A historically astute story with a memorable protagonist, undermined by overdone dialogue.


A British teenager connives his way into the Royal Navy during World War II in this debut novel.

After the German occupation of Poland, Britain officially declares war, forcing teenager Eddie Roberts from the London area to the countryside. He lives there begrudgingly until he makes the acquaintance of a young woman named Barbara Lewis. But then Eddie’s mother comes to fetch him home at his dying older brother’s request. Eddie returns to find that air raid shelters are being built for safety, and that his family is suffering financially. He takes the entrance exam for the Royal Navy College and passes, but his mother forbids his matriculation. However, he forges a birth certificate so that he can enlist nevertheless, inspired by a desire to travel the globe and also to find his friend, Jack Barrette, who was lost in the war. Eddie distinguishes himself with his bravery, but he’s injured during a torpedo strike on his vessel. He’s later selected for a secretive search-and-destroy mission in the Far East—a task he relishes as an opportunity to find Jack. However, he’s captured and kept at a Japanese prisoner-of-war camp in Thailand. Rhodes’ novel is, at its core, an adventure story: Eddie’s heart is so filled with wanderlust that it’s hard for readers to imagine him settling down, even in a time of peace. The author also stirringly captures the dawning reality of war for those on the homefront—particularly how the hope of averting disaster is swiftly replaced with brave resignation. But although the writing is frequently entertaining, Eddie almost exclusively communicates in witty quips and one-liners, which not only becomes tiresome, but also results in some overwritten dialogue. For example, when a girlfriend, Anita Barrett, tells him goodbye by saying, “You were the one who taught me how to fly, and were an excellent teacher,” he responds with an even sillier line: “Maybe so, but Peter Pan’s only flying on one wing, and has some growing up left to do.”

A historically astute story with a memorable protagonist, undermined by overdone dialogue.

Pub Date: March 17, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-5255-0098-5

Page Count: 324

Publisher: FriesenPress

Review Posted Online: Sept. 8, 2017

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The phrase “tour de force” could have been invented for this audacious novel.

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Four men who meet as college roommates move to New York and spend the next three decades gaining renown in their professions—as an architect, painter, actor and lawyer—and struggling with demons in their intertwined personal lives.

Yanagihara (The People in the Trees, 2013) takes the still-bold leap of writing about characters who don’t share her background; in addition to being male, JB is African-American, Malcolm has a black father and white mother, Willem is white, and “Jude’s race was undetermined”—deserted at birth, he was raised in a monastery and had an unspeakably traumatic childhood that’s revealed slowly over the course of the book. Two of them are gay, one straight and one bisexual. There isn’t a single significant female character, and for a long novel, there isn’t much plot. There aren’t even many markers of what’s happening in the outside world; Jude moves to a loft in SoHo as a young man, but we don’t see the neighborhood change from gritty artists’ enclave to glitzy tourist destination. What we get instead is an intensely interior look at the friends’ psyches and relationships, and it’s utterly enthralling. The four men think about work and creativity and success and failure; they cook for each other, compete with each other and jostle for each other’s affection. JB bases his entire artistic career on painting portraits of his friends, while Malcolm takes care of them by designing their apartments and houses. When Jude, as an adult, is adopted by his favorite Harvard law professor, his friends join him for Thanksgiving in Cambridge every year. And when Willem becomes a movie star, they all bask in his glow. Eventually, the tone darkens and the story narrows to focus on Jude as the pain of his past cuts deep into his carefully constructed life.  

The phrase “tour de force” could have been invented for this audacious novel.

Pub Date: March 10, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-385-53925-8

Page Count: 720

Publisher: Doubleday

Review Posted Online: Dec. 22, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2015

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Less bleak than the subject matter might warrant—Hannah’s default outlook is sunny—but still, a wrenching depiction of war’s...


 The traumatic homecoming of a wounded warrior.

The daughter of alcoholics who left her orphaned at 17, Jolene “Jo” Zarkades found her first stable family in the military: She’s served over two decades, first in the army, later with the National Guard. A helicopter pilot stationed near Seattle, Jo copes as competently at home, raising two daughters, Betsy and Lulu, while trying to dismiss her husband Michael’s increasing emotional distance. Jo’s mettle is sorely tested when Michael informs her flatly that he no longer loves her. Four-year-old Lulu clamors for attention while preteen Betsy, mean-girl-in-training, dismisses as dweeby her former best friend, Seth, son of Jo’s confidante and fellow pilot, Tami. Amid these challenges comes the ultimate one: Jo and Tami are deployed to Iraq. Michael, with the help of his mother, has to take over the household duties, and he rapidly learns that parenting is much harder than his wife made it look. As Michael prepares to defend a PTSD-afflicted veteran charged with Murder I for killing his wife during a dissociative blackout, he begins to understand what Jolene is facing and to revisit his true feelings for her. When her helicopter is shot down under insurgent fire, Jo rescues Tami from the wreck, but a young crewman is killed. Tami remains in a coma and Jo, whose leg has been amputated, returns home to a difficult rehabilitation on several fronts. Her nightmares in which she relives the crash and other horrors she witnessed, and her pain, have turned Jo into a person her daughters now fear (which in the case of bratty Betsy may not be such a bad thing). Jo can't forgive Michael for his rash words. Worse, she is beginning to remind Michael more and more of his homicide client. Characterization can be cursory: Michael’s earlier callousness, left largely unexplained, undercuts the pathos of his later change of heart. 

Less bleak than the subject matter might warrant—Hannah’s default outlook is sunny—but still, a wrenching depiction of war’s aftermath.

Pub Date: Jan. 31, 2012

ISBN: 978-0-312-57720-9

Page Count: 400

Publisher: St. Martin's

Review Posted Online: Dec. 19, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2012

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