An engaging, dynamic story that grapples intelligently with themes of race, class and morality.

ZUG ISLAND

A DETROIT RIOT NOVEL

In Fournier’s thoughtful debut novel, a young man comes of age in the tense atmosphere of a city teetering on the edge of chaos.

Jake Malone, a white college kid in suburban Detroit in 1967, gets kicked out of school and decides to earn a little money to get a car of his own. He ends up at Zug Island, a steelworking plant that’s a world away from his suburban home. When he first sees the place, it reminds Jake of Dante’s Inferno, but he doesn’t know yet how literal that perception will become. After a tense fight at the plant, he’s befriended by Theo Semple, an African-American man who came to Detroit for better wages but left a family and a tragic history back in the South. In their spare time, Jake and Theo hit the town seeking adventures. As the story unfolds, what they find is eye-opening for Jake—from prostitution and police brutality on the streets of Detroit to the casual racism found in the all-white suburbs. The racial tension builds, until one day it explodes in riots that turn Detroit into an inferno. Told from Jake’s perspective, the short novel—part journey through hell, part social document, part adventure story—depicts his struggles with race and class pressure. Fournier reveals what life was like not only on Zug Island, but also on the streets of Detroit, in its white suburbs and in white and black churches. Readers may wish the author had spent more time in some of the scenes, particularly the riots, which are described from a distance. The Vietnam War is mentioned, but its impact is left unexplored. Also, at times, Fournier steps back from the story to fill in general history that is illuminating, even though it breaks the narrative flow. On the whole, however, the novel is tightly written with a dramatic plot, well-rounded characters and clear insights into social history.

An engaging, dynamic story that grapples intelligently with themes of race, class and morality.     

Pub Date: June 15, 2011

ISBN: 978-1604945850

Page Count: 240

Publisher: Wheatmark

Review Posted Online: July 11, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2012

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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 compelling portrait of a marriage gone desperately sour.

THE MYSTERY OF MRS. CHRISTIE

In December 1926, mystery writer Agatha Christie really did disappear for 11 days. Was it a hoax? Or did her husband resort to foul play?

When Agatha meets Archie on a dance floor in 1912, the obscure yet handsome pilot quickly sweeps her off her feet with his daring. Archie seems smitten with her. Defying her family’s expectations, Agatha consents to marry Archie rather than her intended, the reliable yet boring Reggie Lucy. Although the war keeps them apart, straining their early marriage, Agatha finds meaningful work as a nurse and dispensary assistant, jobs that teach her a lot about poisons, knowledge that helps shape her early short stories and novels. While Agatha’s career flourishes after the war, Archie suffers setback after setback. Determined to keep her man happy, Agatha finds herself cooking elaborate meals, squelching her natural affections for their daughter (after all, Archie must always feel like the most important person in her life), and downplaying her own troubles, including her grief over her mother's death. Nonetheless, Archie grows increasingly morose. In fact, he is away from home the day Agatha disappears. By the time Detective Chief Constable Kenward arrives, Agatha has already been missing for a day. After discovering—and burning—a mysterious letter from Agatha, Archie is less than eager to help the police. His reluctance and arrogance work against him, and soon the police, the newspapers, the Christies’ staff, and even his daughter’s classmates suspect him of harming his wife. Benedict concocts a worthy mystery of her own, as chapters alternate between Archie’s negotiation of the investigation and Agatha’s recounting of their relationship. She keeps the reader guessing: Which narrator is reliable? Who is the real villain?

A compelling portrait of a marriage gone desperately sour.

Pub Date: Dec. 29, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-4926-8272-1

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Sourcebooks Landmark

Review Posted Online: Sept. 30, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 2020

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