A dense but intriguing account of a Black family in and out of slavery.


A fiction collection sequel spins more tales of a 19th-century Black American family.

Sarah Freedom, the free daughter of two enslaved people stolen from Fante-land in Africa, has seen and heard a lot in her time. Now, on the cusp of the American Civil War, the practiced storyteller sets down further chapters of her life and the histories of those around her. There are the peregrinations of Caesar, the Shawnee warrior with African ancestry who fought against the Americans in the War of 1812 and rescued Sarah and her brothers from slavery. There are the many tall tales of her brother Dan, who served as a conductor on the Underground Railroad, owned a stagecoach business in Cincinnati, and fathered numerous children by numerous women. There’s the account of Sarah’s other brother, Robin, known as a “Colonel” for the escape that he helped plan after being captured and enslaved again in Georgia. Set mostly in an Ohio Quaker community composed of both Black and White residents, the book covers the entirety of the Antebellum period and represents a patchwork of experiences, all happening in a time when slavery still touched every facet of American life. Wilson’s prose is highly textured, resurrecting a past that is every bit as fractious and fraught as the present. Storytelling is central to the understanding of Sarah’s history, not just for her, but for nearly every other character as well. “Why not die like men and women who was worth being re-remembered?” asks Robin. When someone tells him that the word is remembered, he responds: “No it ain’t….We was already remembering we was born to be warriors and it was for others to remember us more than once if they had good sense, and this land is as mean as I think it is.” Though the work bills itself as a collection of stories, the pieces read less like short tales than vignettes or anecdotes. The book is highly researched, and the author isn’t afraid to get bogged down in the details, even at the expense of narrative momentum. Those who have enjoyed his previous effort will likely be satisfied with this continuation of his project.

A dense but intriguing account of a Black family in and out of slavery.

Pub Date: May 4, 2022

ISBN: 978-1-955062-46-6

Page Count: 300

Publisher: Running Wild Press

Review Posted Online: Feb. 7, 2022

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An intriguing meditation on the meaning of “meant to be.”


Giffin’s latest charts the course of true love between an American aristocrat and a troubled fashionista.

Almost immediately, readers will guess that Giffin’s protagonist, Joseph S. Kingsley III, a media darling since birth, is a re-creation of John F. Kennedy Jr. In addition to Joe’s darkly handsome good looks, there are many other similarities, such as his double failure of the New York bar exam and his stint as a Manhattan assistant district attorney. But Joe’s late father was an astronaut, not the president, and locations associated with the Kennedys, such as Hyannis Port and Martha’s Vineyard, have been moved to the Hamptons and Annapolis. Instead of a sister, Joe has a protective female best friend, Berry Wainwright. Readers may be so obsessed with teasing out fact from fiction, and wondering if the outcome for Joe is going to be as tragic as JFK Jr.’s fatal 1999 flight, that they may be distracted from the engaging story of Joe’s co-protagonist, Cate Cooper, who is—apart from a superficial resemblance to Carolyn Bessette-Kennedy—largely a fictional creation. When Joe and Cate meet-cute on a Hamptons beach where Cate, a model, is posing, both are immediately smitten. However, the paparazzi are determined to milk every ounce of scandal from the social chasm separating them. On the surface, Cate is the product of a middle-class upbringing in Montclair, New Jersey, but her interrupted education and her forced flight from an abusive home have shamed as well as strengthened her. Like her real-life counterpart, Cate rises in the fashion industry and becomes known for her minimalist style. The couple’s courtship drags a bit on the page despite witty banter and steamy encounters. It is the conflict brewing when their pedigrees clash, and, particularly, Cate’s consciousness of the disparity, that grips us. Whether these knockoffs can avoid the fates of the originals is the main source of suspense here.

An intriguing meditation on the meaning of “meant to be.”

Pub Date: May 31, 2022

ISBN: 978-0-425-28664-7

Page Count: 368

Publisher: Ballantine

Review Posted Online: April 12, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 2022

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Miller makes Homer pertinent to women facing 21st-century monsters.

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A retelling of ancient Greek lore gives exhilarating voice to a witch.

“Monsters are a boon for gods. Imagine all the prayers.” So says Circe, a sly, petulant, and finally commanding voice that narrates the entirety of Miller’s dazzling second novel. The writer returns to Homer, the wellspring that led her to an Orange Prize for The Song of Achilles (2012). This time, she dips into The Odyssey for the legend of Circe, a nymph who turns Odysseus’ crew of men into pigs. The novel, with its distinctive feminist tang, starts with the sentence: “When I was born, the name for what I was did not exist.” Readers will relish following the puzzle of this unpromising daughter of the sun god Helios and his wife, Perse, who had negligible use for their child. It takes banishment to the island Aeaea for Circe to sense her calling as a sorceress: “I will not be like a bird bred in a cage, I thought, too dull to fly even when the door stands open. I stepped into those woods and my life began.” This lonely, scorned figure learns herbs and potions, surrounds herself with lions, and, in a heart-stopping chapter, outwits the monster Scylla to propel Daedalus and his boat to safety. She makes lovers of Hermes and then two mortal men. She midwifes the birth of the Minotaur on Crete and performs her own C-section. And as she grows in power, she muses that “not even Odysseus could talk his way past [her] witchcraft. He had talked his way past the witch instead.” Circe’s fascination with mortals becomes the book’s marrow and delivers its thrilling ending. All the while, the supernatural sits intriguingly alongside “the tonic of ordinary things.” A few passages coil toward melodrama, and one inelegant line after a rape seems jarringly modern, but the spell holds fast. Expect Miller’s readership to mushroom like one of Circe’s spells.

Miller makes Homer pertinent to women facing 21st-century monsters.

Pub Date: April 10, 2018

ISBN: 978-0-316-55634-7

Page Count: 400

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: Jan. 23, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2018

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