The arrival of a top-notch talent.

THE ADVENTURIST

A brilliant, introspective, socially awkward software engineer navigates corporate and personal challenges.

Hipps’ classy debut novel bears an epigraph from The Moviegoer—“Businessmen are our only metaphysicians”—and earns comparison to Walker Percy’s classic in its exploration of their shared premise. Here the businessman is Henry Hurt, head of the tech department at a firm called Cyber Systems, located in an office tower in an unnamed Southern city. Though he loves his job and is exceedingly good at it, Henry doesn’t actually give a damn about Internet security software: “What moves me to work is money’s comforts, yes, and also a community of smart, mostly efficient people; the sense of place that a good office gives.” This sense of place has become all the more essential since the death less than a year ago of Henry’s mother, back in Minnesota where he was raised and where he ends up several times on business trips in the course of the story. There, he visits his failing father and younger sister, Gretchen, the closest person in his life. Rocked by his loss at a nearly preconscious level, Henry pours his psychic energies into the “adventures” of the title, one being the need to help save his company from a massive shortfall in sales; the other, a similarly massive crush on a married co-worker. The writing is just about perfect: incisive, eloquent, philosophical, and witty by turns, whether describing a NASCAR race, a hotel lobby, a corporate meeting, the comportment of the slick, devious, hard-drinking sales manager Henry works with, or—most profoundly—what it is like to lose one’s mother. “What were you doing in her closet?” Gretchen asks. “You know perfectly well,” Henry replies. “Yes,” she says. He explains to the reader: “I wanted to have a look at her bedroom slippers. The terry cloth inside is worn to a dark shine. They seemed among the most unlikely things in the world.” Like Richard Ford, Hipps finds illumination about the meaning of life everywhere he looks.

The arrival of a top-notch talent.

Pub Date: April 5, 2016

ISBN: 978-1-250-06223-9

Page Count: 288

Publisher: St. Martin's

Review Posted Online: Jan. 20, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2016

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Absolutely enthralling. Read it.

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NORMAL PEOPLE

A young Irish couple gets together, splits up, gets together, splits up—sorry, can't tell you how it ends!

Irish writer Rooney has made a trans-Atlantic splash since publishing her first novel, Conversations With Friends, in 2017. Her second has already won the Costa Novel Award, among other honors, since it was published in Ireland and Britain last year. In outline it's a simple story, but Rooney tells it with bravura intelligence, wit, and delicacy. Connell Waldron and Marianne Sheridan are classmates in the small Irish town of Carricklea, where his mother works for her family as a cleaner. It's 2011, after the financial crisis, which hovers around the edges of the book like a ghost. Connell is popular in school, good at soccer, and nice; Marianne is strange and friendless. They're the smartest kids in their class, and they forge an intimacy when Connell picks his mother up from Marianne's house. Soon they're having sex, but Connell doesn't want anyone to know and Marianne doesn't mind; either she really doesn't care, or it's all she thinks she deserves. Or both. Though one time when she's forced into a social situation with some of their classmates, she briefly fantasizes about what would happen if she revealed their connection: "How much terrifying and bewildering status would accrue to her in this one moment, how destabilising it would be, how destructive." When they both move to Dublin for Trinity College, their positions are swapped: Marianne now seems electric and in-demand while Connell feels adrift in this unfamiliar environment. Rooney's genius lies in her ability to track her characters' subtle shifts in power, both within themselves and in relation to each other, and the ways they do and don't know each other; they both feel most like themselves when they're together, but they still have disastrous failures of communication. "Sorry about last night," Marianne says to Connell in February 2012. Then Rooney elaborates: "She tries to pronounce this in a way that communicates several things: apology, painful embarrassment, some additional pained embarrassment that serves to ironise and dilute the painful kind, a sense that she knows she will be forgiven or is already, a desire not to 'make a big deal.' " Then: "Forget about it, he says." Rooney precisely articulates everything that's going on below the surface; there's humor and insight here as well as the pleasure of getting to know two prickly, complicated people as they try to figure out who they are and who they want to become.

Absolutely enthralling. Read it.

Pub Date: April 16, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-984-82217-8

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Hogarth

Review Posted Online: Feb. 18, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2019

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This book sings with the terrible silence of dead civilizations in which once there was valor.

THINGS FALL APART

Written with quiet dignity that builds to a climax of tragic force, this book about the dissolution of an African tribe, its traditions, and values, represents a welcome departure from the familiar "Me, white brother" genre.

Written by a Nigerian African trained in missionary schools, this novel tells quietly the story of a brave man, Okonkwo, whose life has absolute validity in terms of his culture, and who exercises his prerogative as a warrior, father, and husband with unflinching single mindedness. But into the complex Nigerian village filters the teachings of strangers, teachings so alien to the tribe, that resistance is impossible. One must distinguish a force to be able to oppose it, and to most, the talk of Christian salvation is no more than the babbling of incoherent children. Still, with his guns and persistence, the white man, amoeba-like, gradually absorbs the native culture and in despair, Okonkwo, unable to withstand the corrosion of what he, alone, understands to be the life force of his people, hangs himself. In the formlessness of the dying culture, it is the missionary who takes note of the event, reminding himself to give Okonkwo's gesture a line or two in his work, The Pacification of the Primitive Tribes of the Lower Niger.

This book sings with the terrible silence of dead civilizations in which once there was valor.

Pub Date: Jan. 23, 1958

ISBN: 0385474547

Page Count: 207

Publisher: McDowell, Obolensky

Review Posted Online: April 23, 2013

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 1958

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