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A POSTCARD FOR ANNIE

The complexities of love and the passage of time enrich this insightful, original collection.

These six short stories by award-winning Danish writer and translator Jessen take an unshrinking look at love in various forms.

A woman who makes a living reupholstering furniture finds herself reevaluating her husband after a visit from a dying friend. Trapped in her marriage by love and hope, she considers the other small-business owners in their seaside town: “Even in the crippling economic crisis, optimism prevailed, or perhaps more accurately stubborness [sic], indomitableness...making the best of a bad situation.” In another story, told from multiple points of view, the mother of two young children is murdered, and an elderly couple with information about the crime faces an agonizing choice. A translator in a sexually unsatisfying marriage fights with her husband, then reconciles, then fights again. “How horrid a love,” she thinks. Romantic or maternal, love demands a steep price. In the story “Mother and Son,” Lisbet imagines she can see her wayward 20-year-old “surrounded by a light so fierce that even a bitterly cold day in a dismal parking lot feels like unrequited love.” Jessen's writing is graceful, unhurried, convincing. The narratives unfold in unexpected ways. In the title story, a young woman witnesses a bus accident and meets a man. The story then jumps ahead 20 years. Returning to the city where it happened, she reflects on how that small event changed her life and on the girl she'd been then. An awareness of time—whether years or eons—brightens otherwise bleak situations. The furniture repairer muses about the previous ice age: “Digging in the garden, she would find remains of seaweed embedded deep in the sandy soil. And far out on the open sea, fishermen would discover in their nets the roots of trees from a bygone forest. She took some measure of comfort in this, the knowledge that in time everything came round again.”

The complexities of love and the passage of time enrich this insightful, original collection.

Pub Date: June 21, 2022

ISBN: 978-1-953861-22-1

Page Count: 180

Publisher: Archipelago

Review Posted Online: March 1, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2022

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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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DEVOLUTION

A tasty, if not always tasteful, tale of supernatural mayhem that fans of King and Crichton alike will enjoy.

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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. 9, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2020

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