An informative and adventurous story of a wayward journey into another world.

THE LAST PROFESSIONAL

A Silicon Valley programmer leaves his job to ride the rails with an elderly man in Davis’ novel.

At 26, Lynden Hoover has a fine career at Data Dynamics, a hot San Francisco Bay Area tech company. However, he starts to feel that his success is like a prison, and it’s one that he wants to escape: “All programmers were a little crazy up front,” he notes, “and all the good ones knew when to bail.” In sixth grade, he’d jumped on a freight train to search for his absent father, and he wants to roam free once again. It’s now the 1980s, and open boxcars abound, so Lynden hops on one of them and heads east. Along the way, he meets The Duke, an old-fashioned tramp who carries with him the language and customs of the past: “You fight like a punch-drunk Palooka,” he tells Lynden after one squabble. The Duke turns out to have a wealth of information about the locations of “hobo” camps, and he has dirt regarding dangerous characters. Of particular concern is Short Arm, a villainous scoundrel that The Duke claims will kill him on sight. Lynden, now dubbed “Frisco,” and The Duke roll past Reno, the Great Salt Lake, and Grand Junction, and The Duke says that Short Arm is headed to Pennsylvania. But Lynden has a secret that’s tormenting him—one that will bring him even deeper into a dangerous, transient world. Over the course of this novel, Davis presents readers with an adventure that also works well as a tribute to the past, effectively using the perspective of a young character to capture what feels like the last glimpse of a disappearing culture. Lynden’s interest in riding the rails isn’t merely a passing fancy, and the history that connects The Duke and Lynden brings up issues as varied as wanderlust, economics, and sexuality. The characters come across as convincing, real people, and the schemes that they hatch are generally fun. Although the first half of the novel suffers from a general talkiness and aimlessness, the second half establishes a much more clearly defined narrative that will engage readers.

An informative and adventurous story of a wayward journey into another world.

Pub Date: Jan. 25, 2022

ISBN: 978-1-951122-25-6

Page Count: 278

Publisher: Artemesia Publishing, LLC

Review Posted Online: Dec. 29, 2021

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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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