A troubled protagonist, beset by disaster and malefaction, is touched by magic as he develops new emotional connections.

TWO IF BY SEA

After losing his wife and unborn son in a tsunami in Australia, an expat horse trainer adopts a psychic 3-year-old.

As Mitchard’s (Second Nature: A Love Story, 2011, etc.) latest novel opens, a killer wave hits Brisbane. Among the victims are ex-cop Frank Mercy’s pregnant wife and almost her entire extended family. Dazed and grief-stricken, Frank joins the volunteer rescue efforts the next day, coming to the aid of a woman and two small boys in a van that is half underwater. He plucks out the littler child, but before he can get to the others, the vehicle is swept away. When the devastated Frank returns to his family’s horse farm in Wisconsin a few weeks later, he takes the components of an unexpected new life: the boy (whom he has not bothered to legally adopt), a huge horse named Glory Bee, and a young Irish groom. By this time he's learned that the boy he named Ian, who rarely speaks, has a telepathic gift—he can enter the minds of enraged people and make them calm down and be nice. Animals, too, as Frank sees when they descend into the cargo hold of their international flight, where Glory Bee and other zoo and domestic animals are going wild from the turbulent ride. “The boy had to jump back after the first time he touched Glory Bee’s leg through the…wooden slats of the makeshift stall.…She was roaring, cantering in place. But the second time Ian touched her, she stopped, and if she were a woman, Frank believed he would have seen her stand there, sobbing.” Frank recognizes the possibility that Ian’s power could easily be used for evil—and soon enough, it becomes clear that very bad people are hunting him down, murdering those who get in their way. Meanwhile, Frank meets another woman, an equestrian psychiatrist who asks him to train her and her horse for the Olympics. As his heart begins to heal, he faces the challenge of protecting Ian from the mounting threat.

A troubled protagonist, beset by disaster and malefaction, is touched by magic as he develops new emotional connections.

Pub Date: March 15, 2016

ISBN: 978-1-5011-1557-8

Page Count: 416

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: Dec. 9, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2015

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A nervy modern-day rebellion tale that isn’t afraid to get dark or find humor in the darkness.

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MY YEAR OF REST AND RELAXATION

A young New York woman figures there’s nothing wrong with existence that a fistful of prescriptions and months of napping wouldn’t fix.

Moshfegh’s prickly fourth book (Homesick for Another World, 2017, etc.) is narrated by an unnamed woman who’s decided to spend a year “hibernating.” She has a few conventional grief issues. (Her parents are both dead, and they’re much on her mind.) And if she’s not mentally ill, she’s certainly severely maladjusted socially. (She quits her job at an art gallery in obnoxious, scatological fashion.) But Moshfegh isn’t interested in grief or mental illness per se. Instead, she means to explore whether there are paths to living that don’t involve traditional (and wearying) habits of consumption, production, and relationships. To highlight that point, most of the people in the narrator's life are offbeat or provisional figures: Reva, her well-meaning but shallow former classmate; Trevor, a boyfriend who only pursues her when he’s on the rebound; and Dr. Tuttle, a wildly incompetent doctor who freely gives random pill samples and presses one drug, Infermiterol, that produces three-day blackouts. None of which is the stuff of comedy. But Moshfegh has a keen sense of everyday absurdities, a deadpan delivery, and such a well-honed sense of irony that the narrator’s predicament never feels tragic; this may be the finest existential novel not written by a French author. (Recovering from one blackout, the narrator thinks, “What had I done? Spent a spa day then gone out clubbing?...Had Reva convinced me to go ‘enjoy myself’ or something just as idiotic?”) Checking out of society the way the narrator does isn’t advisable, but there’s still a peculiar kind of uplift to the story in how it urges second-guessing the nature of our attachments while revealing how hard it is to break them.

A nervy modern-day rebellion tale that isn’t afraid to get dark or find humor in the darkness.

Pub Date: July 10, 2018

ISBN: 978-0-525-52211-9

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Penguin Press

Review Posted Online: April 16, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 2018

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THE GREAT ALONE

In 1974, a troubled Vietnam vet inherits a house from a fallen comrade and moves his family to Alaska.

After years as a prisoner of war, Ernt Allbright returned home to his wife, Cora, and daughter, Leni, a violent, difficult, restless man. The family moved so frequently that 13-year-old Leni went to five schools in four years. But when they move to Alaska, still very wild and sparsely populated, Ernt finds a landscape as raw as he is. As Leni soon realizes, “Everyone up here had two stories: the life before and the life now. If you wanted to pray to a weirdo god or live in a school bus or marry a goose, no one in Alaska was going to say crap to you.” There are many great things about this book—one of them is its constant stream of memorably formulated insights about Alaska. Another key example is delivered by Large Marge, a former prosecutor in Washington, D.C., who now runs the general store for the community of around 30 brave souls who live in Kaneq year-round. As she cautions the Allbrights, “Alaska herself can be Sleeping Beauty one minute and a bitch with a sawed-off shotgun the next. There’s a saying: Up here you can make one mistake. The second one will kill you.” Hannah’s (The Nightingale, 2015, etc.) follow-up to her series of blockbuster bestsellers will thrill her fans with its combination of Greek tragedy, Romeo and Juliet–like coming-of-age story, and domestic potboiler. She re-creates in magical detail the lives of Alaska's homesteaders in both of the state's seasons (they really only have two) and is just as specific and authentic in her depiction of the spiritual wounds of post-Vietnam America.

A tour de force.

Pub Date: Feb. 6, 2018

ISBN: 978-0-312-57723-0

Page Count: 448

Publisher: St. Martin's

Review Posted Online: Oct. 31, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15, 2017

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