An absorbing, if uneven, mix of beguiling magical realism and bombastic social commentary.

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AND OF THE HOLY GHOST

A spirit—too scabrous to be completely holy—walks the earth weighing human souls in this florid fantasia.

Maffei’s nameless protagonist is a disembodied being who slips in and out of minds unnoticed, savoring or recoiling at whatever he finds. In letters to a book publisher named Ms. Sylvestri, he reports his impressions of the consciousnesses he samples—from a teenager whose ear-splitting music is “a screamworld of life’s-end chaos” to a man whose nose-picking is “as sensual, almost, as man’s penetrating taking of a woman”—and offers broader observations on human nature. He is particularly taken with sexuality, and pens odes to it that are sometimes romantic (“Oh, the sudden and alive spark of one man, one woman, joined at last, the joyous clasping together, two gods embodied in one bright flame”) and sometimes earthy (“You’ve got something I want! says man to woman, his eyes on her breasts, his hands on her sweet little ass as he sinks down on his knees.”) But he is also concerned with racism and sexism, particularly the persecution he feels whites and men suffer at the hands of blacks and women. The spirit’s soliloquies intertwine with captivating short stories about people he encounters, including a homeless alcoholic redeemed by a stray dog, a Hollywood producer and his resentful boy-toy, and an affectionate but troubled older couple at an amusement park. These strands unite when the spirit borrows a comatose man’s body and lures the other characters to an uncanny seminar at which he strips bare their souls in harrowing revelations. Maffei tells this tale in several hit-and-miss registers. His well-crafted narrative vignettes are written in a subtle, fluent prose that’s full of acute observations of character and emotion. The passages in the spirit’s voice are less convincing—declamatory or mystical, straining for big ideas—“Why do your laws so very much favor black racism over white racism?”—that are rather callow. Maffei’s ghost can be tiresome, but his living characters are well worth the read.

An absorbing, if uneven, mix of beguiling magical realism and bombastic social commentary.

Pub Date: Jan. 21, 2010

ISBN: 978-1450504874

Page Count: 190

Publisher: CreateSpace

Review Posted Online: Jan. 4, 2011

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A romantic, sad, and ultimately hopeful book that’s perfect for fans of Jojo Moyes.

GHOSTED

In Walsh’s American debut, a woman desperately tries to find out why the man she spent a whirlwind week with never called.

Sarah has just separated from her American husband and is visiting her hometown in England when she meets Eddie. He’s kind and charming, and although they only spend one week together, she falls in love. When he has to leave for a trip, she knows they’ll keep in touch—they’re already making plans for the rest of their lives. But then Eddie never calls, and Sarah’s increasingly frantic efforts to contact him are fruitless. Is he hurt? Is he dead? As her friends tell her, there’s a far greater likelihood that he’s just blowing her off—she’s been ghosted. After trying to track Eddie down at a football game, Sarah starts to become ashamed of herself—after all, she’s almost 40 years old and she’s essentially stalking a man who never called her. But as Sarah slowly learns, she and Eddie didn’t actually meet randomly—they both have a connection to an accident that happened years ago, and it may have something to do with why he disappeared. The tension quickly amps up as the secrets of Eddie’s and Sarah’s pasts are revealed, and the truth behind their connection is genuinely surprising and heartbreaking. The barriers between Sarah and Eddie seem insurmountable at times, and although their issues are resolved in a tidy manner, the emotions behind their actions are always believable. Walsh has created a deeply moving romance with an intriguing mystery and a touching portrait of grief at its heart.

A romantic, sad, and ultimately hopeful book that’s perfect for fans of Jojo Moyes.

Pub Date: July 24, 2018

ISBN: 978-0-525-52277-5

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Pamela Dorman/Viking

Review Posted Online: May 1, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2018

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An ambitious and bewitching gem of a book with mystery and passion inscribed on every page.

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THE STARLESS SEA

A withdrawn graduate student embarks on an epic quest to restore balance to the world in this long-anticipated follow-up to The Night Circus (2011).

Zachary Ezra Rawlins is a typical millennial introvert; he likes video games, escapist reading, and drinking sidecars. But when he recognizes himself in the pages of a mysterious book from the university library, he's unnerved—and determined to uncover the truth. What begins as a journey for answers turns into something much bigger, and Zachary must decide whether to trust the handsome stranger he meets at a highflying literary fundraiser in New York or to retreat back to his thesis and forget the whole affair. In a high-wire feat of metatextual derring-do, Morgenstern weaves Zachary's adventure into a stunning array of linked fables, myths, and origin stories. There are pirates and weary travelers, painters who can see the future, lovers torn asunder, a menacing Owl King, and safe harbors for all the stories of the world, far below the Earth on the golden shores of a Starless Sea. Clocking in at more than 500 pages, the novel requires patience as Morgenstern puts all the pieces in place, but it is exquisitely pleasurable to watch the gears of this epic fantasy turn once they're set in motion. As in The Night Circus, Morgenstern is at her best when she imagines worlds and rooms and parties in vivid detail, right down to the ballroom stairs "festooned with lanterns and garlands of paper dipped in gold" or a cloak carved from ice with "ships and sailors and sea monsters...lost in the drifting snow." This novel is a love letter to readers as much as an invitation: Come and see how much magic is left in the world. Fans of Neil Gaiman and V.E. Schwab, Kelly Link and Susanna Clarke will want to heed the call.

An ambitious and bewitching gem of a book with mystery and passion inscribed on every page.

Pub Date: Nov. 5, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-385-54121-3

Page Count: 512

Publisher: Doubleday

Review Posted Online: Aug. 4, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2019

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