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THE ODYSSEY OF FLETCHER

A comic interrogation of manhood set in a nearly man-free apocalypse.

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A nerd discovers he may be the only man to have survived a deadly plague in Dargitz’s debut satirical novel.

Twenty-two-year-old Fletcher Sinclair was never a prime specimen of masculinity—he was an introverted community college student with thick glasses, greasy hair, and a love of video games and energy drinks. Then a super-virus literally wiped out every other man on earth, leaving Fletcher the lone surviving example of manhood. After spending months in isolation following the deaths of his parents and brother, Fletcher is rescued from his house by a small group of female doctors who have been laboring to understand why the “Delilah” virus only targets men—a study that requires, of course, a living male subject. Fletcher provides them with bodily fluid samples, and he agrees to stay hidden at their compound so as to not become a target of the raiders, cultists, and other bad actors roaming the post-pandemic female wasteland. At first, it’s great to have some company, but after weeks of doing little more than rewatching Sleepless in Seattle in his hospital room, Fletcher begins to feel a bit coddled. He begins to wonder: Shouldn’t the last man on earth act a little more…manly? When violence strikes the hospital, Fletcher is forced to learn the hard way that being the last surviving man requires an unpleasant amount of surviving. The author’s comedic prose flows easily, managing to sneak in quite a bit of his character’s traumatized psychology: “[Fletcher] had developed a nice little defense mechanism during his isolation that acted as a firewall to most forms of sentimentality. When an apocalypse is at your door, wallowing is an indulgence you simply can’t afford. Because wallowing is just one little hop away from giving up…” The book is far too long, but the length does give Dargitz ample space to move beyond the sitcom-like premise and explore some deeper issues related to the concept of masculinity, in a narrative more timely than it may seem.

A comic interrogation of manhood set in a nearly man-free apocalypse.

Pub Date: Oct. 20, 2023

ISBN: N/A

Page Count: 324

Publisher: Edderkoppen Press

Review Posted Online: Aug. 22, 2023

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THE WOMEN

A dramatic, vividly detailed reconstruction of a little-known aspect of the Vietnam War.

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A young woman’s experience as a nurse in Vietnam casts a deep shadow over her life.

When we learn that the farewell party in the opening scene is for Frances “Frankie” McGrath’s older brother—“a golden boy, a wild child who could make the hardest heart soften”—who is leaving to serve in Vietnam in 1966, we feel pretty certain that poor Finley McGrath is marked for death. Still, it’s a surprise when the fateful doorbell rings less than 20 pages later. His death inspires his sister to enlist as an Army nurse, and this turn of events is just the beginning of a roller coaster of a plot that’s impressive and engrossing if at times a bit formulaic. Hannah renders the experiences of the young women who served in Vietnam in all-encompassing detail. The first half of the book, set in gore-drenched hospital wards, mildewed dorm rooms, and boozy officers’ clubs, is an exciting read, tracking the transformation of virginal, uptight Frankie into a crack surgical nurse and woman of the world. Her tensely platonic romance with a married surgeon ends when his broken, unbreathing body is airlifted out by helicopter; she throws her pent-up passion into a wild affair with a soldier who happens to be her dead brother’s best friend. In the second part of the book, after the war, Frankie seems to experience every possible bad break. A drawback of the story is that none of the secondary characters in her life are fully three-dimensional: Her dismissive, chauvinistic father and tight-lipped, pill-popping mother, her fellow nurses, and her various love interests are more plot devices than people. You’ll wish you could have gone to Vegas and placed a bet on the ending—while it’s against all the odds, you’ll see it coming from a mile away.

A dramatic, vividly detailed reconstruction of a little-known aspect of the Vietnam War.

Pub Date: Feb. 6, 2024

ISBN: 9781250178633

Page Count: 480

Publisher: St. Martin's

Review Posted Online: Nov. 4, 2023

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2023

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HAPPY PLACE

A wistfully nostalgic look at endings, beginnings, and loving the people who will always have your back.

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Exes pretend they’re still together for the sake of their friends on their annual summer vacation.

Wyn Connor and Harriet Kilpatrick were the perfect couple—until Wyn dumped Harriet for reasons she still doesn’t fully understand. They’ve been part of the same boisterous friend group since college, and they know that their breakup will devastate the others and make things more than a little awkward. So they keep it a secret from their friends and families—in fact, Harriet barely even admits it to herself, focusing instead on her grueling hours as a surgical resident. She’s ready for a vacation at her happy place—the Maine cottage she and her friends visit every summer. But (surprise!) Wyn is there too, and he and Harriet have to share a (very romantic) room and a bed. Telling the truth about their breakup is out of the question, because the cottage is up for sale, and this is the group’s last hurrah. Determined to make sure everyone has the perfect last trip, Harriet and Wyn resolve to fake their relationship for the week. The problem with this plan, of course, is that Harriet still has major feelings for Wyn—feelings that only get stronger as they pretend to be blissfully in love. As always, Henry’s dialogue is sparkling and the banter between characters is snappy and hilarious. Wyn and Harriet’s relationship, shown both in the past and the present, feels achingly real. Their breakup, as well as their complicated relationships with their own families, adds a twinge of melancholy, as do the relatable growing pains of a group of friends whose lives are taking them in different directions.

A wistfully nostalgic look at endings, beginnings, and loving the people who will always have your back.

Pub Date: April 25, 2023

ISBN: 9780593441275

Page Count: 400

Publisher: Berkley

Review Posted Online: Feb. 23, 2023

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2023

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