A sharp philosophical discussion, unfortunately packaged in a muddled plot.

Six Ways to Sunday

FROM FAITH THROUGH DOUBT TO TRUTH

When a young college student’s religious beliefs are shaken, he turns to his professor for counsel in Lee’s debut novel.

Andy Harding, a history student at Boston University, attends a special lecture by the controversial pastor Stephen Tentworthy, who provocatively declaims that proper Christian belief isn’t selectively piecemeal—one must accept that the biblical Jonah was in fact swallowed by a whale, he says, if one is to accept the Bible as the revelatory truth of God. Andy’s faith is profoundly challenged by this view, and he becomes unsettled by the vertiginous possibility that he could abandon his prior convictions. He seeks counsel from a renowned scholar, professor Jay Gordon, for whom he works as a researcher, and professor Gordon senses an opportunity in Andy’s spiritual crisis. He guides Andy through a rigorous exegesis of the tale of Jonah and, in the process, teaches lessons about the nature of faith and doubt, and about the difficult but necessary passage through both to the truth. Meanwhile, Andy meets a beautiful young coed, Christine Campbell, and the two quickly leap from courtship to full coupledom—a dizzying emotional experience that intensifies Andy’s quest for firm epistemological ground. Lee intelligently situates the problem of faith in a modern context: Andy finds himself on a largely secular college campus, surrounded by skeptics, critics, and temptations. The author’s command of the relevant biblical texts is impressive, and he often depicts the professor’s guidance with the sensitivity of a gifted teacher. However, because the dialogue between professor Gordon and Andy is Socratic—he guides his young student with leading questions—the format sometimes becomes overly didactic and leaden. This is less a novel than a treatise, and so Andy’s evolution, particularly in its later stages, becomes contrived and difficult to understand. Christine professes her love and admiration for Andy, but also has misgivings that seem overwrought: “you can only get there if you’re willing to leave a few question marks in the heavens, question marks that you never get to answer, question marks that you live with knowing that if you tried to answer them, you would answer them wrong and ultimately hurt the people around you.” Overall, the author’s thoughts on faith are thoughtfully articulated, but the fictional elements seem like an obstacle to their delivery.

A sharp philosophical discussion, unfortunately packaged in a muddled plot.

Pub Date: Nov. 5, 2016

ISBN: N/A

Page Count: 168

Publisher: Averide Press

Review Posted Online: Nov. 28, 2016

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Packed with riveting drama and painful truths, this book powerfully illustrates the devastation of abuse—and the strength of...

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IT ENDS WITH US

Hoover’s (November 9, 2015, etc.) latest tackles the difficult subject of domestic violence with romantic tenderness and emotional heft.

At first glance, the couple is edgy but cute: Lily Bloom runs a flower shop for people who hate flowers; Ryle Kincaid is a surgeon who says he never wants to get married or have kids. They meet on a rooftop in Boston on the night Ryle loses a patient and Lily attends her abusive father’s funeral. The provocative opening takes a dark turn when Lily receives a warning about Ryle’s intentions from his sister, who becomes Lily’s employee and close friend. Lily swears she’ll never end up in another abusive home, but when Ryle starts to show all the same warning signs that her mother ignored, Lily learns just how hard it is to say goodbye. When Ryle is not in the throes of a jealous rage, his redeeming qualities return, and Lily can justify his behavior: “I think we needed what happened on the stairwell to happen so that I would know his past and we’d be able to work on it together,” she tells herself. Lily marries Ryle hoping the good will outweigh the bad, and the mother-daughter dynamics evolve beautifully as Lily reflects on her childhood with fresh eyes. Diary entries fancifully addressed to TV host Ellen DeGeneres serve as flashbacks to Lily’s teenage years, when she met her first love, Atlas Corrigan, a homeless boy she found squatting in a neighbor’s house. When Atlas turns up in Boston, now a successful chef, he begs Lily to leave Ryle. Despite the better option right in front of her, an unexpected complication forces Lily to cut ties with Atlas, confront Ryle, and try to end the cycle of abuse before it’s too late. The relationships are portrayed with compassion and honesty, and the author’s note at the end that explains Hoover’s personal connection to the subject matter is a must-read.

Packed with riveting drama and painful truths, this book powerfully illustrates the devastation of abuse—and the strength of the survivors.

Pub Date: Aug. 2, 2016

ISBN: 978-1-5011-1036-8

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Atria

Review Posted Online: May 31, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 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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