to Anita read her poetry at the B-Flat nightclub, and a magnetic connection that keeps each in the other’s thoughts eventually work their magic in this powerful tale.

A captivating and skillfully constructed weaving of history and romantic drama.

Pub Date: Nov. 24, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-64063-829-7

Page Count: 400

Publisher: Sideways Books

Review Posted Online: Oct. 14, 2020

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As the pieces of this magical literary puzzle snap together, a flicker of hope is sparked for our benighted world.

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CLOUD CUCKOO LAND

An ancient Greek manuscript connects humanity's past, present, and future.

Stranger, whoever you are, open this to learn what will amaze you” wrote Antonius Diogenes at the end of the first century C.E.—and millennia later, Pulitzer Prize winner Doerr is his fitting heir. Around Diogenes' manuscript, "Cloud Cuckoo Land"—the author did exist, but the text is invented—Doerr builds a community of readers and nature lovers that transcends the boundaries of time and space. The protagonist of the original story is Aethon, a shepherd whose dream of escaping to a paradise in the sky leads to a wild series of adventures in the bodies of beast, fish, and fowl. Aethon's story is first found by Anna in 15th-century Constantinople; though a failure as an apprentice seamstress, she's learned ancient Greek from an elderly scholar. Omeir, a country boy of the same period, is rejected by the world for his cleft lip—but forms the deepest of connections with his beautiful oxen, Moonlight and Tree. In the 1950s, Zeno Ninis, a troubled ex–GI in Lakeport, Idaho, finds peace in working on a translation of Diogenes' recently recovered manuscript. In 2020, 86-year-old Zeno helps a group of youngsters put the story on as a play at the Lakeport Public Library—unaware that an eco-terrorist is planting a bomb in the building during dress rehearsal. (This happens in the first pages of the book and continues ticking away throughout.) On a spaceship called the Argos bound for Beta Oph2 in Mission Year 65, a teenage girl named Konstance is sequestered in a sealed room with a computer named Sybil. How could she possibly encounter Zeno's translation? This is just one of the many narrative miracles worked by the author as he brings a first-century story to its conclusion in 2146.

As the pieces of this magical literary puzzle snap together, a flicker of hope is sparked for our benighted world.

Pub Date: Sept. 28, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-982168-43-8

Page Count: 656

Publisher: Scribner

Review Posted Online: June 29, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2021

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For devoted Hannah fans in search of a good cry.

THE FOUR WINDS

The miseries of the Depression and Dust Bowl years shape the destiny of a Texas family.

“Hope is a coin I carry: an American penny, given to me by a man I came to love. There were times in my journey when I felt as if that penny and the hope it represented were the only things that kept me going.” We meet Elsa Wolcott in Dalhart, Texas, in 1921, on the eve of her 25th birthday, and wind up with her in California in 1936 in a saga of almost unrelieved woe. Despised by her shallow parents and sisters for being sickly and unattractive—“too tall, too thin, too pale, too unsure of herself”—Elsa escapes their cruelty when a single night of abandon leads to pregnancy and forced marriage to the son of Italian immigrant farmers. Though she finds some joy working the land, tending the animals, and learning her way around Mama Rose's kitchen, her marriage is never happy, the pleasures of early motherhood are brief, and soon the disastrous droughts of the 1930s drive all the farmers of the area to despair and starvation. Elsa's search for a better life for her children takes them out west to California, where things turn out to be even worse. While she never overcomes her low self-esteem about her looks, Elsa displays an iron core of character and courage as she faces dust storms, floods, hunger riots, homelessness, poverty, the misery of migrant labor, bigotry, union busting, violent goons, and more. The pedantic aims of the novel are hard to ignore as Hannah embodies her history lesson in what feels like a series of sepia-toned postcards depicting melodramatic scenes and clichéd emotions.

For devoted Hannah fans in search of a good cry.

Pub Date: Feb. 9, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-2501-7860-2

Page Count: 464

Publisher: St. Martin's

Review Posted Online: Nov. 18, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2020

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