A disturbing, provocative, and vivid war tale that’s loaded with lesser-known historical details.



A World War II novel tracks the experiences of an ethnic German family living in Huntsville, Utah.

Karl and Marta Meyer joined the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in Germany and then moved to Utah around 1919. Naturalized citizens, the German immigrants have two teenagers, Ella and her younger brother, Hank. Readers meet the family in 1939, together with Ella’s best friend, Billie Russell, and Hank’s new friend Chester Bailey. It is in these early pages that Toyn plants a harbinger of the trouble that will descend on the family in the years to come. Readers learn that Hank has a small suitcase that contains mementos (a Nazi Youth Movement uniform and a Nazi flag) from a childhood visit to his grandparents in Germany. After nicely establishing local period atmospherics, the author moves quickly to December 1941. Hank is a junior in high school; Ella is in nursing school; and Billie has become a civilian pilot. It is the morning of Dec. 7. Karl and Marta have returned from a German social club event and report that they left early in disgust when some Nazis took over the meeting. A few hours later, the Japanese attack Pearl Harbor, and America is at war. Four days later, Germany declares war on the United States. Much of Toyn’s absorbing narrative is devoted to a portrayal of the darker aspects of America’s war history, as depicted through parallel stories that feature Hank, Billie, and Karl and Marta after the couple are arrested as Nazi sympathizers and placed in internment camps. While Hank enlists in the Air Force and winds up in a violently abusive Austrian prisoner of war camp (Stalag 17-B), Billie becomes a high-flying Women’s Airforce Service Pilot, delivering newly minted planes to bases around the country. Billie’s tale is a vehicle for revealing the overt male pilot hostility, including sabotage, toward female aviators. The roundup and use of ethnic Germans in secret prisoner exchanges is verified by the author’s copious, annotated footnotes. Although highly informative, the embedded notes do disrupt the flow of an otherwise dramatically engaging and unsettling novel.

A disturbing, provocative, and vivid war tale that’s loaded with lesser-known historical details.        

Pub Date: Sept. 15, 2021

ISBN: 978-0-98-184897-6

Page Count: 584

Publisher: American Legacy Media

Review Posted Online: July 28, 2021

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An exhilarating ride through Americana.


Newly released from a work farm in 1950s Kansas, where he served 18 months for involuntary manslaughter, 18-year-old Emmett Watson hits the road with his little brother, Billy, following the death of their father and the foreclosure of their Nebraska farm.

They leave to escape angry townspeople who believe Emmett got off easy, having caused the fatal fall of a taunting local boy by punching him in the nose. The whip-smart Billy, who exhibits OCD–like symptoms, convinces Emmett to drive them to San Francisco to reunite with their mother, who left town eight years ago. He insists she's there, based on postcards she sent before completely disappearing from their lives. But when Emmett's prized red Studebaker is "borrowed" by two rambunctious, New York–bound escapees from the juvie facility he just left, Emmett takes after them via freight train with Billy in tow. Billy befriends a Black veteran named Ulysses who's been riding the rails nonstop since returning home from World War II to find his wife and baby boy gone. A modern picaresque with a host of characters, competing points of view, wandering narratives, and teasing chapter endings, Towles' third novel is even more entertaining than his much-acclaimed A Gentleman in Moscow (2016). You can quibble with one or two plot turns, but there's no resisting moments such as Billy's encounter, high up in the Empire State Building in the middle of the night, with professor Abacus Abernathe, whose Compendium of Heroes, Adventurers, and Other Intrepid Travelers he's read 24 times. A remarkable blend of sweetness and doom, Towles' novel is packed with revelations about the American myth, the art of storytelling, and the unrelenting pull of history.

An exhilarating ride through Americana.

Pub Date: Oct. 5, 2021

ISBN: 978-0-73-522235-9

Page Count: 592

Publisher: Viking

Review Posted Online: June 22, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2021

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As the pieces of this magical literary puzzle snap together, a flicker of hope is sparked for our benighted world.

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An ancient Greek manuscript connects humanity's past, present, and future.

Stranger, whoever you are, open this to learn what will amaze you” wrote Antonius Diogenes at the end of the first century C.E.—and millennia later, Pulitzer Prize winner Doerr is his fitting heir. Around Diogenes' manuscript, "Cloud Cuckoo Land"—the author did exist, but the text is invented—Doerr builds a community of readers and nature lovers that transcends the boundaries of time and space. The protagonist of the original story is Aethon, a shepherd whose dream of escaping to a paradise in the sky leads to a wild series of adventures in the bodies of beast, fish, and fowl. Aethon's story is first found by Anna in 15th-century Constantinople; though a failure as an apprentice seamstress, she's learned ancient Greek from an elderly scholar. Omeir, a country boy of the same period, is rejected by the world for his cleft lip—but forms the deepest of connections with his beautiful oxen, Moonlight and Tree. In the 1950s, Zeno Ninis, a troubled ex–GI in Lakeport, Idaho, finds peace in working on a translation of Diogenes' recently recovered manuscript. In 2020, 86-year-old Zeno helps a group of youngsters put the story on as a play at the Lakeport Public Library—unaware that an eco-terrorist is planting a bomb in the building during dress rehearsal. (This happens in the first pages of the book and continues ticking away throughout.) On a spaceship called the Argos bound for Beta Oph2 in Mission Year 65, a teenage girl named Konstance is sequestered in a sealed room with a computer named Sybil. How could she possibly encounter Zeno's translation? This is just one of the many narrative miracles worked by the author as he brings a first-century story to its conclusion in 2146.

As the pieces of this magical literary puzzle snap together, a flicker of hope is sparked for our benighted world.

Pub Date: Sept. 28, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-982168-43-8

Page Count: 656

Publisher: Scribner

Review Posted Online: June 29, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2021

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