A bittersweet drama that delicately captures the moods of the human spirit.

SATELLITE STREET

Two friends attempt to fulfill a request from beyond the grave in this novel.

Months have passed since 62-year-old Paul Marden was released from the hospital after an unidentifiable infection nearly took his life. Now, living on disability payments and his pension in a neighborhood battered by Hurricane Sandy, he grapples every day with the constant pain that pervades his body. Struggling to walk home one evening, he takes a ride from a familiar-seeming stranger: Lelee Connors, a transgender woman who was once his childhood neighbor. As the two develop a friendship, Lelee reveals that she has the extraordinary ability to communicate with the dead. Despite her peaceful lifestyle, her reputation and well-being are being threatened by a man named Michael Odenkirk, the host of a television show that focuses on defaming psychically gifted individuals. When Lelee channels the spirit of a 1960s radio host known as Happy Howie, he explains that his own career was destroyed by Odenkirk, who publicized his identity as a gay man and falsely suggested that he was a child molester. Howie implores Paul and Lelee to help him clear his name and enact justice. Meanwhile, Paul is occupied with his elderly father, who has dementia. Although their relationship was precarious in his youth, Paul desperately wants him to have a good quality of life. Unfortunately, Paul has strong doubts about the level of care his father is receiving in his nursing home. The expressive quality of Lerman’s (The Stargazer’s Embassy, 2017, etc.) writing reflects her prodigious experience as a poet. The narrative touches on a number of complex topics, including the relationship between transgender individuals and the rest of the LGBTQ community, the state of care for those in assisted living facilities, and the impact of the media, in a way that feels organic and true to life. Lelee’s characterization is especially intricate: She proves to be poised, intelligent, and kind but intensely frustrated and quickly angered by insensitivity. As the characters move through their daily routines, there remains an evocative awareness of their mortality.

A bittersweet drama that delicately captures the moods of the human spirit.

Pub Date: Sept. 30, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-57962-575-7

Page Count: 217

Publisher: Permanent Press

Review Posted Online: Dec. 31, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2020

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THE GREAT ALONE

In 1974, a troubled Vietnam vet inherits a house from a fallen comrade and moves his family to Alaska.

After years as a prisoner of war, Ernt Allbright returned home to his wife, Cora, and daughter, Leni, a violent, difficult, restless man. The family moved so frequently that 13-year-old Leni went to five schools in four years. But when they move to Alaska, still very wild and sparsely populated, Ernt finds a landscape as raw as he is. As Leni soon realizes, “Everyone up here had two stories: the life before and the life now. If you wanted to pray to a weirdo god or live in a school bus or marry a goose, no one in Alaska was going to say crap to you.” There are many great things about this book—one of them is its constant stream of memorably formulated insights about Alaska. Another key example is delivered by Large Marge, a former prosecutor in Washington, D.C., who now runs the general store for the community of around 30 brave souls who live in Kaneq year-round. As she cautions the Allbrights, “Alaska herself can be Sleeping Beauty one minute and a bitch with a sawed-off shotgun the next. There’s a saying: Up here you can make one mistake. The second one will kill you.” Hannah’s (The Nightingale, 2015, etc.) follow-up to her series of blockbuster bestsellers will thrill her fans with its combination of Greek tragedy, Romeo and Juliet–like coming-of-age story, and domestic potboiler. She re-creates in magical detail the lives of Alaska's homesteaders in both of the state's seasons (they really only have two) and is just as specific and authentic in her depiction of the spiritual wounds of post-Vietnam America.

A tour de force.

Pub Date: Feb. 6, 2018

ISBN: 978-0-312-57723-0

Page Count: 448

Publisher: St. Martin's

Review Posted Online: Oct. 31, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15, 2017

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With her second novel, Ng further proves she’s a sensitive, insightful writer with a striking ability to illuminate life in...

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LITTLE FIRES EVERYWHERE

This incandescent portrait of suburbia and family, creativity, and consumerism burns bright.

It’s not for nothing that Ng (Everything I Never Told You, 2014) begins her second novel, about the events leading to the burning of the home of an outwardly perfect-seeming family in Shaker Heights, Ohio, circa 1997, with two epigraphs about the planned community itself—attesting to its ability to provide its residents with “protection forever against…unwelcome change” and “a rather happy life” in Utopia. But unwelcome change is precisely what disrupts the Richardson family’s rather happy life, when Mia, a charismatic, somewhat mysterious artist, and her smart, shy 15-year-old daughter, Pearl, move to town and become tenants in a rental house Mrs. Richardson inherited from her parents. Mia and Pearl live a markedly different life from the Richardsons, an affluent couple and their four high school–age children—making art instead of money (apart from what little they need to get by); rooted in each other rather than a particular place (packing up what fits in their battered VW and moving on when “the bug” hits); and assembling a hodgepodge home from creatively repurposed, scavenged castoffs and love rather than gathering around them the symbols of a successful life in the American suburbs (a big house, a large family, gleaming appliances, chic clothes, many cars). What really sets Mia and Pearl apart and sets in motion the events leading to the “little fires everywhere” that will consume the Richardsons’ secure, stable world, however, is the way they hew to their own rules. In a place like Shaker Heights, a town built on plans and rules, and for a family like the Richardsons, who have structured their lives according to them, disdain for conformity acts as an accelerant, setting fire to the dormant sparks within them. The ultimate effect is cataclysmic. As in Everything I Never Told You, Ng conjures a sense of place and displacement and shows a remarkable ability to see—and reveal—a story from different perspectives. The characters she creates here are wonderfully appealing, and watching their paths connect—like little trails of flame leading inexorably toward one another to create a big inferno—is mesmerizing, casting into new light ideas about creativity and consumerism, parenthood and privilege.

With her second novel, Ng further proves she’s a sensitive, insightful writer with a striking ability to illuminate life in America.

Pub Date: Sept. 12, 2017

ISBN: 978-0-7352-2429-2

Page Count: 384

Publisher: Penguin Press

Review Posted Online: June 20, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2017

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