An elegant dream in marvelous prose, fully accessible to general readers, but a perfect fit for fans of Gabriel Garcia...

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Ca'd'Zan

A coming-of-age tale about an unusual boy and an extraordinary dog who share the tribulations of a Brazilian plantation’s indentured laborers.

This novel opens with the boy, Lano, telling Ca’d’Zan, the wild dog he named after the plantation, a story which kicks off a long tale of heroism. As Lano and the dog grow up, other characters are introduced: John One, the insane founder of the Ca’d’Zan plantation; John Two, his son; Angelina Bonita, a woman as mysterious and beautiful as an angel; and Lano’s father, Raimundo. Kersh describes the workers’ daily drudgery and the cruelty of their bosses but infuses the story with ephemeral mysticism. For example, Raimundo builds a shadow-play “magic lantern,” and Ca’d’Zan rescues a Native American princess whose presence is announced by butterflies; this earns the dog the title of “Much Dog” and makes Lano a member of the princess’s “people.” Eventually, the two Johns and other powerful interests want more land, leading to a confrontation with Native Americans and environmentalists and a battle between natives and loggers. Lano proves himself a warrior during these fights, despite his choice not to shoot enemies on either side. Later, after two tragic deaths, the plantation falls apart, and Lano finds his place with the native people and takes part in more pitched battles. Kersh’s beautifully rendered language sounds slightly foreign, slightly mystical: “ ‘Close your eyes and fly away, Lano,’ Mother whispered in the near dark, her arms bright beautiful wings to fly me. ‘Lose your body to glide on my words over the whole dark earth.’ ” His style is reminiscent of magical realism, but, here, the enchantment isn’t an integral part of the narrative; it simply glows at the edges.

An elegant dream in marvelous prose, fully accessible to general readers, but a perfect fit for fans of Gabriel Garcia Marquez, Isabel Allende and Franz Kafka.

Pub Date: May 2, 2013

ISBN: 978-1482714494

Page Count: 306

Publisher: CreateSpace

Review Posted Online: July 11, 2013

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2013

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Slow moving and richly layered.

THE SEARCHER

A retired cop takes one last case in this stand-alone novel from the creator of the Dublin Murder Squad.

Originally from North Carolina, Cal Hooper has spent the last 30 years in Chicago. “A small place. A small town in a small country”: That’s what he’s searching for when he moves to the West of Ireland. His daughter is grown, his wife has left him, so Cal is on his own—until a kid named Trey starts hanging around. Trey’s brother is missing. Everyone believes that Brendan has run off just like his father did, but Trey thinks there’s more to the story than just another young man leaving his family behind in search of money and excitement in the city. Trey wants the police detective who just emigrated from America to find out what’s really happened to Brendan. French is deploying a well-worn trope here—in fact, she’s deploying a few. Cal is a new arrival to an insular community, and he’s about to discover that he didn’t leave crime and violence behind when he left the big city. Cal is a complex enough character, though, and it turns out that the mystery he’s trying to solve is less shocking than what he ultimately discovers. French's latest is neither fast-paced nor action-packed, and it has as much to do with Cal’s inner life as it does with finding Brendan. Much of what mystery readers are looking for in terms of action is squeezed into the last third of the novel, and the morally ambiguous ending may be unsatisfying for some. But French’s fans have surely come to expect imperfect allegiance to genre conventions, and the author does, ultimately, deliver plenty of twists, shocking revelations, and truly chilling moments.

Slow moving and richly layered.

Pub Date: Oct. 6, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-73-522465-0

Page Count: 464

Publisher: Viking

Review Posted Online: July 14, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2020

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Addressing race, risk, retreat, and the ripple effects of a national emergency, Alam's novel is just in time for this moment.

LEAVE THE WORLD BEHIND

An interrupted family vacation, unexpected visitors, a mysterious blackout—something is happening, and the world may never be the same.

On a reassuringly sunny summer day, Amanda, an account director in advertising; Clay, a college professor; and their children, Archie, 15, and Rose, 13, make their way from Brooklyn to a luxury home (swimming pool! hot tub! marble countertops!) in a remote area of Long Island they’ve rented for a family vacation. Shortly after they arrive, however, the family’s holiday is interrupted by a knock on the door: The house’s owners, a prosperous older Black couple—George Washington and his wife, Ruth—have shown up unannounced because New York City has been plunged into a blackout and their Park Avenue high-rise apartment didn’t feel safe. Soon it becomes clear that the blackout is a symptom (or is it a cause?) of something larger—and nothing is safe. Has there been a nuclear or climate disaster, a war, a terrorist act, a bomb? Alam’s story unfolds like a dystopian fever dream cloaked in the trappings of a dream vacation: Why do hundreds of deer show up in the house’s well-maintained backyard or a flock of bright-pink flamingos frolic in the family pool and then fly away? What is the noise, loud enough to crack glass, that comes, without warning, once and then, later, repeatedly? Is it safer to go back to the city, to civilization, or to remain away, in a world apart? As they search for answers and adjust to what increasingly appears to be a confusing new normal, the two families—one Black, one White; one older, one younger; one rich, one middle-class—are compelled to find community amid calamity, to come together to support each other and survive. As he did in his previous novels, Rich and Pretty (2016) and That Kind of Mother (2018), Alam shows an impressive facility for getting into his characters’ heads and an enviable empathy for their moral shortcomings, emotional limitations, and failures of imagination. The result is a riveting novel that thrums with suspense yet ultimately offers no easy answers—disappointing those who crave them even as it fittingly reflects our time.

Addressing race, risk, retreat, and the ripple effects of a national emergency, Alam's novel is just in time for this moment.

Pub Date: Oct. 6, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-06-266763-2

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Ecco/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: June 17, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2020

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