In Mattioni’s novel, a recent widower from Milan realizes his dream of resettling in Savannah.

In American novels, protagonists go to Italy to find themselves. For 50something Italian journalist Alberto Landi, America is the destination. Following his wife’s death, he sells up and heads for Savannah, Ga., a city they’d both loved. For Alberto, it’s more like coming home than leaving it: the city has always awakened primal feelings of longing, and its tidal, muddy waters remind him of “the thick scent of an excited woman in love” and “an amniotic liquid.” Intoxicated by Savannah’s lush beauty, he delights in its acceptance of eccentricity. In a city proud of its ghosts, Alberto feels comfortable conducting imaginary dialogues with the statue of Georgia’s founder, James Oglethorpe, “knowing that I could count on his British and bronze discretion.” Alberto also enjoys Savannah’s characters, including the owner of a Confederate memorabilia shop and the unofficial historian of the city’s historically black community. As he meanders from past to present and back, Alberto explores his dream of starting over. Alberto, whose grief is believable, is a likable fellow; it’s easy to see why people are drawn to him and want to tell him their stories. Sometimes, though, the journalist is overly evident and may leave some readers wondering whose story Alberto is telling. Mattioni’s understanding of American racial politics can be dicey. Uncle Tom is a sweet image for him, and he uncritically accepts both sentimental views of the Confederacy and hostile, sometimes racially and sexually charged comments about Northerners. Still, even in translation, Mattioni turns a nice phrase, like “bonsai memories that I planted in my happy yesterday” and a tall Irishman who “looks like a pale asparagus with red hair.” Sometimes, though, the result is less felicitous: “my mouth, which was bitter and kneaded.” Past and present are confusingly intermingled, however deliberate, and the ending relies on a fairly hoary cliché. Many thoughtful and wry observations inhabit this charming but uneven read.


Pub Date: Feb. 22, 2012

ISBN: 978-1469934815

Page Count: 242

Publisher: CreateSpace

Review Posted Online: March 6, 2012

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Despite some distractions, there’s an irresistible charm to Owens’ first foray into nature-infused romantic fiction.

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A wild child’s isolated, dirt-poor upbringing in a Southern coastal wilderness fails to shield her from heartbreak or an accusation of murder.

“The Marsh Girl,” “swamp trash”—Catherine “Kya” Clark is a figure of mystery and prejudice in the remote North Carolina coastal community of Barkley Cove in the 1950s and '60s. Abandoned by a mother no longer able to endure her drunken husband’s beatings and then by her four siblings, Kya grows up in the careless, sometimes-savage company of her father, who eventually disappears, too. Alone, virtually or actually, from age 6, Kya learns both to be self-sufficient and to find solace and company in her fertile natural surroundings. Owens (Secrets of the Savanna, 2006, etc.), the accomplished co-author of several nonfiction books on wildlife, is at her best reflecting Kya’s fascination with the birds, insects, dappled light, and shifting tides of the marshes. The girl’s collections of shells and feathers, her communion with the gulls, her exploration of the wetlands are evoked in lyrical phrasing which only occasionally tips into excess. But as the child turns teenager and is befriended by local boy Tate Walker, who teaches her to read, the novel settles into a less magical, more predictable pattern. Interspersed with Kya’s coming-of-age is the 1969 murder investigation arising from the discovery of a man’s body in the marsh. The victim is Chase Andrews, “star quarterback and town hot shot,” who was once Kya’s lover. In the eyes of a pair of semicomic local police officers, Kya will eventually become the chief suspect and must stand trial. By now the novel’s weaknesses have become apparent: the monochromatic characterization (good boy Tate, bad boy Chase) and implausibilities (Kya evolves into a polymath—a published writer, artist, and poet), yet the closing twist is perhaps its most memorable oddity.

Despite some distractions, there’s an irresistible charm to Owens’ first foray into nature-infused romantic fiction.

Pub Date: Aug. 14, 2018

ISBN: 978-0-7352-1909-0

Page Count: 384

Publisher: Putnam

Review Posted Online: May 15, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 2018

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Relentlessly suspenseful and unexpectedly timely: just the thing for Dick Cheney’s bedside reading wherever he’s keeping...


From the Jack Reacher series , Vol. 6

When the newly elected Vice President’s life is threatened, the Secret Service runs to nomadic soldier-of-fortune Jack Reacher (Echo Burning, 2001, etc.) in this razor-sharp update of The Day of the Jackal and In the Line of Fire that’s begging to be filmed.

Why Reacher? Because M.E. Froelich, head of the VP’s protection team, was once a colleague and lover of his late brother Joe, who’d impressed her with tales of Jack’s derring-do as an Army MP. Now Froelich and her Brooks Brothers–tailored boss Stuyvesant have been receiving a series of anonymous messages threatening the life of North Dakota Senator/Vice President–elect Brook Armstrong. Since the threats may be coming from within the Secret Service’s own ranks—if they aren’t, it’s hard to see how they’ve been getting delivered—they can’t afford an internal investigation. Hence the call to Reacher, who wastes no time in hooking up with his old friend Frances Neagley, another Army vet turned private eye, first to see whether he can figure out a way to assassinate Armstrong, then to head off whoever else is trying. It’s Reacher’s matter-of-fact gift to think of everything, from the most likely position a sniper would assume at Armstrong’s Thanksgiving visit to a homeless shelter to the telltale punctuation of one of the threats, and to pluck helpers from the tiny cast who can fill the remaining gaps because they aren’t idiots or stooges. And it’s Child’s gift to keep tightening the screws, even when nothing’s happening except the arrival of a series of unsigned letters, and to convey a sense of the blank impossibility of guarding any public figure from danger day after highly exposed day, and the dedication and heroism of the agents who take on this daunting job.

Relentlessly suspenseful and unexpectedly timely: just the thing for Dick Cheney’s bedside reading wherever he’s keeping himself these days.

Pub Date: May 1, 2001

ISBN: 0-399-14861-2

Page Count: 384

Publisher: Putnam

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2002

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