Not flawless, but certainly heartfelt, and searing in its condemnation. On his last page, Nappi quotes Christopher Marlowe:...

ECHOES FROM THE INFANTRY

A moving first novel about a courageous soldier who fought in WWII and grew to hate it.

Twentysomething James McCleary, foot soldier in the 95th Infantry Division, was “a typical dogface,” as his best friend puts it. Having fought through most of the war, including the horrific Battle of the Bulge, he finishes in the hands of the enemy, a POW. The war over, he returns to Far Rockaway, N.Y., and to his sweetheart, Maddie Brandt. He marries Maddie and fathers three sons, to whom he remains an enigma all his life. It was the war—physically intact, he’s a casualty nonetheless. What he saw and what he did never leaves him, making it impossible to perform the roles society has assigned him. “I don’t think I can remember one time when I saw him laugh,” one of the boys says to Maddie, a complaint shared by all three siblings. But it’s John, the oldest and most sensitive, who suffers most from a father missing in action. And it’s John who, at last, gains an insight into the nature and extent of the war wounds. After Maddie’s death, the McClearys put the house up for sale. Emptying the attic, John finds a packet of letters from James, a young soldier, to Maddie, the girl he loves and left behind. In alternating scenes, The author shows James’s view of the war and John’s reaction to it. The son gets to see his father in a light that astonishes him—not the shadowy, withdrawn figure that embittered his growing up, but someone vividly alive, someone as afraid as he was brave, someone remarkable.

Not flawless, but certainly heartfelt, and searing in its condemnation. On his last page, Nappi quotes Christopher Marlowe: “Accurst be he who first invented war.”

Pub Date: Nov. 1, 2005

ISBN: 0-312-33272-6

Page Count: 256

Publisher: St. Martin's

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2005

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Nothing original, but in Hilderbrand’s hands it’s easy to get lost in the story.

BAREFOOT

Privileged 30-somethings hide from their woes in Nantucket.

Hilderbrand’s saga follows the lives of Melanie, Brenda and Vicki. Vicki, alpha mom and perfect wife, is battling late-stage lung cancer and, in an uncharacteristically flaky moment, opts for chemotherapy at the beach. Vicki shares ownership of a tiny Nantucket cottage with her younger sister Brenda. Brenda, a literature professor, tags along for the summer, partly out of familial duty, partly because she’s fleeing the fallout from her illicit affair with a student. As for Melanie, she gets a last minute invite from Vicki, after Melanie confides that Melanie’s husband is having an affair. Between Melanie and Brenda, Vicki feels her two young boys should have adequate supervision, but a disastrous first day on the island forces the trio to source some outside help. Enter Josh, the adorable and affable local who is hired to tend to the boys. On break from college, Josh learns about the pitfalls of mature love as he falls for the beauties in the snug abode. Josh likes beer, analysis-free relationships and hot older women. In a word, he’s believable. In addition to a healthy dose of testosterone, the novel is balanced by powerful descriptions of Vicki’s bond with her two boys. Emotions run high as she prepares for death.

Nothing original, but in Hilderbrand’s hands it’s easy to get lost in the story.

Pub Date: July 2, 2007

ISBN: 978-0-316-01858-6

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: June 24, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2007

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Miller makes Homer pertinent to women facing 21st-century monsters.

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CIRCE

A retelling of ancient Greek lore gives exhilarating voice to a witch.

“Monsters are a boon for gods. Imagine all the prayers.” So says Circe, a sly, petulant, and finally commanding voice that narrates the entirety of Miller’s dazzling second novel. The writer returns to Homer, the wellspring that led her to an Orange Prize for The Song of Achilles (2012). This time, she dips into The Odyssey for the legend of Circe, a nymph who turns Odysseus’ crew of men into pigs. The novel, with its distinctive feminist tang, starts with the sentence: “When I was born, the name for what I was did not exist.” Readers will relish following the puzzle of this unpromising daughter of the sun god Helios and his wife, Perse, who had negligible use for their child. It takes banishment to the island Aeaea for Circe to sense her calling as a sorceress: “I will not be like a bird bred in a cage, I thought, too dull to fly even when the door stands open. I stepped into those woods and my life began.” This lonely, scorned figure learns herbs and potions, surrounds herself with lions, and, in a heart-stopping chapter, outwits the monster Scylla to propel Daedalus and his boat to safety. She makes lovers of Hermes and then two mortal men. She midwifes the birth of the Minotaur on Crete and performs her own C-section. And as she grows in power, she muses that “not even Odysseus could talk his way past [her] witchcraft. He had talked his way past the witch instead.” Circe’s fascination with mortals becomes the book’s marrow and delivers its thrilling ending. All the while, the supernatural sits intriguingly alongside “the tonic of ordinary things.” A few passages coil toward melodrama, and one inelegant line after a rape seems jarringly modern, but the spell holds fast. Expect Miller’s readership to mushroom like one of Circe’s spells.

Miller makes Homer pertinent to women facing 21st-century monsters.

Pub Date: April 10, 2018

ISBN: 978-0-316-55634-7

Page Count: 400

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: Jan. 23, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2018

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