If it isn’t precisely perfect, it’s awfully damn close.

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WAIT, BLINK

A PERFECT PICTURE OF INNER LIFE

A delicate net of intermingled lives underpins this witty, spirited novel about creating: art, love, self-sufficiency, and identity.

Øyehaug’s (Knots, 2017) first novel translated into English, by Dickson in able and deceptively straightforward prose, follows a clutch of loosely connected women pursuing their artistic visions and contending with distraction, most notably the lack, presence, or loss of love. There’s Sigrid—a literature student, “the kind...who has photographs of literary theorists on her wall”—who's beset by all three. Earnest and lonely, Sigrid has just discovered the poetry of Kåre, whose author photo she longingly rubs her cheek against just before chancing upon Kåre himself while on a walk. Caught in the reflected glare of Kåre’s fantasies, Sigrid is blinded to her work and their incompatibilities, not least among them Kåre’s absorption in his ex-girlfriend Wanda, a bassist who hides her insecurity behind a badass exterior. Next there’s Linnea, a young film director scouting locations and wistfully hoping to reunite with a past lover, whose primary connection to the others seems to be through Sigrid’s essay in progress about the prevalence in film of women in oversized men’s shirts. There’s Wanda’s friend Trine, a provocative performance artist and new mother who suddenly finds her methods and very drive for creation called into question. And finally, there’s Elida, the fishmonger’s daughter, also a literature student, who may be enmeshed in a fairy tale coming true. Rich with literary references and knowing authorial winks, is this “a perfect picture of inner life,” our fractured, contradictory desires, our cinematic fantasies, our melodrama and unassuageable aloneness? One of Øyehaug’s many gifts is to induce readers to gently laugh along with her at her characters, helping us, as we see our own absurdities in them, to gently laugh at ourselves.

If it isn’t precisely perfect, it’s awfully damn close.

Pub Date: June 5, 2018

ISBN: 978-0-374-28589-0

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux

Review Posted Online: March 20, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2018

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An exuberant comic opera set to the music of life.

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DEACON KING KONG

The versatile and accomplished McBride (Five Carat Soul, 2017, etc.) returns with a dark urban farce crowded with misjudged signals, crippling sorrows, and unexpected epiphanies.

It's September 1969, just after Apollo 11 and Woodstock. In a season of such events, it’s just as improbable that in front of 16 witnesses occupying the crowded plaza of a Brooklyn housing project one afternoon, a hobbling, dyspeptic, and boozy old church deacon named Cuffy Jasper "Sportcoat" Lambkin should pull out a .45-caliber Luger pistol and shoot off an ear belonging to the neighborhood’s most dangerous drug dealer. The 19-year-old victim’s name is Deems Clemens, and Sportcoat had coached him to be “the best baseball player the projects had ever seen” before he became “a poison-selling murderous meathead.” Everybody in the project presumes that Sportcoat is now destined to violently join his late wife, Hettie, in the great beyond. But all kinds of seemingly disconnected people keep getting in destiny's way, whether it’s Sportcoat’s friend Pork Sausage or Potts, a world-weary but scrupulous white policeman who’s hoping to find Sportcoat fast enough to protect him from not only Deems’ vengeance, but the malevolent designs of neighborhood kingpin Butch Moon. All their destines are somehow intertwined with those of Thomas “The Elephant” Elefante, a powerful but lonely Mafia don who’s got one eye trained on the chaos set off by the shooting and another on a mysterious quest set in motion by a stranger from his crime-boss father’s past. There are also an assortment of salsa musicians, a gentle Nation of Islam convert named Soup, and even a tribe of voracious red ants that somehow immigrated to the neighborhood from Colombia and hung around for generations, all of which seems like too much stuff for any one book to handle. But as he's already shown in The Good Lord Bird (2013), McBride has a flair for fashioning comedy whose buoyant outrageousness barely conceals both a steely command of big and small narrative elements and a river-deep supply of humane intelligence.

An exuberant comic opera set to the music of life.

Pub Date: March 3, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-7352-1672-3

Page Count: 384

Publisher: Riverhead

Review Posted Online: Dec. 9, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2020

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Wingate sheds light on a shameful true story of child exploitation but is less successful in engaging readers in her...

BEFORE WE WERE YOURS

Avery Stafford, a lawyer, descendant of two prominent Southern families and daughter of a distinguished senator, discovers a family secret that alters her perspective on heritage.

Wingate (Sisters, 2016, etc.) shifts the story in her latest novel between present and past as Avery uncovers evidence that her Grandma Judy was a victim of the Tennessee Children’s Home Society and is related to a woman Avery and her father meet when he visits a nursing home. Although Avery is living at home to help her parents through her father’s cancer treatment, she is also being groomed for her own political career. Readers learn that investigating her family’s past is not part of Avery's scripted existence, but Wingate's attempts to make her seem torn about this are never fully developed, and descriptions of her chemistry with a man she meets as she's searching are also unconvincing. Sections describing the real-life orphanage director Georgia Tann, who stole poor children, mistreated them, and placed them for adoption with wealthy clients—including Joan Crawford and June Allyson—are more vivid, as are passages about Grandma Judy and her siblings. Wingate’s fans and readers who enjoy family dramas will find enough to entertain them, and book clubs may enjoy dissecting the relationship and historical issues in the book.

Wingate sheds light on a shameful true story of child exploitation but is less successful in engaging readers in her fictional characters' lives.

Pub Date: June 6, 2017

ISBN: 978-0-425-28468-1

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Ballantine

Review Posted Online: March 21, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2017

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