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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For devoted Hannah fans in search of a good cry.

THE FOUR WINDS

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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A compelling portrait of a marriage gone desperately sour.

THE MYSTERY OF MRS. CHRISTIE

In December 1926, mystery writer Agatha Christie really did disappear for 11 days. Was it a hoax? Or did her husband resort to foul play?

When Agatha meets Archie on a dance floor in 1912, the obscure yet handsome pilot quickly sweeps her off her feet with his daring. Archie seems smitten with her. Defying her family’s expectations, Agatha consents to marry Archie rather than her intended, the reliable yet boring Reggie Lucy. Although the war keeps them apart, straining their early marriage, Agatha finds meaningful work as a nurse and dispensary assistant, jobs that teach her a lot about poisons, knowledge that helps shape her early short stories and novels. While Agatha’s career flourishes after the war, Archie suffers setback after setback. Determined to keep her man happy, Agatha finds herself cooking elaborate meals, squelching her natural affections for their daughter (after all, Archie must always feel like the most important person in her life), and downplaying her own troubles, including her grief over her mother's death. Nonetheless, Archie grows increasingly morose. In fact, he is away from home the day Agatha disappears. By the time Detective Chief Constable Kenward arrives, Agatha has already been missing for a day. After discovering—and burning—a mysterious letter from Agatha, Archie is less than eager to help the police. His reluctance and arrogance work against him, and soon the police, the newspapers, the Christies’ staff, and even his daughter’s classmates suspect him of harming his wife. Benedict concocts a worthy mystery of her own, as chapters alternate between Archie’s negotiation of the investigation and Agatha’s recounting of their relationship. She keeps the reader guessing: Which narrator is reliable? Who is the real villain?

A compelling portrait of a marriage gone desperately sour.

Pub Date: Dec. 29, 2020

ISBN: N/A

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Sourcebooks Landmark

Review Posted Online: Sept. 30, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 2020

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