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THIS IS NOT MIAMI

Absolutely stunning.

A collection of narratives focusing on the dark side of Veracruz.

“To live in a city is to live among stories,” Mexican author Melchor writes in her latest book to be translated into English. But what does she mean by stories? The accounts in the collection—“relatos,” she calls them, or “tales”—are based on real events, she writes, but “have no journalistic claims because they don’t include accurate dates, hard facts or car registration plates…but nor can they be called realist fiction.” Whatever they’re called, they’re extraordinary, each one a portrait of life in Veracruz in the past decades. In “Queen, Slave, Woman,” Melchor tells the story of Evangelina Tejera Bosada, a former queen of Veracruz’s annual Carnival who bludgeoned her sons to death, dismembered them, and placed the remains in a pot on her balcony. Melchor’s observations about the case are fascinating; she writes about the dissonance between Tejera Bosada’s former image as a beloved Carnival queen and her image after the slayings as a coldblooded killer: “Opposing yet complementary archetypes, masks that dehumanize flesh and blood women and become blank screens on which to project the desires, fears, and anxieties of a society that professes to be an enclave of tropical sensualism but deep down is profoundly conservative, classist, and misogynist.” In “The House on El Estero,” Melchor recounts a story told to her by a former partner who visited a supposedly haunted house years before and claims to have come face to face with the devil. Her ex’s story itself is indeed terrifying, but Melchor turns it into a fascinating reflection on the nature of narrative itself. The collection closes with “Veracruz With a Zee for Zeta,” a wrenching story, told in the second person, about the experience of a person who witnesses violence connected to the Los Zetas cartel. The last two paragraphs are a gut punch, some of the most wrenching prose to come around in years. Skillfully translated by Hughes, this is a book that’s as gorgeous as it is dark, and it proves that Melchor is one of the finest writers working today.

Absolutely stunning.

Pub Date: April 4, 2023

ISBN: 9780811228053

Page Count: 160

Publisher: New Directions

Review Posted Online: March 13, 2023

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2023

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THE GOD OF THE WOODS

"Don't go into the woods" takes on unsettling new meaning in Moore's blend of domestic drama and crime novel.

Many years after her older brother, Bear, went missing, Barbara Van Laar vanishes from the same sleepaway camp he did, leading to dark, bitter truths about her wealthy family.

One morning in 1975 at Camp Emerson—an Adirondacks summer camp owned by her family—it's discovered that 13-year-old Barbara isn't in her bed. A problem case whose unhappily married parents disdain her goth appearance and "stormy" temperament, Barbara is secretly known by one bunkmate to have slipped out every night after bedtime. But no one has a clue where's she permanently disappeared to, firing speculation that she was taken by a local serial killer known as Slitter. As Jacob Sluiter, he was convicted of 11 murders in the 1960s and recently broke out of prison. He's the one, people say, who should have been prosecuted for Bear's abduction, not a gardener who was framed. Leave it to the young and unproven assistant investigator, Judy Luptack, to press forward in uncovering the truth, unswayed by her bullying father and male colleagues who question whether women are "cut out for this work." An unsavory group portrait of the Van Laars emerges in which the children's father cruelly abuses their submissive mother, who is so traumatized by the loss of Bear—and the possible role she played in it—that she has no love left for her daughter. Picking up on the themes of families in search of themselves she explored in Long Bright River (2020), Moore draws sympathy to characters who have been subjected to spousal, parental, psychological, and physical abuse. As rich in background detail and secondary mysteries as it is, this ever-expansive, intricate, emotionally engaging novel never seems overplotted. Every piece falls skillfully into place and every character, major and minor, leaves an imprint.

"Don't go into the woods" takes on unsettling new meaning in Moore's blend of domestic drama and crime novel.

Pub Date: July 2, 2024

ISBN: 9780593418918

Page Count: 496

Publisher: Riverhead

Review Posted Online: April 13, 2024

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2024

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SANDWICH

A moving, hilarious reminder that parenthood, just like life, means constant change.

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During an annual beach vacation, a mother confronts her past and learns to move forward.

Her family’s annual trip to Cape Cod is always the highlight of Rocky’s year—even more so now that her children are grown and she cherishes what little time she gets with them. Rocky is deep in the throes of menopause, picking fights with her loving husband and occasionally throwing off her clothes during a hot flash, much to the chagrin of her family. She’s also dealing with her parents, who are crammed into the same small summer house (with one toilet that only occasionally spews sewage everywhere) and who are aging at an alarmingly rapid rate. Rocky’s life is full of change, from her body to her identity—she frequently flashes back to the vacations of years past, when her children were tiny. Although she’s grateful for the family she has, she mourns what she’s lost. Newman (author of the equally wonderful We All Want Impossible Things, 2022) imbues Rocky’s internal struggles with importance and gravity, all while showcasing her very funny observations about life and parenting. She examines motherhood with a raw honesty that few others manage—she remembers the hard parts, the depths of despair, panic, and anxiety that can happen with young children, and she also recounts the joy in a way that never feels saccharine. She has a gift for exploring the real, messy contradictions in human emotions. As Rocky puts it, “This may be the only reason we were put on this earth. To say to each other, I know how you feel.”

A moving, hilarious reminder that parenthood, just like life, means constant change.

Pub Date: June 18, 2024

ISBN: 9780063345164

Page Count: 240

Publisher: Harper/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: March 23, 2024

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2024

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