An artful, thought-provoking, and memorable work of fiction.

CHILD OF GILEAD

A modern-day parable about truth, retribution, and grace that combines gritty inner-city realism with fairy-tale symbolism.

This unusual and ambitious novel from the author of Garden’s Corner (1997) packs multiple stories, dozens of characters, and profound ideas about the meaning of life, the value of faith, and the nature of truth into just 250 pages. The Boy, a 10-year-old who narrates half the chapters, lives a quiet, ordinary life on a nice, safe block in the City (a place that natives of Brooklyn, New York, will recognize). He rides his bike to the pizzeria and playground, goes to school and church, and stays away from a nearby housing project, named Gilead, where his mother doesn’t allow him to go. One day, a new tenant, known simply as the Old Man, comes to stay in the basement apartment that the Boy’s mother, a teacher, rents out. The man was a friend of the Boy’s grandfather and has returned to settle some unfinished business with people who harmed Mama in the past. Meanwhile, one of Mama’s young pupils has vanished after being picked up from school by her stepfather. The stories of the Boy, his mom, and the Old Man intersect in unexpected ways as the narrative moves back and forth in time, place, and point of view—from the rural South to the local church to the backrooms of the City’s illegal enterprises. The novel begins at a leisurely pace and builds through increasingly dramatic scenes to a powerful conclusion. Reed connects his narrative to timeless themes with his artistic choices, such as nesting stories within stories; giving the characters’ simple, descriptive names (the Pastor, the Kid, the Candy Man, the Merchant); and beginning every seventh chapter with a biblical quote. In engaging dialogue, the characters grapple with the impossibility of protecting children, the power of secrets, the value of storytelling, and whether a person can transcend his innate nature.

An artful, thought-provoking, and memorable work of fiction.

Pub Date: Sept. 23, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-947481-87-2

Page Count: 264

Publisher: BookBaby

Review Posted Online: Dec. 24, 2020

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A compelling portrait of a marriage gone desperately sour.

THE MYSTERY OF MRS. CHRISTIE

In December 1926, mystery writer Agatha Christie really did disappear for 11 days. Was it a hoax? Or did her husband resort to foul play?

When Agatha meets Archie on a dance floor in 1912, the obscure yet handsome pilot quickly sweeps her off her feet with his daring. Archie seems smitten with her. Defying her family’s expectations, Agatha consents to marry Archie rather than her intended, the reliable yet boring Reggie Lucy. Although the war keeps them apart, straining their early marriage, Agatha finds meaningful work as a nurse and dispensary assistant, jobs that teach her a lot about poisons, knowledge that helps shape her early short stories and novels. While Agatha’s career flourishes after the war, Archie suffers setback after setback. Determined to keep her man happy, Agatha finds herself cooking elaborate meals, squelching her natural affections for their daughter (after all, Archie must always feel like the most important person in her life), and downplaying her own troubles, including her grief over her mother's death. Nonetheless, Archie grows increasingly morose. In fact, he is away from home the day Agatha disappears. By the time Detective Chief Constable Kenward arrives, Agatha has already been missing for a day. After discovering—and burning—a mysterious letter from Agatha, Archie is less than eager to help the police. His reluctance and arrogance work against him, and soon the police, the newspapers, the Christies’ staff, and even his daughter’s classmates suspect him of harming his wife. Benedict concocts a worthy mystery of her own, as chapters alternate between Archie’s negotiation of the investigation and Agatha’s recounting of their relationship. She keeps the reader guessing: Which narrator is reliable? Who is the real villain?

A compelling portrait of a marriage gone desperately sour.

Pub Date: Dec. 29, 2020

ISBN: N/A

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Sourcebooks Landmark

Review Posted Online: Sept. 30, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 2020

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Despite some distractions, there’s an irresistible charm to Owens’ first foray into nature-infused romantic fiction.

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WHERE THE CRAWDADS SING

A wild child’s isolated, dirt-poor upbringing in a Southern coastal wilderness fails to shield her from heartbreak or an accusation of murder.

“The Marsh Girl,” “swamp trash”—Catherine “Kya” Clark is a figure of mystery and prejudice in the remote North Carolina coastal community of Barkley Cove in the 1950s and '60s. Abandoned by a mother no longer able to endure her drunken husband’s beatings and then by her four siblings, Kya grows up in the careless, sometimes-savage company of her father, who eventually disappears, too. Alone, virtually or actually, from age 6, Kya learns both to be self-sufficient and to find solace and company in her fertile natural surroundings. Owens (Secrets of the Savanna, 2006, etc.), the accomplished co-author of several nonfiction books on wildlife, is at her best reflecting Kya’s fascination with the birds, insects, dappled light, and shifting tides of the marshes. The girl’s collections of shells and feathers, her communion with the gulls, her exploration of the wetlands are evoked in lyrical phrasing which only occasionally tips into excess. But as the child turns teenager and is befriended by local boy Tate Walker, who teaches her to read, the novel settles into a less magical, more predictable pattern. Interspersed with Kya’s coming-of-age is the 1969 murder investigation arising from the discovery of a man’s body in the marsh. The victim is Chase Andrews, “star quarterback and town hot shot,” who was once Kya’s lover. In the eyes of a pair of semicomic local police officers, Kya will eventually become the chief suspect and must stand trial. By now the novel’s weaknesses have become apparent: the monochromatic characterization (good boy Tate, bad boy Chase) and implausibilities (Kya evolves into a polymath—a published writer, artist, and poet), yet the closing twist is perhaps its most memorable oddity.

Despite some distractions, there’s an irresistible charm to Owens’ first foray into nature-infused romantic fiction.

Pub Date: Aug. 14, 2018

ISBN: 978-0-7352-1909-0

Page Count: 384

Publisher: Putnam

Review Posted Online: May 15, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 2018

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