A historical tale that sheds light on a compelling revolutionary woman from Italian history.


In his debut novel, Bobain explores the life, ideals, and struggles of real-life 19th-century Italian revolutionary Cristina Trivulzio di Belgiojoso.

By the First Italian War for Independence in 1848, socialist republican noblewoman Cristina is already an enemy of the Austrian Empire. She’s a native of Austrian-controlled Milan and had witnessed the arrest of her stepfather, a democratic advocate, thus igniting her lifelong goal of Italian independence. After a failed marriage and political exile to Paris, she becomes a financier of revolutionaries abroad, using her charm and connections to fund the cause. During this time, she gives birth to her daughter, Maria, who grows up longing for a life of stability and privilege. Eventually, Cristina and Maria settle briefly in Turkey before embarking on a dangerous pilgrimage to Jerusalem and back. Along the way, mother and daughter struggle to understand each other. Bobain offers an engaging and informative glimpse into the life of a little-celebrated architect of Italian unification, told in a nonchronological series of recollections by Cristina and Maria. His thoughtful prose is at its best during moments when his narrators’ ideologies, flaws, and disappointments are on full display, as when Cristina notes that “the kings and the popes can contend with violence and aggression. But empathy, that terrifies them.” The writing can sometimes feel repetitive, though, especially during the pilgrimage to Jerusalem, during which the characters retell identical events in a manner that lacks the tension of earlier chapters. Bobain also presupposes a familiarity with Italian history that may leave many readers wishing that the book had provided more context. However, the work truly shines when conveying the brutality that Italy faced, as when a wounded soldier dies: “I had read to him from Dickens….Yet he would die without having heard how the story ends, neither the one penned by Dickens nor the one written, in part, with his own blood.”

A historical tale that sheds light on a compelling revolutionary woman from Italian history.

Pub Date: Feb. 10, 2021


Page Count: 184

Publisher: Icarus

Review Posted Online: March 23, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 2021

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Light on suspense but still a solid page-turner.


When a devoted husband and father disappears, his wife and daughter set out to find him.

Hannah Hall is deeply in love with her husband of one year, Owen Michaels. She’s also determined to win over his 16-year-old daughter, Bailey, who has made it very clear that she’s not thrilled with her new stepmother. Despite the drama, the family is mostly a happy one. They live in a lovely houseboat in Sausalito; Hannah is a woodturner whose handmade furniture brings in high-dollar clientele; and Owen works for The Shop, a successful tech firm. Their lives are shattered, however, when Hannah receives a note saying “Protect her” and can’t reach Owen by phone. Then there’s the bag full of cash Bailey finds in her school locker and the shocking news that The Shop’s CEO has been taken into custody. Hannah learns that the FBI has been investigating the firm for about a year regarding some hot new software they took to market before it was fully functional, falsifying their financial statements. Hannah refuses to believe her husband is involved in the fraud, and a U.S. marshal assigned to the case claims Owen isn’t a suspect. Hannah doesn’t know whom to trust, though, and she and Bailey resolve to root out the clues that might lead to Owen. They must also learn to trust one another. Hannah’s narrative alternates past and present, detailing her early days with Owen alongside her current hunt for him, and author Dave throws in a touch of danger and a few surprises. But what really drives the story is the evolving nature of Hannah and Bailey’s relationship, which is by turns poignant and frustrating but always realistic.

Light on suspense but still a solid page-turner.

Pub Date: May 4, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-5011-7134-5

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: Feb. 10, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2021

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For devoted Hannah fans in search of a good cry.


The miseries of the Depression and Dust Bowl years shape the destiny of a Texas family.

“Hope is a coin I carry: an American penny, given to me by a man I came to love. There were times in my journey when I felt as if that penny and the hope it represented were the only things that kept me going.” We meet Elsa Wolcott in Dalhart, Texas, in 1921, on the eve of her 25th birthday, and wind up with her in California in 1936 in a saga of almost unrelieved woe. Despised by her shallow parents and sisters for being sickly and unattractive—“too tall, too thin, too pale, too unsure of herself”—Elsa escapes their cruelty when a single night of abandon leads to pregnancy and forced marriage to the son of Italian immigrant farmers. Though she finds some joy working the land, tending the animals, and learning her way around Mama Rose's kitchen, her marriage is never happy, the pleasures of early motherhood are brief, and soon the disastrous droughts of the 1930s drive all the farmers of the area to despair and starvation. Elsa's search for a better life for her children takes them out west to California, where things turn out to be even worse. While she never overcomes her low self-esteem about her looks, Elsa displays an iron core of character and courage as she faces dust storms, floods, hunger riots, homelessness, poverty, the misery of migrant labor, bigotry, union busting, violent goons, and more. The pedantic aims of the novel are hard to ignore as Hannah embodies her history lesson in what feels like a series of sepia-toned postcards depicting melodramatic scenes and clichéd emotions.

For devoted Hannah fans in search of a good cry.

Pub Date: Feb. 9, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-2501-7860-2

Page Count: 464

Publisher: St. Martin's

Review Posted Online: Nov. 18, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2020

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