A complex novel of the past and the future, fathers and sons, war and redemption, and the devastating impact of large-scale...

A Soldier's Son

A Vietnam veteran wrestles with the demons of his war as his son goes off to fight in Iraq.

In this debut novel, Estes (A Field of Innocence, 1987) introduces Mike Kelly, an angry and occasionally violent Vietnam veteran–turned-journalist. His relationship with his teenage son Jake is fraught with conflict over sports and expectations, and Mike’s wife, Claire, is prepared to walk out if he continues to avoid getting needed treatment and therapy at the Department of Veterans Affairs hospital. In addition, Mike’s editor is losing patience with his inconsistent performance at the paper. When Jake joins the Marines, Mike wants to protect his son from repeating his wartime experiences but slowly accepts that he cannot stop the youth from deploying to Iraq in the early years of the war there. Instead, Mike decides to follow, traveling to the war zone as an embedded journalist. Jake resents his father’s presence, seeing it as one more attempt at controlling his life, but when the two are caught in a battle together, their relationship is strengthened through fighting side by side. Estes skillfully presents the effects of war on families, both in the moment (Claire and Jake’s girlfriend, Megs, are involved in anti-war protests) and decades after the conflict has ended, through the flashbacks and terrors that Mike contends with on a daily basis. The characters are rich and complex, with occasional bursts of witty dialogue (“Its classrooms are bulging with the leaders of tomorrow, who often are the smartasses of today”). Battle scenes are vividly drawn, keeping the reader caught up in the action (“Jake stops, sand beating at his front, kneels, and sets the butt of his gun in the sand, balancing it against his body”) and Estes’ firsthand knowledge of the experience of war. (The author is a Vietnam veteran.) At the same time, the locker-room nature of Jake’s conversations with his friends and the depiction of the Marines in Iraq can be excessive, closer to tedious vulgarity than to stark realism.

A complex novel of the past and the future, fathers and sons, war and redemption, and the devastating impact of large-scale violence on both the perpetrators and the victims.

Pub Date: N/A

ISBN: N/A

Page Count: -

Publisher: Dog Ear Publisher

Review Posted Online: June 28, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2016

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A tasty, if not always tasteful, tale of supernatural mayhem that fans of King and Crichton alike will enjoy.

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DEVOLUTION

Are we not men? We are—well, ask Bigfoot, as Brooks does in this delightful yarn, following on his bestseller World War Z (2006).

A zombie apocalypse is one thing. A volcanic eruption is quite another, for, as the journalist who does a framing voice-over narration for Brooks’ latest puts it, when Mount Rainier popped its cork, “it was the psychological aspect, the hyperbole-fueled hysteria that had ended up killing the most people.” Maybe, but the sasquatches whom the volcano displaced contributed to the statistics, too, if only out of self-defense. Brooks places the epicenter of the Bigfoot war in a high-tech hideaway populated by the kind of people you might find in a Jurassic Park franchise: the schmo who doesn’t know how to do much of anything but tries anyway, the well-intentioned bleeding heart, the know-it-all intellectual who turns out to know the wrong things, the immigrant with a tough backstory and an instinct for survival. Indeed, the novel does double duty as a survival manual, packed full of good advice—for instance, try not to get wounded, for “injury turns you from a giver to a taker. Taking up our resources, our time to care for you.” Brooks presents a case for making room for Bigfoot in the world while peppering his narrative with timely social criticism about bad behavior on the human side of the conflict: The explosion of Rainier might have been better forecast had the president not slashed the budget of the U.S. Geological Survey, leading to “immediate suspension of the National Volcano Early Warning System,” and there’s always someone around looking to monetize the natural disaster and the sasquatch-y onslaught that follows. Brooks is a pro at building suspense even if it plays out in some rather spectacularly yucky episodes, one involving a short spear that takes its name from “the sucking sound of pulling it out of the dead man’s heart and lungs.” Grossness aside, it puts you right there on the scene.

A tasty, if not always tasteful, tale of supernatural mayhem that fans of King and Crichton alike will enjoy.

Pub Date: June 16, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-9848-2678-7

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Del Rey/Ballantine

Review Posted Online: Feb. 10, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2020

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Finding positivity in negative pregnancy-test results, this depiction of a marriage in crisis is nearly perfect.

ALL YOUR PERFECTS

Named for an imperfectly worded fortune cookie, Hoover's (It Ends with Us, 2016, etc.) latest compares a woman’s relationship with her husband before and after she finds out she’s infertile.

Quinn meets her future husband, Graham, in front of her soon-to-be-ex-fiance’s apartment, where Graham is about to confront him for having an affair with his girlfriend. A few years later, they are happily married but struggling to conceive. The “then and now” format—with alternating chapters moving back and forth in time—allows a hopeful romance to blossom within a dark but relatable dilemma. Back then, Quinn’s bad breakup leads her to the love of her life. In the now, she’s exhausted a laundry list of fertility options, from IVF treatments to adoption, and the silver lining is harder to find. Quinn’s bad relationship with her wealthy mother also prevents her from asking for more money to throw at the problem. But just when Quinn’s narrative starts to sound like she’s writing a long Facebook rant about her struggles, she reveals the larger issue: Ever since she and Graham have been trying to have a baby, intimacy has become a chore, and she doesn’t know how to tell him. Instead, she hopes the contents of a mystery box she’s kept since their wedding day will help her decide their fate. With a few well-timed silences, Hoover turns the fairly common problem of infertility into the more universal problem of poor communication. Graham and Quinn may or may not become parents, but if they don’t talk about their feelings, they won’t remain a couple, either.

Finding positivity in negative pregnancy-test results, this depiction of a marriage in crisis is nearly perfect.

Pub Date: July 17, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-5011-7159-8

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Atria

Review Posted Online: May 1, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2018

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