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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A compelling portrait of a marriage gone desperately sour.

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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: 978-1-4926-8272-1

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Sourcebooks Landmark

Review Posted Online: Sept. 30, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 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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