A dazzling war tale; fast-paced, gut-wrenching, and laced with uncertainty.

Our Verdict

  • Our Verdict
  • GET IT

  • Kirkus Reviews'
    Best Books Of 2016

These Tumultuous Years

As World War II threatens to tear his country apart, a young Dutchman sails for America in this debut novel.

Emile van Driel twists the dials on his old radio to hear the “volume and hysteria” of an “upstart leader of the fledgling Nationalist Socialist Party” letting loose a volley of threats. A simple farmer from rural Netherlands, he senses darkness on the horizon and begins to prepare accordingly. Despite some skepticism from his wife, Helme, he arranges for their son, Johan, to set sail for the safety of America. Johan is 20 years old when he boards the Swift as a crew member—“young and inexperienced” for his age. His first days at sea prove a baptism by fire. Hampered by seasickness and lampooned by his crewmates, he learns that he must fight to make his mark on the world. During shore leave in Vancouver, he sees a sailor get his throat cut. Later, after finding bar work in New York, Johan shows his mettle by defending a tavern girl who has been set upon by a lecherous sea captain. The young man grows strong bodied and savvy as his journey progresses. Leaving the city, he secures a job working on an Amish farm until complications require him to again move on. His wanderings lead him across the United States before finding his true love, Emma van der Poole, his future wife, with whom he sets sail for Australia. As the momentum of World War II intensifies, Johan finds himself joining the U.S. Marines, taking his first tour of duty in Japan before returning to Europe. The unexpected introduction of a German sniper, Gunther Klause, adds a wicked twist to the narrative. Podbury is a skilled and intuitive writer. At times, his descriptions are painfully visceral: “The marine beside him screamed hideously as a burst of automatic fire laced his chest and the water by his side, effectively cutting him in half, and he fell forward into the breakers, his severed arteries bloodying the water around his still twitching corpse.” Yet the author is equally adept when penning Johan’s poignant letters home: “My dearest wife, I fear for my soul, if a man’s soul is what he truly is.” This is a detailed and emotionally sensitive account of a solitary man’s coming-of-age and his fight to stay alive for his family that should appeal to fans of war fiction and romance alike.

A dazzling war tale; fast-paced, gut-wrenching, and laced with uncertainty. 

Pub Date: Feb. 18, 2016

ISBN: 978-1-4917-8453-2

Page Count: 454

Publisher: iUniverse

Review Posted Online: April 29, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 2016

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.


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?

A heartfelt novel that celebrates its implausibility with a unique joie de vivre.


What would you say to your younger self if you could give her advice?

“Wise beyond their years” is an expression we’ve all heard before. But for one Brooklyn teen, that saying becomes all too real when an unexplained event causes her to begin living her adult life in random order. On New Year’s Eve 1982, Oona Lockhart is about to turn 19. Change is on the horizon, as she must decide whether to leave school to tour with her band, Early Dawning, or quit the band to continue her studies in London. Does she follow her loving boyfriend and band mate, Dale, or does she make a stable, independent decision for herself? Almost as if standing on a precipice between past and future, Oona finds it important to tell herself: “Remember this party. Every second of it. Every person here.” When the clock strikes midnight, she opens her eyes to a reality far different from the one she'd been experiencing—and decades later. The abrupt shift sets the pace for the rest of the book—it turns out that even when you’re living life out of order, time passes just as quickly. Right as you settle in with one version of Oona, whether it be free-spirited, club-going Oona or middle-aged investor Oona, it’s almost New Year’s again. The effect is something like narrative jet lag, making it impossible to feel grounded in time. Which is, no doubt, the point. Montimore (Asleep From Day, 2018) is not afraid to wrench Oona from one season of life to another, satisfied with ending a year in a fashion as incomplete as this: “She didn’t get a chance to finish her sentence.” These vignettes, removed from linear neatness, celebrate the unpredictability and imperfect nature of life. Even when Oona has the opportunity to leave notes for the next version of herself, it doesn’t always mean she’ll follow her advice. With each temporal shift, Oona is left longing for what came before, but supporting characters like Oona’s mom, Madeleine, and confidante, Kenzie, serve as talismans that guide her back to the present. In the end, we must give credit to Oona for finding joy and even humor in her situation and to Montimore for developing a complex narrative held together by simple truths. Read this to get a bit lost, to root for a character with a strong love for herself, and to connect on a deeply human level with the fear of leading an incomplete life.

A heartfelt novel that celebrates its implausibility with a unique joie de vivre.

Pub Date: Feb. 25, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-250-23660-9

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Flatiron Books

Review Posted Online: Nov. 10, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2019

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet