We are in the hands of a skilled storyteller, and every word matters. A captivating story, and one that cries for a sequel.

WALKING TO GATLINBURG

There are two good reasons to go to Gatlinburg. One is to visit Dolly Parton’s theme park. Mosher (On Kingdom Mountain, 2007, etc.) limns the other in this expertly written novel.

Longtime readers of Mosher will not be surprised to find that his latest opens on ground well trod in other novels: the mountain country of northern Vermont, and specifically Kingdom Mountain, his Yoknapatawpha County. Morgan Kinneson is an exceedingly bright 17-year-old who has spent his young life exploring every corner of the mountain, becoming so knowledgeable about the place that he and his older brother Pilgrim had brought the pioneering naturalist Louis Agassiz “to the mountaintop to examine the glacial erratics, boulders brought down from the Far North by the great ice sheet.” Things have changed now, for Pilgrim, who had been packed off to college, has joined the Union Army and has now gone missing at the Battle of Gettysburg. Helping a runaway slave make his way north to Canada, Morgan is attacked by mysterious renegades—or are they rebel spies?—who want something of the fugitive’s. That something (readers of On Kingdom Mountain might just have a clue as to what it is), and perhaps a curse on his “yallow head” by one of his fallen tormentors, puts Morgan on a run that takes him to the still-fresh battlefield, down the back of the mountains and deep into the Confederacy in search of his missing brother. Morgan battles illness and attendant hallucinations, enjoys a “peaceful interlude in the heart of the land of the Brethren,” spends time in the rebel capital, falls in love and otherwise has grand adventures that would seem improbable in lesser hands. And if a long walk through the Civil War–era South seems familiar, consider the author of the echoing book one of those lesser hands by comparison with Mosher, who closes with a grand unexpected moment that, on reflection, makes perfect sense.

We are in the hands of a skilled storyteller, and every word matters. A captivating story, and one that cries for a sequel.

Pub Date: March 2, 2010

ISBN: 978-0-307-45067-8

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Shaye Areheart/Harmony

Review Posted Online: Dec. 25, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2010

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Miller makes Homer pertinent to women facing 21st-century monsters.

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CIRCE

A retelling of ancient Greek lore gives exhilarating voice to a witch.

“Monsters are a boon for gods. Imagine all the prayers.” So says Circe, a sly, petulant, and finally commanding voice that narrates the entirety of Miller’s dazzling second novel. The writer returns to Homer, the wellspring that led her to an Orange Prize for The Song of Achilles (2012). This time, she dips into The Odyssey for the legend of Circe, a nymph who turns Odysseus’ crew of men into pigs. The novel, with its distinctive feminist tang, starts with the sentence: “When I was born, the name for what I was did not exist.” Readers will relish following the puzzle of this unpromising daughter of the sun god Helios and his wife, Perse, who had negligible use for their child. It takes banishment to the island Aeaea for Circe to sense her calling as a sorceress: “I will not be like a bird bred in a cage, I thought, too dull to fly even when the door stands open. I stepped into those woods and my life began.” This lonely, scorned figure learns herbs and potions, surrounds herself with lions, and, in a heart-stopping chapter, outwits the monster Scylla to propel Daedalus and his boat to safety. She makes lovers of Hermes and then two mortal men. She midwifes the birth of the Minotaur on Crete and performs her own C-section. And as she grows in power, she muses that “not even Odysseus could talk his way past [her] witchcraft. He had talked his way past the witch instead.” Circe’s fascination with mortals becomes the book’s marrow and delivers its thrilling ending. All the while, the supernatural sits intriguingly alongside “the tonic of ordinary things.” A few passages coil toward melodrama, and one inelegant line after a rape seems jarringly modern, but the spell holds fast. Expect Miller’s readership to mushroom like one of Circe’s spells.

Miller makes Homer pertinent to women facing 21st-century monsters.

Pub Date: April 10, 2018

ISBN: 978-0-316-55634-7

Page Count: 400

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: Jan. 23, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2018

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More about grief and tragedy than romance.

FRIENDS FOREVER

Five friends meet on their first day of kindergarten at the exclusive Atwood School and remain lifelong friends through tragedy and triumph.

When Gabby, Billy, Izzie, Andy and Sean meet in the toy kitchen of the kindergarten classroom on their first day of school, no one can know how strong the group’s friendship will remain. Despite their different personalities and interests, the five grow up together and become even closer as they come into their own talents and life paths. But tragedy will strike and strike again. Family troubles, abusive parents, drugs, alcohol, stress, grief and even random bad luck will put pressure on each of them individually and as a group. Known for her emotional romances, Steel makes a bit of a departure with this effort that follows a group of friends through young adulthood. But even as one tragedy after another befalls the friends, the impact of the events is blunted by a distant narrative style that lacks emotional intensity. 

More about grief and tragedy than romance.

Pub Date: July 24, 2012

ISBN: 978-0-385-34321-3

Page Count: 322

Publisher: Delacorte

Review Posted Online: Nov. 14, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2012

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