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THE HIDDEN PALACE

An enchanting tale that, though demanding lots of suspended disbelief, pleases on every page.

Wecker returns, eight years after The Golem and the Jinni, with a sequel that brings the saga into the 20th century.

In a blend of romance, Mary Shelley–esque horror, and folklore, Wecker recounts the continuing adventures of Chava, the Jewish golem, and Ahmad, the Arabian jinni. Bound to each other by love, they have nonetheless parted long enough for Ahmad to have had a brief affair with a human. “I wasn’t careful enough. I made her ill, permanently. I’m not certain how it happened, I only know that I was the cause,” he confesses to Chava. And now, Sophia Winston, known as Saffiyah among the Bedouins she visits—“Saffiyah the stranger, Saffiyah the afflicted”—has a big problem: Having been touched by the jinni, the spirit of pure fire, she can’t get warm, even in the blast furnace of the desert, where, among other historical characters, she runs into a certain Thomas E. Lawrence—soon to be known as Lawrence of Arabia—and Gertrude Bell. Meanwhile, back in New York, Chava, now known as Chava Levy, and Ahmad find each other again, performing miraculous labors, she as a champion baker who, of course, doesn’t need to sleep and he as an “iron-bound” figure in human form who works diligently, in self-imposed exile, for a Syrian immigrant tinsmith. Not far away, a rabbi happens upon a secret book that contains the recipe for making a golem—a project fraught with peril but one that turns out to be helpful to his daughter, Kreindel, after bad fortune lands her in an orphanage. Kreindel is the most resourceful of the characters Wecker sets into motion in this tale, and she knows a golem when she sees one, including the one who teaches her home ec. Wecker skillfully combines the storylines of these and numerous other players, good and evil, in a story that, while self-contained, gives every promise of being continued.

An enchanting tale that, though demanding lots of suspended disbelief, pleases on every page.

Pub Date: June 8, 2021

ISBN: 978-0-06-246871-0

Page Count: 480

Publisher: Harper/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: March 16, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2021

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THE WOMEN

A dramatic, vividly detailed reconstruction of a little-known aspect of the Vietnam War.

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A young woman’s experience as a nurse in Vietnam casts a deep shadow over her life.

When we learn that the farewell party in the opening scene is for Frances “Frankie” McGrath’s older brother—“a golden boy, a wild child who could make the hardest heart soften”—who is leaving to serve in Vietnam in 1966, we feel pretty certain that poor Finley McGrath is marked for death. Still, it’s a surprise when the fateful doorbell rings less than 20 pages later. His death inspires his sister to enlist as an Army nurse, and this turn of events is just the beginning of a roller coaster of a plot that’s impressive and engrossing if at times a bit formulaic. Hannah renders the experiences of the young women who served in Vietnam in all-encompassing detail. The first half of the book, set in gore-drenched hospital wards, mildewed dorm rooms, and boozy officers’ clubs, is an exciting read, tracking the transformation of virginal, uptight Frankie into a crack surgical nurse and woman of the world. Her tensely platonic romance with a married surgeon ends when his broken, unbreathing body is airlifted out by helicopter; she throws her pent-up passion into a wild affair with a soldier who happens to be her dead brother’s best friend. In the second part of the book, after the war, Frankie seems to experience every possible bad break. A drawback of the story is that none of the secondary characters in her life are fully three-dimensional: Her dismissive, chauvinistic father and tight-lipped, pill-popping mother, her fellow nurses, and her various love interests are more plot devices than people. You’ll wish you could have gone to Vegas and placed a bet on the ending—while it’s against all the odds, you’ll see it coming from a mile away.

A dramatic, vividly detailed reconstruction of a little-known aspect of the Vietnam War.

Pub Date: Feb. 6, 2024

ISBN: 9781250178633

Page Count: 480

Publisher: St. Martin's

Review Posted Online: Nov. 4, 2023

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2023

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HAPPY PLACE

A wistfully nostalgic look at endings, beginnings, and loving the people who will always have your back.

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Exes pretend they’re still together for the sake of their friends on their annual summer vacation.

Wyn Connor and Harriet Kilpatrick were the perfect couple—until Wyn dumped Harriet for reasons she still doesn’t fully understand. They’ve been part of the same boisterous friend group since college, and they know that their breakup will devastate the others and make things more than a little awkward. So they keep it a secret from their friends and families—in fact, Harriet barely even admits it to herself, focusing instead on her grueling hours as a surgical resident. She’s ready for a vacation at her happy place—the Maine cottage she and her friends visit every summer. But (surprise!) Wyn is there too, and he and Harriet have to share a (very romantic) room and a bed. Telling the truth about their breakup is out of the question, because the cottage is up for sale, and this is the group’s last hurrah. Determined to make sure everyone has the perfect last trip, Harriet and Wyn resolve to fake their relationship for the week. The problem with this plan, of course, is that Harriet still has major feelings for Wyn—feelings that only get stronger as they pretend to be blissfully in love. As always, Henry’s dialogue is sparkling and the banter between characters is snappy and hilarious. Wyn and Harriet’s relationship, shown both in the past and the present, feels achingly real. Their breakup, as well as their complicated relationships with their own families, adds a twinge of melancholy, as do the relatable growing pains of a group of friends whose lives are taking them in different directions.

A wistfully nostalgic look at endings, beginnings, and loving the people who will always have your back.

Pub Date: April 25, 2023

ISBN: 9780593441275

Page Count: 400

Publisher: Berkley

Review Posted Online: Feb. 23, 2023

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2023

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