A surprisingly complex and realistic love story delicately narrated by an endearing protagonist.

LOVE IS A REBELLIOUS BIRD

A debut novel follows a girl’s crush as it evolves into a lifelong tale of obsession and passion.

Judith first met Elliot as a fifth grader who had recently moved to Chicago’s North Side in the mid-1950s. Then, he was just a little boy with torn trousers, but over the course of the next 60 years, Elliot would become Judith’s lover, friend, and permanent addiction. “Our relationship was a cocktail mix of rivalry and loyalty—shaken with a strong dose of passion and resentment,” Judith writes of their time as academically competitive sixth graders, which would set the tone for the decades to come. Following the suicide of Elliot’s mother, Judith consoles him while being overjoyed at their relationship’s shift into teenage romance, but college abruptly ends her dreams of a happily-ever-after. Instead, they pursue different paths, with Elliot transforming into a high-powered New York attorney and Judith becoming a divorced social worker in California. Through letters and cross-country trips, they remain in each other’s lives. But Judith always follows their unsaid agreement that she not talk about her love for him. Throughout children, divorces, and even deaths, Klasson brings the two characters together again and again with the same devastating result for Judith, who never gives up on the “man by which I had measured all other loves.” Written in the first person and addressed directly to Elliot, the novel’s prose is strikingly elegant and intimate. What could easily slide into a melodramatic tale of long-lost love turns into a realistic and psychological study of one woman’s deepest thoughts. The author also cleverly develops supporting characters through Judith’s eyes. (Judith’s eventual friendship with Elliot’s second wife and her reactions to Seth, her philandering first husband, are easily some of the narrative’s most memorable and captivating moments.) While the pace of the book’s second half slows down considerably as the two lovers move into old age and toward the bittersweet conclusion of their long journey, Klasson fills every scene she can with thought-provoking reflections on the nature of love, family, and romance.

A surprisingly complex and realistic love story delicately narrated by an endearing protagonist.

Pub Date: Nov. 12, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-63152-604-6

Page Count: 336

Publisher: She Writes Press

Review Posted Online: Sept. 6, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 2019

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Doerr captures the sights and sounds of wartime and focuses, refreshingly, on the innate goodness of his major characters.

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  • Kirkus Reviews'
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  • New York Times Bestseller

  • National Book Award Finalist

  • Pulitzer Prize Winner

ALL THE LIGHT WE CANNOT SEE

Doerr presents us with two intricate stories, both of which take place during World War II; late in the novel, inevitably, they intersect.

In August 1944, Marie-Laure LeBlanc is a blind 16-year-old living in the walled port city of Saint-Malo in Brittany and hoping to escape the effects of Allied bombing. D-Day took place two months earlier, and Cherbourg, Caen and Rennes have already been liberated. She’s taken refuge in this city with her great-uncle Etienne, at first a fairly frightening figure to her. Marie-Laure’s father was a locksmith and craftsman who made scale models of cities that Marie-Laure studied so she could travel around on her own. He also crafted clever and intricate boxes, within which treasures could be hidden. Parallel to the story of Marie-Laure we meet Werner and Jutta Pfennig, a brother and sister, both orphans who have been raised in the Children’s House outside Essen, in Germany. Through flashbacks we learn that Werner had been a curious and bright child who developed an obsession with radio transmitters and receivers, both in their infancies during this period. Eventually, Werner goes to a select technical school and then, at 18, into the Wehrmacht, where his technical aptitudes are recognized and he’s put on a team trying to track down illegal radio transmissions. Etienne and Marie-Laure are responsible for some of these transmissions, but Werner is intrigued since what she’s broadcasting is innocent—she shares her passion for Jules Verne by reading aloud 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea. A further subplot involves Marie-Laure’s father’s having hidden a valuable diamond, one being tracked down by Reinhold von Rumpel, a relentless German sergeant-major.

Doerr captures the sights and sounds of wartime and focuses, refreshingly, on the innate goodness of his major characters.

Pub Date: May 6, 2014

ISBN: 978-1-4767-4658-6

Page Count: 448

Publisher: Scribner

Review Posted Online: March 6, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2014

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Absolutely enthralling. Read it.

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NORMAL PEOPLE

A young Irish couple gets together, splits up, gets together, splits up—sorry, can't tell you how it ends!

Irish writer Rooney has made a trans-Atlantic splash since publishing her first novel, Conversations With Friends, in 2017. Her second has already won the Costa Novel Award, among other honors, since it was published in Ireland and Britain last year. In outline it's a simple story, but Rooney tells it with bravura intelligence, wit, and delicacy. Connell Waldron and Marianne Sheridan are classmates in the small Irish town of Carricklea, where his mother works for her family as a cleaner. It's 2011, after the financial crisis, which hovers around the edges of the book like a ghost. Connell is popular in school, good at soccer, and nice; Marianne is strange and friendless. They're the smartest kids in their class, and they forge an intimacy when Connell picks his mother up from Marianne's house. Soon they're having sex, but Connell doesn't want anyone to know and Marianne doesn't mind; either she really doesn't care, or it's all she thinks she deserves. Or both. Though one time when she's forced into a social situation with some of their classmates, she briefly fantasizes about what would happen if she revealed their connection: "How much terrifying and bewildering status would accrue to her in this one moment, how destabilising it would be, how destructive." When they both move to Dublin for Trinity College, their positions are swapped: Marianne now seems electric and in-demand while Connell feels adrift in this unfamiliar environment. Rooney's genius lies in her ability to track her characters' subtle shifts in power, both within themselves and in relation to each other, and the ways they do and don't know each other; they both feel most like themselves when they're together, but they still have disastrous failures of communication. "Sorry about last night," Marianne says to Connell in February 2012. Then Rooney elaborates: "She tries to pronounce this in a way that communicates several things: apology, painful embarrassment, some additional pained embarrassment that serves to ironise and dilute the painful kind, a sense that she knows she will be forgiven or is already, a desire not to 'make a big deal.' " Then: "Forget about it, he says." Rooney precisely articulates everything that's going on below the surface; there's humor and insight here as well as the pleasure of getting to know two prickly, complicated people as they try to figure out who they are and who they want to become.

Absolutely enthralling. Read it.

Pub Date: April 16, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-984-82217-8

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Hogarth/Crown

Review Posted Online: Feb. 18, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2019

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