A thoughtful, if somewhat slow-paced, story of post-genocide Rwanda.

HEARTS AMONG OURSELVES

A NOVEL

Umwagarwa (Drums of Success, 2015) offers a novel about a young Rwandan woman in the raw years after her family members were massacred.

Karabo’s mother is Hutu; her father was a Tutsi, and by Rwandan custom, this makes her a Tutsi. Her father and siblings were murdered by Hutu militias during the genocide against the Tutsis in 1994; it was only by a miracle that Karabo managed to survive: “When some people asked me to narrate to them what happened that day, I said, ‘I remember the day they killed us—’And someone would remind me that I was still alive.” She goes to live in the home of her uncle, Kamanzi, from which she’s escorted on errands by a Tutsi soldier, Shema. Although the genocide has ended, bitter feelings still exist on both sides, and Karabo’s multiethnic identity puts her at odds with nearly everyone around her. Her Tutsi peers at school berate her for being part of a family that included a leader of one of the death squads, and Shema (who’s unaware of Karabo’s mother’s ethnicity) says that he could never be at peace with a Hutu—or even the relative of one. There are Hutus who opposed the genocide, and who are kind to Karabo: her classmate Sugira, and her mother’s brother, Gasana. Even with them, however, tensions arise as everyone remembers their own versions of the past. As Karabo goes to college and falls in love, she’s forced to confront the ongoing tragedies of her nation. Umwagarwa’s prose, as narrated by Karabo, pops with inventive turns of phrase: “Electrical chemistry bounced in my heart. It punctured my stomach and the upper level of my legs. I wondered if that was what they called love.” The author is, like her protagonist, a survivor of the 1994 genocide, and as such, she offers a complex and empathetic perspective on its difficult aftermath. She also adeptly highlights the interrelatedness of Rwanda’s warring groups over the course of the novel. Although the pace is often plodding, overall, Karabo’s story provides readers with an illuminating investigation into the ways that people can dehumanize one another.

A thoughtful, if somewhat slow-paced, story of post-genocide Rwanda.

Pub Date: Sept. 27, 2018

ISBN: N/A

Page Count: 283

Publisher: Dog Ear Publisher

Review Posted Online: Sept. 21, 2018

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Packed with riveting drama and painful truths, this book powerfully illustrates the devastation of abuse—and the strength of...

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IT ENDS WITH US

Hoover’s (November 9, 2015, etc.) latest tackles the difficult subject of domestic violence with romantic tenderness and emotional heft.

At first glance, the couple is edgy but cute: Lily Bloom runs a flower shop for people who hate flowers; Ryle Kincaid is a surgeon who says he never wants to get married or have kids. They meet on a rooftop in Boston on the night Ryle loses a patient and Lily attends her abusive father’s funeral. The provocative opening takes a dark turn when Lily receives a warning about Ryle’s intentions from his sister, who becomes Lily’s employee and close friend. Lily swears she’ll never end up in another abusive home, but when Ryle starts to show all the same warning signs that her mother ignored, Lily learns just how hard it is to say goodbye. When Ryle is not in the throes of a jealous rage, his redeeming qualities return, and Lily can justify his behavior: “I think we needed what happened on the stairwell to happen so that I would know his past and we’d be able to work on it together,” she tells herself. Lily marries Ryle hoping the good will outweigh the bad, and the mother-daughter dynamics evolve beautifully as Lily reflects on her childhood with fresh eyes. Diary entries fancifully addressed to TV host Ellen DeGeneres serve as flashbacks to Lily’s teenage years, when she met her first love, Atlas Corrigan, a homeless boy she found squatting in a neighbor’s house. When Atlas turns up in Boston, now a successful chef, he begs Lily to leave Ryle. Despite the better option right in front of her, an unexpected complication forces Lily to cut ties with Atlas, confront Ryle, and try to end the cycle of abuse before it’s too late. The relationships are portrayed with compassion and honesty, and the author’s note at the end that explains Hoover’s personal connection to the subject matter is a must-read.

Packed with riveting drama and painful truths, this book powerfully illustrates the devastation of abuse—and the strength of the survivors.

Pub Date: Aug. 2, 2016

ISBN: 978-1-5011-1036-8

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Atria

Review Posted Online: May 31, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2016

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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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