A spirited and promising volume of poetry.

FREEDOM

A collection of poetry focuses on freedom. 

Foster (The Mind, 2017) announces her theme in the title of her new volume of poetry. Each piece, she writes, “actually relates to the overall aspect of freedom.” Sometimes, that relationship is crystal clear, as in the collection’s opening poem, “Ode to Freedom,” which begins “Captured from Africa and enslaved here to / the end. Oh, but now, my ancestry has been / mend. / In longing to break the bondage, runaway / slaves became free. The contentment and / delight of freedom are so exhilarating to me.” Here and elsewhere, the poet’s language is nonstandard, but there’s no denying the energy behind her words, and at its best, her verse is bracing. But at other times, her works’ relevance to her central concern is less obvious. For example, the brief piece “Know” is quoted here in its entirety: “Steal away to / Inhibitory acts. / Steadfast to / Current status. / Eliteness. / Power.” It’s not entirely clear what “inhibitory acts” have to do with freedom—or what they are, for that matter—but more importantly, “Know” is so gnomic as to be almost nonsensical. While brevity is the soul of wit, many of Foster’s poems would be stronger if they were just a little bit longer. The same thing might be said of the book itself. Mill’s On Liberty runs past 47,000 words. Jonathan Franzen’s Freedom checks in at over 550 pages. Foster’s thin volume of the same name is just over a dozen pages. Combine this with the fact that more than a handful of her poems barely stretch past a dozen words, and readers will likely be left with the feeling that the author should have written a few more pieces—and perhaps some lengthier ones. Foster clearly has something important to say; she should feel free to write more in the future.

A spirited and promising volume of poetry.

Pub Date: N/A

ISBN: N/A

Page Count: 16

Publisher: Self

Review Posted Online: April 22, 2019

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For devoted Hannah fans in search of a good cry.

THE FOUR WINDS

The miseries of the Depression and Dust Bowl years shape the destiny of a Texas family.

“Hope is a coin I carry: an American penny, given to me by a man I came to love. There were times in my journey when I felt as if that penny and the hope it represented were the only things that kept me going.” We meet Elsa Wolcott in Dalhart, Texas, in 1921, on the eve of her 25th birthday, and wind up with her in California in 1936 in a saga of almost unrelieved woe. Despised by her shallow parents and sisters for being sickly and unattractive—“too tall, too thin, too pale, too unsure of herself”—Elsa escapes their cruelty when a single night of abandon leads to pregnancy and forced marriage to the son of Italian immigrant farmers. Though she finds some joy working the land, tending the animals, and learning her way around Mama Rose's kitchen, her marriage is never happy, the pleasures of early motherhood are brief, and soon the disastrous droughts of the 1930s drive all the farmers of the area to despair and starvation. Elsa's search for a better life for her children takes them out west to California, where things turn out to be even worse. While she never overcomes her low self-esteem about her looks, Elsa displays an iron core of character and courage as she faces dust storms, floods, hunger riots, homelessness, poverty, the misery of migrant labor, bigotry, union busting, violent goons, and more. The pedantic aims of the novel are hard to ignore as Hannah embodies her history lesson in what feels like a series of sepia-toned postcards depicting melodramatic scenes and clichéd emotions.

For devoted Hannah fans in search of a good cry.

Pub Date: Feb. 9, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-2501-7860-2

Page Count: 464

Publisher: St. Martin's

Review Posted Online: Nov. 18, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2020

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A tasty, if not always tasteful, tale of supernatural mayhem that fans of King and Crichton alike will enjoy.

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DEVOLUTION

Are we not men? We are—well, ask Bigfoot, as Brooks does in this delightful yarn, following on his bestseller World War Z (2006).

A zombie apocalypse is one thing. A volcanic eruption is quite another, for, as the journalist who does a framing voice-over narration for Brooks’ latest puts it, when Mount Rainier popped its cork, “it was the psychological aspect, the hyperbole-fueled hysteria that had ended up killing the most people.” Maybe, but the sasquatches whom the volcano displaced contributed to the statistics, too, if only out of self-defense. Brooks places the epicenter of the Bigfoot war in a high-tech hideaway populated by the kind of people you might find in a Jurassic Park franchise: the schmo who doesn’t know how to do much of anything but tries anyway, the well-intentioned bleeding heart, the know-it-all intellectual who turns out to know the wrong things, the immigrant with a tough backstory and an instinct for survival. Indeed, the novel does double duty as a survival manual, packed full of good advice—for instance, try not to get wounded, for “injury turns you from a giver to a taker. Taking up our resources, our time to care for you.” Brooks presents a case for making room for Bigfoot in the world while peppering his narrative with timely social criticism about bad behavior on the human side of the conflict: The explosion of Rainier might have been better forecast had the president not slashed the budget of the U.S. Geological Survey, leading to “immediate suspension of the National Volcano Early Warning System,” and there’s always someone around looking to monetize the natural disaster and the sasquatch-y onslaught that follows. Brooks is a pro at building suspense even if it plays out in some rather spectacularly yucky episodes, one involving a short spear that takes its name from “the sucking sound of pulling it out of the dead man’s heart and lungs.” Grossness aside, it puts you right there on the scene.

A tasty, if not always tasteful, tale of supernatural mayhem that fans of King and Crichton alike will enjoy.

Pub Date: June 16, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-9848-2678-7

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Del Rey/Ballantine

Review Posted Online: Feb. 10, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2020

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