A set of works suffused with wonder, terror, and honesty.

MAGNOLIA CANOPY OTHERWORLD

Carlyle spins lyrical realities and grim fantasies in her first collection of poetry.

Set against the dreamy backdrop of an uncanny American South, the poet weaves together more than 30 poems that explore family dynamics, awakening sexuality, unexpected dangers, and the lasting, systemic effects of poverty and drug abuse. The author draws from her own upbringing in Kentucky and Alabama but infuses her recollections with fairy-tale logic and mythic figures. Some girls are depicted as ghostly sirens in creeks or as corpses that eerie “Rivermen” might dredge up. The woods are populated with strange desires, and there are references to the Animal, a totemic creature apparently located at the precipice of puberty. A pain clinic is portrayed as both a church and temptation, with the pills it doles out as the only communion available. Carlyle’s poetry will absorb readers with lush imagery that doesn’t shy away from the carnal and disturbing: “What man made their bodies into tables—arms and legs bent backward, / a coffee cup on the sternum?” The poetry also makes use of space, with stanzas strategically formatted to draw attention to specific thoughts or words and entire sections that call back to others, adding to the cyclical, fablelike quality of the collection. Carlyle’s poems resonate with lived experience; in an interview, she acknowledges that some of her subject matter was influenced by her family’s struggles with opioids, which contributed to her father’s death in 2019. There’s a clear sense of loss in these poems, which helps to transform a paean to rural adolescent girlhood into a catharsis for both the poet and the reader.

A set of works suffused with wonder, terror, and honesty.

Pub Date: Dec. 15, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-949065-08-4

Page Count: 78

Publisher: Driftwood Press

Review Posted Online: Sept. 17, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 2020

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Unlike baseball, basketball has contributed little to world literature. Call this Exhibit A.

SOOLEY

Legal eagle and mystery maven Grisham shifts gears with a novel about roundball.

What possessed Grisham to stop writing about murder in the Spanish moss–dripping milieus of the Deep South is anyone’s guess, and why he elected to write about basketball, one might imagine, speaks to some deep passion for the game. The depth of that love doesn’t quite emerge in these pages, flat of affect, told almost as if a by-the-numbers biography of an actual player. As it is, Grisham invents an all-too-believable hero in Samuel Sooleymon, who plays his way out of South Sudan, a nation wrought by sectarian violence—Sooley is a Dinka, Grisham instructs, of “the largest ethnic class in the country,” pitted against other ethnic groups—and mired in poverty despite the relative opulence of the capital city of Juba, with its “tall buildings, vibrancy, and well-dressed people.” A hard-charging but heart-of-gold coach changes his life when he arrives at the university there, having been dismissed earlier as a “nonshooting guard.” Soon enough Sooley is sinking three-pointers with alarming precision, which lands him a spot on an American college team. Much of the later portion of Grisham’s novel bounces between Sooley’s on-court exploits, jaw-dropping as they are, and his efforts to bring his embattled family, now refugees from civil war, to join him in the U.S.; explains Grisham, again, “Beatrice and her children were Dinka, the largest tribe in South Sudan, and their strongman was supposedly in control of most of the country,” though evidently not the part where they lived. Alas, Sooley, beloved of all, bound for a glorious career in the NBA, falls into the bad company that sudden wealth and fame can bring, and it all comes crashing down in a morality play that has only the virtue of bringing this tired narrative to an end.

Unlike baseball, basketball has contributed little to world literature. Call this Exhibit A.

Pub Date: April 27, 2021

ISBN: 978-0-385-54768-0

Page Count: 368

Publisher: Doubleday

Review Posted Online: March 3, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2021

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The most comforting of comfort-food reading—with a few chills for fun.

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LEGACY

Roberts sticks to formula in this romantic thriller—which should please fans and newcomers alike.

The only daughter of a woman with a wildly successful fitness company, 7-year-old Adrian Rizzo is used to traveling with her mother for videos and photo shoots, the child star of the brand. But everything changes one night when a man breaks into their house, confronts her mother for destroying his marriage, and then dies in a fall down the stairs. Adrian spends the summer with her beloved grandparents, enjoying the idyllic pace of small-town life and making some strong connections. Several years later, teenage Adrian gains the confidence to start her own business with the help of some high school misfits who become her best friends. Fast-forward a few years: Adrian’s grandmother dies in an accident followed by the death of a friend's wife. Adrian decides to move in with her grandfather and to finally make a home. As frequently happens in Roberts’ novels, Adrian's friends all end up living nearby, and they create a loyal, loving network that sees them all through marriage, birth, loss, success, and the other touchstones of maturity. In the background lurks a threat, though: For years, Adrian has been receiving disturbing letters signed only "The Poet," and they begin to arrive more frequently. Adrian’s perfect, messy, successful life—and blossoming relationship—may be in danger from this psychopath, but her friends and family will be there to support and protect her to the happiest of endings. If you're a fan of Roberts’ thrillers, the structure of this novel will bring few surprises, but the familiarity is comforting. Roberts’ strength has always been her ability to create likable, complex characters, and this crew is even more appealing than most—they are never whiny in insecurity or snobbish in success; rather, they provide unwavering support for each other’s ups and downs.

The most comforting of comfort-food reading—with a few chills for fun.

Pub Date: May 25, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-2502-7293-5

Page Count: 448

Publisher: St. Martin's

Review Posted Online: Jan. 27, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2021

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