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A KEY TO TREEHOUSE LIVING

Crisp and lyrical, emotionally assured, delightfully inventive—Reed has made a marvelous debut.

An adolescent orphan writes a glossarylike “key” to his life in Reed’s astute, experimental, and very affecting debut.

William Tyce’s key begins with ABSENCE and proceeds in roughly alphabetical order through such terms as BABY MEMORIES, BOATING IN BASEMENTS, COURAGE, FAULTY WISHING, GYPSIES, MORTAL BETRAYAL, and PHILOSOPHY OF NIHILISM. Abandoned by his parents, living in his uncle’s mansion in a city in the Midwest, William’s life, as he projects it onto these pages, is an eccentrically human alchemy of loneliness, boredom, jealousy, nostalgia, brutality, and folk mythologies; and his insights range from beautifully perceptive (“the brain lives on patterns the way a blade of grass lives on sunlight”) to darkly humorous (“put a nail through a lemon, whip it out the window of a treehouse, bean a kid with it—that kid will probably move on”). We learn that BETTA FISH “can cure you of nightmares if you hold them in your mouth for ten seconds each night before you go to sleep,” and that a “Daddy” is “a false authority,” and if one tries to climb into your treehouse, you will have to “beat on his fingers with a hammer.” Grim? Indeed. There is much darkness in poor William’s ledger, especially as—moving down the alphabet—his life veers toward narrative, forsaking the static sadness of his youth. First, William’s uncle—“the authority on high-stakes gambling”—is arrested for arson and insurance fraud, leaving him without a caregiver (see LIVING IN BUNKHOUSES FOR GIRLS AND BOYS WHO ARE WARDS OF THE STATE). Then he runs away, living under a bridge and taking up drinking. He feels increasingly like “the world [is] a chaotic soup in which [he’s] slowly being boiled.” To do something, he eventually builds a raft and casts off downriver (see NEBULOUS PLANS). The life that follows necessitate glossary entries like MYSTICAL VISION, NEAR DEATH, OCCUPANTS OF HOLDING AREAS IN RURAL JAILS, PURPOSE, REVELATION, TEMPTATION, and more—all the way to YONDER, THE WILD BLUE.

Crisp and lyrical, emotionally assured, delightfully inventive—Reed has made a marvelous debut.

Pub Date: Sept. 11, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-947793-04-0

Page Count: 240

Publisher: Tin House

Review Posted Online: June 17, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2018

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THE NIGHTINGALE

Still, a respectful and absorbing page-turner.

Hannah’s new novel is an homage to the extraordinary courage and endurance of Frenchwomen during World War II.

In 1995, an elderly unnamed widow is moving into an Oregon nursing home on the urging of her controlling son, Julien, a surgeon. This trajectory is interrupted when she receives an invitation to return to France to attend a ceremony honoring passeurs: people who aided the escape of others during the war. Cut to spring, 1940: Viann has said goodbye to husband Antoine, who's off to hold the Maginot line against invading Germans. She returns to tending her small farm, Le Jardin, in the Loire Valley, teaching at the local school and coping with daughter Sophie’s adolescent rebellion. Soon, that world is upended: The Germans march into Paris and refugees flee south, overrunning Viann’s land. Her long-estranged younger sister, Isabelle, who has been kicked out of multiple convent schools, is sent to Le Jardin by Julien, their father in Paris, a drunken, decidedly unpaternal Great War veteran. As the depredations increase in the occupied zone—food rationing, systematic looting, and the billeting of a German officer, Capt. Beck, at Le Jardin—Isabelle’s outspokenness is a liability. She joins the Resistance, volunteering for dangerous duty: shepherding downed Allied airmen across the Pyrenees to Spain. Code-named the Nightingale, Isabelle will rescue many before she's captured. Meanwhile, Viann’s journey from passive to active resistance is less dramatic but no less wrenching. Hannah vividly demonstrates how the Nazis, through starvation, intimidation and barbarity both casual and calculated, demoralized the French, engineering a community collapse that enabled the deportations and deaths of more than 70,000 Jews. Hannah’s proven storytelling skills are ideally suited to depicting such cataclysmic events, but her tendency to sentimentalize undermines the gravitas of this tale.

Still, a respectful and absorbing page-turner.

Pub Date: Feb. 3, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-312-57722-3

Page Count: 448

Publisher: St. Martin's

Review Posted Online: Nov. 19, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2014

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THEN SHE WAS GONE

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. 5, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2018

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