A gritty story of a tough boy in a bad situation, weighed down by its competing genres.

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BLOODLIGHT

THE APOCALYPSE OF ROBERT GOLDNER

In Grey-Sun’s (Broken Angels, 2012) novel set in an ambiguously dark future, a high school wrestler deals with girl problems, bullies and intense visions.

After attending a wild party, Robert, a quiet but tough high school wrestler, finds himself in an increasingly large mess. His girlfriend, Leigh, is upset that he went to the party without her, and he tries to think of ways to make it up to her. Plus, upon leaving the party, he finds his best friend, Davin, passed out in the snow. As Davin recovers in the hospital, Robert has no one to talk to about his problems with Leigh—or about the strange things he’s been seeing lately: living snowmen, bodies stripped of their skin, his own hair removing itself from his head in a whirlwind of color. He suspects that they’re hallucinations brought on by his strangely strong acne medication, and these visions will likely be just as mystifying for readers. The story takes place in an alternate or near-future America in which the president has been murdered by the first lady, resulting in heightened security around the country. Robert also lives in a deeply intolerant part of Virginia, where race issues between black students and white students are magnified; Robert is black and Leigh is white, which means they have to keep their relationship secret. When Robert’s visions start to affect his wrestling performance, he’s hit with jeers from both his white and black teammates. Three types of stories seem to be competing here—fantasy, realism and dystopia—with little connection among them, which may strike readers as overly ambitious and confusing. As a result, the story might have been better served by either developing the relationships among the separate plotlines or by taking one approach—the realistic elements here are the strongest—and focusing on that single aspect of Robert’s life.

A gritty story of a tough boy in a bad situation, weighed down by its competing genres.

Pub Date: Feb. 7, 2013

ISBN: N/A

Page Count: 160

Publisher: BookBaby

Review Posted Online: March 8, 2013

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A strongly felt, if not terribly gripping, sendoff for a Turow favorite nearly 35 years after his appearance in Presumed...

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THE LAST TRIAL

Trying his final case at 85, celebrated criminal defense lawyer Sandy Stern defends a Nobel-winning doctor and longtime friend whose cancer wonder drug saved Stern's life but subsequently led to the deaths of others.

Federal prosecutors are charging the eminent doctor, Kiril Pafko, with murder, fraud, and insider trading. An Argentine émigré like Stern, Pafko is no angel. His counselor is certain he sold stock in the company that produced the drug, g-Livia, before users' deaths were reported. The 78-year-old Nobelist is a serial adulterer whose former and current lovers have strong ties to the case. Working for one final time alongside his daughter and proficient legal partner, Marta, who has announced she will close the firm and retire along with her father following the case, Stern must deal not only with "senior moments" before Chief Judge Sonya "Sonny" Klonsky, but also his physical frailty. While taking a deep dive into the ups and downs of a complicated big-time trial, Turow (Testimony, 2017, etc.) crafts a love letter to his profession through his elegiac appreciation of Stern, who has appeared in all his Kindle County novels. The grandly mannered attorney (his favorite response is "Just so") has dedicated himself to the law at great personal cost. But had he not spent so much of his life inside courtrooms, "He never would have known himself." With its bland prosecutors, frequent focus on technical details like "double-blind clinical trials," and lack of real surprises, the novel likely will disappoint some fans of legal thrillers. But this smoothly efficient book gains timely depth through its discussion of thorny moral issues raised by a drug that can extend a cancer sufferer's life expectancy at the risk of suddenly ending it.

A strongly felt, if not terribly gripping, sendoff for a Turow favorite nearly 35 years after his appearance in Presumed Innocent.

Pub Date: May 12, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-5387-4813-8

Page Count: 448

Publisher: Grand Central Publishing

Review Posted Online: Feb. 10, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2020

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With humor and insight, Straub creates a family worth rooting for.

ALL ADULTS HERE

When Astrid Strick witnesses a school bus run over a longtime acquaintance of hers—Barbara Baker, a woman she doesn't like very much—it's only the beginning of the shake-ups to come in her life and the lives of those she loves.

Astrid has been tootling along contentedly in the Hudson Valley town of Clapham, New York, a 68-year-old widow with three grown children. After many years of singlehood since her husband died, she's been quietly seeing Birdie Gonzalez, her hairdresser, for the past two years, and after Barbara's death she determines to tell her children about the relationship: "There was no time to waste, not in this life. There were always more school buses." Elliot, her oldest, who's in real estate, lives in Clapham with his wife, Wendy, who's Chinese American, and their twins toddlers, Aidan and Zachary, who are "such hellions that only a fool would willingly ask for more." Astrid's daughter, Porter, owns a nearby farm producing artisanal goat cheese and has just gotten pregnant through a sperm bank while having an affair with her married high school boyfriend. Nicky, the youngest Strick, is disconcertingly famous for having appeared in an era-defining movie when he was younger and now lives in Brooklyn with his French wife, Juliette, and their daughter, Cecelia, who's being shipped up to live with Astrid for a while after her friend got mixed up with a pedophile she met online. As always, Straub (Modern Lovers, 2016, etc.) draws her characters warmly, making them appealing in their self-centeredness and generosity, their insecurity and hope. The cast is realistically diverse, though in most ways it's fairly superficial; the fact that Birdie is Latina or Porter's obstetrician is African American doesn't have much impact on the story or their characters. Cecelia's new friend, August, wants to make the transition to Robin; that storyline gets more attention, with the two middle schoolers supporting each other through challenging times. The Stricks worry about work, money, sex, and gossip; Straub has a sharp eye for her characters' foibles and the details of their liberal, upper-middle-class milieu.

With humor and insight, Straub creates a family worth rooting for.

Pub Date: May 5, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-59463-469-7

Page Count: 368

Publisher: Riverhead

Review Posted Online: Feb. 10, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2020

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