While the writing lacks a subtlety that would suit many of these tales, this volume’s exhaustive approach to elevating queer...

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THE LOVE THAT DARE NOT SPEAK ITS NAME

SHORT STORIES

A collection of short stories examines the diversity of global LGBTQ communities and their common challenges.

Pathan’s (Classics, 2017, etc.) incredibly varied collection of 21 stories covers the gamut of LGBTQ issues and the hurdles individuals face. Spanning different generations and cultures, the book takes readers around the world to illustrate that queerness and gender fluidity are not restrained by borders. In England, principal Margery must confront her own prejudices and a growing mob mentality against a young transgender student; in 1950s India, the young Sreekanth tries to escape an arranged marriage to be with another man; and in modern-day Bangkok, Poi works tirelessly to teach safe-sex practices and distribute condoms to the Kathoeys—more commonly known as “ladyboys.” It’s a remarkably inclusive approach to an already broad subject, and Pathan highlights the somewhat lesser-known topics of asexuality and intersex identities with the tender tales “isher” and “(a)sexual story.” As a nod to those well-versed in queer literature, the author has thrown in plenty of references to her inspirations, peppering the book with Oscar Wilde quotes and having characters read Christopher Isherwood or Radclyffe Hall. Pathan also tackles one of the most volatile topics for not just LGBTQ communities, but also the entire world with the tense tale of Salam, Akram, and Nafisa—a gay couple and their Jewish female friend who are trying to hide from Islamic State group rule in Syria. That story, “people of raqqa,” is the collection’s clear standout. But in its final lines, the tale also suffers from a consistent issue—too many moments feel contrived or unnatural for the characters. Pathan often follows a pattern: introduce an LGBTQ issue, bring in some form of bigotry, and then rush to conclude with a terrible act of violence. This problem is most evident in “the books on his lap,” in which an elite NYU professor murders his own child after learning he has befriended lesbians. Although the story offers one of the compendium’s many preposterous twists, readers should still appreciate Pathan’s underlying point that intolerance and danger lurk where they are least expected.

While the writing lacks a subtlety that would suit many of these tales, this volume’s exhaustive approach to elevating queer issues remains commendable.

Pub Date: Nov. 30, 2017

ISBN: N/A

Page Count: 428

Publisher: Fiza Pathan Publishing

Review Posted Online: Jan. 16, 2018

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Dark and unsettling, this novel’s end arrives abruptly even as readers are still moving at a breakneck speed.

THEN SHE WAS GONE

Ten years after her teenage daughter went missing, a mother begins a new relationship only to discover she can't truly move on until she answers lingering questions about the past.

Laurel Mack’s life stopped in many ways the day her 15-year-old daughter, Ellie, left the house to study at the library and never returned. She drifted away from her other two children, Hanna and Jake, and eventually she and her husband, Paul, divorced. Ten years later, Ellie’s remains and her backpack are found, though the police are unable to determine the reasons for her disappearance and death. After Ellie’s funeral, Laurel begins a relationship with Floyd, a man she meets in a cafe. She's disarmed by Floyd’s charm, but when she meets his young daughter, Poppy, Laurel is startled by her resemblance to Ellie. As the novel progresses, Laurel becomes increasingly determined to learn what happened to Ellie, especially after discovering an odd connection between Poppy’s mother and her daughter even as her relationship with Floyd is becoming more serious. Jewell’s (I Found You, 2017, etc.) latest thriller moves at a brisk pace even as she plays with narrative structure: The book is split into three sections, including a first one which alternates chapters between the time of Ellie’s disappearance and the present and a second section that begins as Laurel and Floyd meet. Both of these sections primarily focus on Laurel. In the third section, Jewell alternates narrators and moments in time: The narrator switches to alternating first-person points of view (told by Poppy’s mother and Floyd) interspersed with third-person narration of Ellie’s experiences and Laurel’s discoveries in the present. All of these devices serve to build palpable tension, but the structure also contributes to how deeply disturbing the story becomes. At times, the characters and the emotional core of the events are almost obscured by such quick maneuvering through the weighty plot.

Dark and unsettling, this novel’s end arrives abruptly even as readers are still moving at a breakneck speed.

Pub Date: April 24, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-5011-5464-5

Page Count: 368

Publisher: Atria

Review Posted Online: Feb. 6, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2018

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A strongly felt, if not terribly gripping, sendoff for a Turow favorite nearly 35 years after his appearance in Presumed...

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THE LAST TRIAL

Trying his final case at 85, celebrated criminal defense lawyer Sandy Stern defends a Nobel-winning doctor and longtime friend whose cancer wonder drug saved Stern's life but subsequently led to the deaths of others.

Federal prosecutors are charging the eminent doctor, Kiril Pafko, with murder, fraud, and insider trading. An Argentine émigré like Stern, Pafko is no angel. His counselor is certain he sold stock in the company that produced the drug, g-Livia, before users' deaths were reported. The 78-year-old Nobelist is a serial adulterer whose former and current lovers have strong ties to the case. Working for one final time alongside his daughter and proficient legal partner, Marta, who has announced she will close the firm and retire along with her father following the case, Stern must deal not only with "senior moments" before Chief Judge Sonya "Sonny" Klonsky, but also his physical frailty. While taking a deep dive into the ups and downs of a complicated big-time trial, Turow (Testimony, 2017, etc.) crafts a love letter to his profession through his elegiac appreciation of Stern, who has appeared in all his Kindle County novels. The grandly mannered attorney (his favorite response is "Just so") has dedicated himself to the law at great personal cost. But had he not spent so much of his life inside courtrooms, "He never would have known himself." With its bland prosecutors, frequent focus on technical details like "double-blind clinical trials," and lack of real surprises, the novel likely will disappoint some fans of legal thrillers. But this smoothly efficient book gains timely depth through its discussion of thorny moral issues raised by a drug that can extend a cancer sufferer's life expectancy at the risk of suddenly ending it.

A strongly felt, if not terribly gripping, sendoff for a Turow favorite nearly 35 years after his appearance in Presumed Innocent.

Pub Date: May 12, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-5387-4813-8

Page Count: 448

Publisher: Grand Central Publishing

Review Posted Online: Feb. 10, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2020

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