An eloquent but sometimes-clumsy look at the lingering legacies of the past.


Stories about lifelong loss and trauma intersect in this debut novel.

When 73-year-old Emanuel Cortez dies alone in his armchair, his story dies with him—a tale about a fiancee who disappeared and the successful but lonely life he led in her wake. The narrative then jumps to Emily Gibbings, a 78-year-old woman who in many ways feels alive for the first time. She’s just gotten engaged to Marcos Santos, an enigmatic man who recently moved to her assisted living facility. Even though her loved ones find this decision difficult to understand, Emily tries to explain how much she values the canasta games and the gentle touches they share. He has brought joy and intimacy back into her life, two things she thought she’d lost forever when she was violently assaulted as a young woman. He also tells her about the origin of his special card decks, a beautiful tale involving young lovers separated by a misunderstanding. Emily believes that their love is much simpler. But when she shows Marcos a photograph of herself before her assault, he reacts strangely, and she begins to feel a prickle of danger. Her best friend, Margaret, was a marriage counselor for many years, and she agrees that something seems suspicious. But when the two of them pry into his past, they’re unprepared for what they uncover. All the while, an obvious connection between Emanuel and Emily arises, but other less evident collisions also occur, including a cleverly threaded symbol of a bird that fails to escape when given the chance. Piroso’s writing offers plenty of lovely psychological insights, as when Emily imagines “witnessing how the best of herself slowly became a dry river, a dusty reminiscence of a mighty flow of sentiments.” Emily and Margaret’s friendship, humor, and fears of aging are deftly illustrated in a way that’s reminiscent of Joanna Cannon’s Three Things About Elsie. But this same attention to psychology at times encumbers the book, with some passages of overexplanation. In addition, exposition often arrives in the form of stilted dialogue. At one point, Emily recalls the first day she saw Marcos at the facility: “He did not do much, he just stood there—a few others were also looking at him. As you know, Margaret by her own choice has become a sort of ad hoc concierge for this place. Usually, she is the one that greets and introduces the novices to the rest of us.”

An eloquent but sometimes-clumsy look at the lingering legacies of the past.

Pub Date: Nov. 26, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-70978-234-3

Page Count: 271

Publisher: Out Reach Books

Review Posted Online: Dec. 5, 2019

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While a few weeks ago it seemed as if Praeger would have a two month lead over Dutton in their presentation of this Soviet best seller, both the "authorized" edition (Dutton's) and the "unauthorized" (Praeger's) will appear almost simultaneously. There has been considerable advance attention on what appears to be as much of a publishing cause celebre here as the original appearance of the book in Russia. Without entering into the scrimmage, or dismissing it as a plague on both your houses, we will limit ourselves to a few facts. Royalties from the "unauthorized" edition will go to the International Rescue Committee; Dutton with their contracted edition is adhering to copyright conventions. The Praeger edition has two translators and one of them is the translator of Doctor Zhivago Dutton's translator, Ralph Parker, has been stigmatized by Praeger as "an apologist for the Soviet regime". To the untutored eye, the Dutton translation seems a little more literary, the Praeger perhaps closer to the rather primitive style of the original. The book itself is an account of one day in the three thousand six hundred and fifty three days of the sentence to be served by a carpenter, Ivan Denisovich Shukhov. (Solzhenitsyn was a political prisoner.) From the unrelenting cold without, to the conditions within, from the bathhouse to the latrine to the cells where survival for more than two weeks is impossible, this records the hopeless facts of existence as faced by thousands who went on "living like this, with your eyes on the ground". The Dutton edition has an excellent introduction providing an orientation on the political background to its appearance in Russia by Marvin Kalb. All involved in its publication (translators, introducers, etc.) claim for it great "artistic" values which we cannot share, although there is no question of its importance as a political and human document and as significant and tangible evidence of the de-Stalinization program.

Pub Date: June 15, 1963

ISBN: 0451228146

Page Count: 181

Publisher: Praeger

Review Posted Online: Oct. 5, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 1963

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A touching family drama that effectively explores the negative impact of stress on fragile relationships.


A middle-aged woman returns to her childhood home to care for her ailing father, confronting many painful secrets from her past.

When Mallory Aldiss gets a call from a long-ago boyfriend telling her that her elderly father has been gallivanting around town with a gun in his hand, Mallory decides it’s time to return to the small Rhode Island town that she’s been avoiding for more than a decade. Mallory’s precocious 13-year-old daughter, Joy, is thrilled that she'll get to meet her grandfather at long last, and an aunt, too, and she'll finally see the place where her mother grew up. When they arrive in Bay Bluff, it’s barely a few hours before Mallory bumps into her old flame, Jack, the only man she’s ever really loved. Gone is the rebellious young person she remembers, and in his place stands a compassionate, accomplished adult. As they try to reconnect, Mallory realizes that the same obstacle that pushed them apart decades earlier is still standing in their way: Jack blames Mallory’s father for his mother’s death. No one knows exactly how Jack’s mother died, but Jack thinks a love affair between her and Mallory’s father had something to do with it. As Jack and Mallory chase down answers, Mallory also tries to repair her rocky relationships with her two sisters and determine why her father has always been so hard on her. Told entirely from Mallory’s perspective, the novel has a haunting, nostalgic quality. Despite the complex and overlapping layers to the history of Bay Bluff and its inhabitants, the book at times trudges too slowly through Mallory’s meanderings down Memory Lane. Even so, Delinsky sometimes manages to pick up the pace, and in those moments the beauty and nuance of this complicated family tale shine through. Readers who don’t mind skimming past details that do little to advance the plot may find that the juicier nuggets and realistically rendered human connections are worth the effort.

A touching family drama that effectively explores the negative impact of stress on fragile relationships.

Pub Date: May 19, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-250-11951-3

Page Count: 416

Publisher: St. Martin's

Review Posted Online: March 2, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2020

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