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SURVIVING THE DEADLY UPHEAVAL

A HISTORICAL NOVEL BASED ON TRUE STORIES OF MANY PEOPLE HAVING ENDURED THE GREAT FORGOTTEN EXPULSION

A skillful and affecting combination of literary drama and historical research.

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After the conclusion of World War II, a German Bohemian family is forced from its home in Czechoslovakia and beset by hardships in this debut novel.

During the war, invading German forces annexed Czech territories, causing considerable resentment against local German Bohemians and German Czechs. In 1945, the war is over, and following seven years of German occupation, the acrimony “had turned ugly, brutal, and violent.” Hans and Mattie Novak, two German Bohemians, fret anxiously over their increasingly precarious future and prepare for the worst-case scenario—a relocation, which would be daunting for them and their four kids. However, the decision is made for them when Hans is brutally beaten by local policemen and ordered to leave his beloved home immediately. Author Albert poignantly chronicles the harrowing plight of the Novaks, who attempt to cross through the forest into Austria and take temporary lodging at an American refugee camp. This refuge is short-lived, however, as the camp is ravaged by a typhus epidemic, and the disease nearly costs Mattie her life. The family finally makes their way to the home of Hans’ best friend, Heinrich. But Heinrich later savagely rapes and beats Mattie, which plunges her into a deep depression. In lucid, unflinching language, Albert ably captures the burdens of the Novaks’ exile over the course of the book. The author also affectingly limns the historical period in which they lived, as well as the ethnic divisions that roiled Czechoslovakia in the wake of the Second World War—and especially the hatred of a people that “wanted fierce revenge—cruel, violent revenge—and all with the blessing of President Beneš’ retribution decree.” Overall, Albert delivers a moving tale that’s emotionally authentic and historically astute.

A skillful and affecting combination of literary drama and historical research.

Pub Date: Jan. 23, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-5255-5719-4

Page Count: 168

Publisher: FriesenPress

Review Posted Online: March 25, 2020

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  • New York Times Bestseller

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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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LONG ISLAND

A moving portrait of rueful middle age and the failure to connect.

An acclaimed novelist revisits the central characters of his best-known work.

At the end of Brooklyn (2009), Eilis Lacey departed Ireland for the second and final time—headed back to New York and the Italian American husband she had secretly married after first traveling there for work. In her hometown of Enniscorthy, she left behind Jim Farrell, a young man she’d fallen in love with during her visit, and the inevitable gossip about her conduct. Tóibín’s 11th novel introduces readers to Eilis 20 years later, in 1976, still married to Tony Fiorello and living in the titular suburbia with their two teenage children. But Eilis’ seemingly placid existence is disturbed when a stranger confronts her, accusing Tony of having an affair with his wife—now pregnant—and threatening to leave the baby on their doorstep. “She’d known men like this in Ireland,” Tóibín writes. “Should one of them discover that their wife had been unfaithful and was pregnant as a result, they would not have the baby in the house.” This shock sends Eilis back to Enniscorthy for a visit—or perhaps a longer stay. (Eilis’ motives are as inscrutable as ever, even to herself.) She finds the never-married Jim managing his late father’s pub; unbeknownst to Eilis (and the town), he’s become involved with her widowed friend Nancy, who struggles to maintain the family chip shop. Eilis herself appears different to her old friends: “Something had happened to her in America,” Nancy concludes. Although the novel begins with a soap-operatic confrontation—and ends with a dramatic denouement, as Eilis’ fate is determined in a plot twist worthy of Edith Wharton—the author is a master of quiet, restrained prose, calmly observing the mores and mindsets of provincial Ireland, not much changed from the 1950s.

A moving portrait of rueful middle age and the failure to connect.

Pub Date: May 7, 2024

ISBN: 9781476785110

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Scribner

Review Posted Online: Feb. 3, 2024

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2024

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