Inventive and engaging, full of drama, plus a few tears.

FIRST DOG ON EARTH

HOW IT ALL BEGAN

A debut novel that offers a charmingly imaginative, poignant prehistoric adventure in which one unique wolf and an intuitive tribal elder form a fateful bond.

When Oomha and his littermates were born, his mother knew they were different, which put them in danger of being mercilessly killed by the pack’s alpha male (an outmoded view of wolf behavior). As they grew, their “bodies stayed smaller and sleeker. Their eyes looked larger and closer together. Their behavior was more trusting and tamer, more curious and playful, more approachable and affectionate. And they were smarter by far than any of the other pups around them.” Hoping for the best, she leads them into the woods and abandons them to their own devices. Oomha becomes the litter-pack leader. One day, he picks up a new and unidentifiable smell. When he investigates, he discovers the strangest animals he has ever seen, ones that walk upright on their “back paws.” He moves in closer and settles down to study these creatures as they sit by their campsite fire. This is when he notices Ish, an old hunter with only one usable eye. Ish, once the tribal leader, can no longer run with the younger hunters, but he is wise and alert. He sees the red flash of Oomha’s eyes. Man and wolf make their first connection: “something [passed] between them.” Weinberg tells a tale not only of the intense human/dog relationship, but also of the progression of human skills. And he achieves this through the creation of three finely drawn characters—Oomha, Ish, and Lut, the beautiful, young, and mystical Medicine Woman who falls in love with Ish. Through the gifts he receives from Oomha, Ish leads the clan to unrivalled success. Centuries of human development are compressed into a few years through Weinberg’s vignettes depicting inspirational moments experienced by Ish or Lut that lead to such concepts as herding goats and planting crops. But Oomha is the star of the narrative. It is his kind, protective soul that readers will carry with them beyond the final page.

Inventive and engaging, full of drama, plus a few tears.

Pub Date: Oct. 20, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-951317-19-5

Page Count: 232

Publisher: Weeva

Review Posted Online: Nov. 24, 2020

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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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An exhilarating ride through Americana.

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THE LINCOLN HIGHWAY

Newly released from a work farm in 1950s Kansas, where he served 18 months for involuntary manslaughter, 18-year-old Emmett Watson hits the road with his little brother, Billy, following the death of their father and the foreclosure of their Nebraska farm.

They leave to escape angry townspeople who believe Emmett got off easy, having caused the fatal fall of a taunting local boy by punching him in the nose. The whip-smart Billy, who exhibits OCD–like symptoms, convinces Emmett to drive them to San Francisco to reunite with their mother, who left town eight years ago. He insists she's there, based on postcards she sent before completely disappearing from their lives. But when Emmett's prized red Studebaker is "borrowed" by two rambunctious, New York–bound escapees from the juvie facility he just left, Emmett takes after them via freight train with Billy in tow. Billy befriends a Black veteran named Ulysses who's been riding the rails nonstop since returning home from World War II to find his wife and baby boy gone. A modern picaresque with a host of characters, competing points of view, wandering narratives, and teasing chapter endings, Towles' third novel is even more entertaining than his much-acclaimed A Gentleman in Moscow (2016). You can quibble with one or two plot turns, but there's no resisting moments such as Billy's encounter, high up in the Empire State Building in the middle of the night, with professor Abacus Abernathe, whose Compendium of Heroes, Adventurers, and Other Intrepid Travelers he's read 24 times. A remarkable blend of sweetness and doom, Towles' novel is packed with revelations about the American myth, the art of storytelling, and the unrelenting pull of history.

An exhilarating ride through Americana.

Pub Date: Oct. 5, 2021

ISBN: 978-0-73-522235-9

Page Count: 592

Publisher: Viking

Review Posted Online: June 22, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2021

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