A vivid portrayal of Hamilton and those who lived in his influential sphere.

HAMILTON'S CHOICE

A historical novel about the emotional and political events that led up to the famous duel between Alexander Hamilton and Aaron Burr.

It’s 1801, and Hamilton’s eldest son, Philip, is in the streets of Manhattan, celebrating the inaugural Independence Day under Thomas Jefferson’s administration, when he hears George Eacker besmirch his father, calling him a traitor. Young and focused almost singularly on the concept of honor, Philip is unwilling to let go of the insult. He challenges Eacker to a duel, careful to keep the news from his parents. However, when Hamilton learns of his son’s plans, he and Philip debate the merits of “delope”— throwing away one’s shot. Philip is unwilling to do this, so Hamilton suggests that he shoot, but not kill, Eacker, which will allow Philip to retain his honor. Their plan goes awry, however, resulting in a heart-wrenching fatality. This loss leads Hamilton to carry guilt, as well as the secret of his prior knowledge of Philip’s duel, for the rest of his life. Meanwhile, Burr, Jefferson’s vice president, learns that he will not be on the ballot for Jefferson’s second term. He agrees to support a Federalist plot to have New England secede from the Union if he’s elected governor of New York and subsequently named president of the new confederacy. With support from the Federalists and his connections to the corrupt Tammany Hall, Burr feels his political star rising once again. Now in retirement, Hamilton learns of this plan, which he believes to be treasonous. He hops back into the fray of the political world to stop his fellow Federalists and do his best to block Burr from becoming governor.

Casey, author of Kateri (2012), has an exciting command of language. His skill is particularly evident in the chapters that focus on Burr’s escaping debtors and mingling with women at parties. As a character, Burr is truly alive; readers can sense the charm that he might have exuded in real life. The author’s study of him, including his depictions of his discussions with Hamilton and his letters with his daughter, Theodosia, paint the vice president as not merely a villain in a tragedy, but rather a complex, flawed man whose political aspirations lead to questionable actions. Eliza, Hamilton’s wife, is another strong character; over the course of the book, Casey deftly examines the frustrating reality of being the spouse of a politician, as when Eliza criticizes the actions of the men in her life: “Men lie, Angelica. They all lie. They treat us like fools. We bear their babies and keep their homes and comfort and console them….And they blunder on…without a thought about our well-being or our feelings.” The passages focusing on Hamilton are a bit slow at times; however, the story picks up when necessary, and these sections effectively highlight how the former Treasury secretary is often torn between his love for his family and his commitment to his country.

A vivid portrayal of Hamilton and those who lived in his influential sphere.

Pub Date: Jan. 21, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-73436-669-3

Page Count: 356

Publisher: Diamonds Big as Radishes LLC

Review Posted Online: April 17, 2020

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The World War II Hollywood setting is colorful, but it’s just a B picture.

MERCURY PICTURES PRESENTS

An ambitious young Italian woman makes her way among the émigrés of 1930s and ’40s Hollywood.

Maria Lagana has come to Los Angeles after her father is sentenced to confino—internal exile—for his anti-fascist advocacy in Mussolini’s Italy. Living with her mother in the Italian American neighborhood of Lincoln Heights—also home to a trio of no-nonsense great-aunts forever dressed in black—Maria finds work as a typist at Mercury Pictures International, working in the office of studio head Artie Feldman, a fast-talking showman with a collection of toupées for every occasion. In time, the letters from her father stop, and Maria becomes an associate producer, Artie’s trusted right hand, as well as the secret lover of Eddie Lu, a Chinese American actor relegated to roles as Japanese villains. When a young Italian immigrant turns up at her door introducing himself as Vincent Cortese, Maria’s past—and the mystery of what happened to her father—crashes into her present. Like the author’s earlier novels, the award-winning A Constellation of Vital Phenomena (2013) and The Tsar of Love and Techno (2015), this one builds a discrete world and shows how its denizens are shaped—often warped—by circumstance. But the Hollywood setting feels overfamiliar and the characters curiously uninvolving. While the prose frequently sings, there are also ripely overwritten passages: At a party, the “thunking heels of lindy-hopping couples dimpled the boozy air”; fireworks are described as a “molten asterisk in the heavens to which the body on the ground is a footnote.”

The World War II Hollywood setting is colorful, but it’s just a B picture.

Pub Date: July 19, 2022

ISBN: 978-0-451-49520-4

Page Count: 432

Publisher: Hogarth

Review Posted Online: March 30, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2022

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Ford raises fascinating questions, but a rushed ending too neatly ties up the answers in an unconvincing, sentimental bow.

THE MANY DAUGHTERS OF AFONG MOY

Covering 250 years, Ford’s new novel traces the way states of consciousness involving extreme moments of pain or joy interconnect seven generations of Chinese women.

Embedded images—airplanes, ships, waves—and the occasional ghostly vision highlight how these women’s lives reverberate as the focus moves back and forth in time. In 1942 China, Faye Moy, a nurse in her 50s who’s working with American forces, feels an eerie connection to a dying young pilot in whose pocket she finds a newspaper photograph of herself as a teenager and a note in her own handwriting that says, “FIND ME.” Finding oneself and/or one’s soul mate becomes the throughline of the book. Faye’s great-grandmother Afong Moy, the first Chinese woman in America, dies in childbirth after a short career being exhibited as a curiosity in the 1830s. Faye’s mother, Lai King (Afong’s granddaughter), sails to Canton after her parents’ deaths in San Francisco’s Chinatown fire of 1892. Onboard ship she bonds with a young White boy, also an orphan, and nurses him when contagion strikes. When Faye is 14, she has an illegitimate daughter who is adopted and raised in England. Presumably that girl is Zoe Moy, who, in 1927, attends the famously progressive Summerhill School, where a disastrous social experiment in fascism destroys her relationship with a beloved poetry teacher. In 2014, Zoe’s emotionally fragile granddaughter, Greta, loses both her skyrocketing tech career and the love of her life at the hands of an evil capitalist. While several earlier Moys receive aid and guidance from Buddhist monks, Greta’s troubled poet daughter, Dorothy, turns to both Buddhism and radical scientific treatment to uncover and understand how past crises, emotional, physical, and spiritual, are destabilizing her current life in 2045. Expect long treatises on anamnesis, quantum biology, and reincarnation before traveling with Dorothy’s adult daughter in 2086.

Ford raises fascinating questions, but a rushed ending too neatly ties up the answers in an unconvincing, sentimental bow.

Pub Date: Aug. 2, 2022

ISBN: 978-1-9821-5821-7

Page Count: 384

Publisher: Atria

Review Posted Online: May 11, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 2022

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