A funny and perspicacious account of Irish adolescence.

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BOARDING SCHOOL

A debut fictional memoir recounts a teen’s experiences at an Irish boarding school in the 1950s. 

Much to his mother’s chagrin, Willie Doyle fails the exam for his primary certificate, a test designed to be passable for even the meanest of intellects. Determined that one of her eight children become a classical scholar, Willie’s mother enrolls him in the Academy of the Yew Tree, a boarding school in Dublin run by the Brown Order of mendicant priests. But his mother neglects to reveal his exam results. When the priests give him another opportunity to pass, he fails yet again, but they find it impossible to get rid of him since his mother refuses to acknowledge any communications. The novelistic remembrance is split into several nearly stand-alone essays (each concludes with a definitive “The End”) that cover the various elements of boarding school culture and are written in a buoyantly comedic style. Willie reflects on the penury he is able to mitigate by operating his own lottery, evidence of the business savvy he inherited from his pub-owning mother. He also relates his incurable insomnia, a serious matter if conflated with sleepwalking, which is an expellable offense. Some of the essays tackle more serious subjects, like the withering physical abuse zealously meted out by the Dean of Discipline, a brutal practice that ends after students stage a kind of mutiny and leave the official bloodied on the floor. Another theme mined is youthful sexuality, especially homosexual desire in the cloistered corridors of a religious institution. Sheehy conjures a surprisingly candid narrator—Willie is especially unabashed discussing his own erotic experiences, particularly a crush he develops on one unusually attractive star rugby player. The author is a keen observer of human relations and writes with quick-wittedness. But sometimes the prose becomes bloated and strident: “In the fifties, our Academy would not be the first or last to recognize that patriotism and religion—two self-delusions—were the two adoptions that were parasitic, not just for Ireland and England, but all.” Nevertheless, this is an insightful peek into the state of Irish education in the middle of the 20th century. 

A funny and perspicacious account of Irish adolescence. 

Pub Date: N/A

ISBN: N/A

Page Count: -

Publisher: Dog Ear Publisher

Review Posted Online: July 26, 2017

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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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