A memorable, beautifully written story of love and loss.

South African novelist Vladislavić delivers a moving, closely observed study in family dynamics in a time of apartheid.

Like the author, Joe and Branko Blahavić are the descendants of a Croatian migrant who landed in South Africa and stayed, of which their father remarks, “He knew people in Pretoria. That’s what immigrants do. They find some connection to help them out until they’re on their feet.” Joe would rather be by the sea than in the waterless Transvaal, but, around the time of the Fight of the Century—the 1971 smackdown between Muhammad Ali and Joe Frazier—he contents himself with keeping elaborate scrapbooks devoted to The Champ: “In the buildup to the fight I started to collect cuttings,” says Joe, “and for the next five years I kept everything about Ali that I could lay my hands on, trimming hundreds of articles out of the broadsheets and pasting them into scrapbooks.” Joe and Branko’s childhood closeness widens in adolescence and adulthood, but the distance of which Vladislavić writes comes in many forms: that of the immigrants from an apartheid society, that of families as the children grow up and move away, in Joe’s case to America, where he becomes a writer. Joe returns to South Africa but suffers a bad end, leaving it to Branko to reconstruct his brother’s life through those scrapbooks and complete the book Joe has been contracted to write about them. “Scenes from our childhood flicker to life and I write them down as they come. That’s something he taught me: thinking about writing is not the same as actually doing it,” Branko says, later texting Joe’s editor, “Btw the book is not actually about Ali.” Indeed it’s not, though the boisterous Ali is a leitmotif. It helps to know a little South African patois (“Going to the rofstoei on a Saturday night is a big thing for two teenage boys, especially when we don’t have to take care of the lighties”), but allowing for a few linguistic puzzles, Vladislavić’s tale unfolds with grace and precision.

A memorable, beautifully written story of love and loss.

Pub Date: Sept. 15, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-939810-76-2

Page Count: 210

Publisher: Archipelago

Review Posted Online: June 16, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2020


A captivating allegory about evil, lies, and forgiveness.

Truth and deception clash in this tale of the Holocaust.

Udo Graf is proud that the Wolf has assigned him the task of expelling all 50,000 Jews from Salonika, Greece. In that city, Nico Krispis is an 11-year-old Jewish boy whose blue eyes and blond hair deceive, but whose words do not. Those who know him know he has never told a lie in his life—“Never be the one to tell lies, Nico,” his grandfather teaches him. “God is always watching.” Udo and Nico meet, and Udo decides to exploit the child’s innocence. At the train station where Jews are being jammed into cattle cars bound for Auschwitz, Udo gives Nico a yellow star to wear and persuades him to whisper among the crowd, “I heard it from a German officer. They are sending us to Poland. We will have new homes. And jobs.” The lad doesn’t know any better, so he helps persuade reluctant Jews to board the train to hell. “You were a good little liar,” Udo later tells Nico, and delights in the prospect of breaking the boy’s spirit, which is more fun and a greater challenge than killing him outright. When Nico realizes the horrific nature of what he's done, his truth-telling days are over. He becomes an inveterate liar about everything. Narrating the story is the Angel of Truth, whom according to a parable God had cast out of heaven and onto earth, where Truth shattered into billions of pieces, each to lodge in a human heart. (Obviously, many hearts have been missed.) Truth skillfully weaves together the characters, including Nico; his brother, Sebastian; Sebastian’s wife, Fannie; and the “heartless deceiver” Udo. Events extend for decades beyond World War II, until everyone’s lives finally collide in dramatic fashion. As Truth readily acknowledges, his account is loaded with twists and turns, some fortuitous and others not. Will Nico Krispis ever seek redemption? And will he find it? Author Albom’s passion shows through on every page in this well-crafted novel.

A captivating allegory about evil, lies, and forgiveness.

Pub Date: Nov. 14, 2023

ISBN: 9780062406651

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Harper/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Sept. 21, 2023

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 2023


A book begging to be read on the beach, with the sun warming the sand and salt in the air: pure escapism.

Three woman who join together to rent a large space along the beach in Los Angeles for their stores—a gift shop, a bakery, and a bookstore—become fast friends as they each experience the highs, and lows, of love.

Bree is a friendly but standoffish bookstore owner who keeps everyone she knows at arm’s length, from guys she meets in bars to her friends. Mikki is a settled-in-her-routines divorced mother of two, happily a mom, gift-shop owner, and co-parent with her ex-husband, Perry. And Ashley is a young, very-much-in-love bakery owner specializing in muffins who devotes herself to giving back to the community through a nonprofit that helps community members develop skills and find jobs. When the women meet drooling over a boardwalk storefront that none of them can afford on her own, a plan is hatched to divide the space in three, and a friendship—and business partnership—is born. An impromptu celebration on the beach at sunset with champagne becomes a weekly touchpoint to their lives as they learn more about each other and themselves. Their friendship blossoms as they help each other, offering support, hard truths, and loving backup. Author Mallery has created a delightful story of friendship between three women that also offers a variety of love stories as they fall in love, make mistakes, and figure out how to be the best—albeit still flawed—versions of themselves. The men are similarly flawed and human. While the story comes down clearly on the side of all-encompassing love, Mallery has struck a careful balance: There is just enough sex to be spicy, just enough swearing to be naughty, and just enough heartbreak to avoid being cloying.

A book begging to be read on the beach, with the sun warming the sand and salt in the air: pure escapism.

Pub Date: May 31, 2022

ISBN: 978-0-778-38608-7

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Harlequin MIRA

Review Posted Online: March 15, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2022

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