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EVERYWHERE YOU DON'T BELONG

A comic novel that is short on story but abundant in laughs.

A sharply funny debut novel that introduces an irreverent comic voice.

Bump tells the story of Claude Mckay Love, a young boy who has been abandoned by his selfish parents in the South Shore neighborhood of Chicago. Raised by his spirited grandmother and her close friend Paul, a lovelorn queer man who suffers tragedy after romantic tragedy, Claude chases affection in a community where yearning is everywhere but real intimacy can be hard to come by. Potential friends, like the gifted basketball player Jonah, come and go, promising affection but always frustrating Claude's hopes. "[My] life went on like that," Claude remembers, "people coming and going, valuable things left in a hurry." Grandma is determined that, despite all this, Claude make something of his life. "I'm not going to lose you. You got something special deep in there," she tells him. But when a street gang–cum–political party called the Redbelters, led by the incorrigible demagogue Big Columbus, instigates a riot after a police killing of a young boy, Claude's entire life is turned upside down. In the riot's aftermath, Claude latches onto journalism as his passion, something that might lift him out of the South Side. It takes him from Chicago to Missouri, but when an old crush and family friend turns up in his college dorm one day, Claude learns that escaping the past is easier said than done. Bump brings a manic yet reflective energy to Claude's story. By telling it in short vignettes rather than a traditional narrative, he creates striking images and memorable dialogue that vibrate with the life of Chicago's South Side. Exchanges like one between Jonah's parents and Paul—over whether New York or Chicago is the mecca of basketball—are genuinely hilarious. The novel is almost devoid of a real plot or anything resembling well-rounded characters and threatens to become repetitive at times. In the end, though, Bump's voice is so distinct and funny that a reader might overlook those shortcomings.

A comic novel that is short on story but abundant in laughs.

Pub Date: Feb. 4, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-61620-879-0

Page Count: 272

Publisher: Algonquin

Review Posted Online: Dec. 8, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2020

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THE NIGHTINGALE

Still, a respectful and absorbing page-turner.

Hannah’s new novel is an homage to the extraordinary courage and endurance of Frenchwomen during World War II.

In 1995, an elderly unnamed widow is moving into an Oregon nursing home on the urging of her controlling son, Julien, a surgeon. This trajectory is interrupted when she receives an invitation to return to France to attend a ceremony honoring passeurs: people who aided the escape of others during the war. Cut to spring, 1940: Viann has said goodbye to husband Antoine, who's off to hold the Maginot line against invading Germans. She returns to tending her small farm, Le Jardin, in the Loire Valley, teaching at the local school and coping with daughter Sophie’s adolescent rebellion. Soon, that world is upended: The Germans march into Paris and refugees flee south, overrunning Viann’s land. Her long-estranged younger sister, Isabelle, who has been kicked out of multiple convent schools, is sent to Le Jardin by Julien, their father in Paris, a drunken, decidedly unpaternal Great War veteran. As the depredations increase in the occupied zone—food rationing, systematic looting, and the billeting of a German officer, Capt. Beck, at Le Jardin—Isabelle’s outspokenness is a liability. She joins the Resistance, volunteering for dangerous duty: shepherding downed Allied airmen across the Pyrenees to Spain. Code-named the Nightingale, Isabelle will rescue many before she's captured. Meanwhile, Viann’s journey from passive to active resistance is less dramatic but no less wrenching. Hannah vividly demonstrates how the Nazis, through starvation, intimidation and barbarity both casual and calculated, demoralized the French, engineering a community collapse that enabled the deportations and deaths of more than 70,000 Jews. Hannah’s proven storytelling skills are ideally suited to depicting such cataclysmic events, but her tendency to sentimentalize undermines the gravitas of this tale.

Still, a respectful and absorbing page-turner.

Pub Date: Feb. 3, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-312-57722-3

Page Count: 448

Publisher: St. Martin's

Review Posted Online: Nov. 19, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2014

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THEN SHE WAS GONE

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

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. 5, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2018

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