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


Six Ways to Sunday


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


Page Count: 168

Publisher: Averide Press

Review Posted Online: Nov. 28, 2016

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


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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Kin “[find] each other’s lives inscrutable” in this rich, sharp story about the way identity is formed.

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Inseparable identical twin sisters ditch home together, and then one decides to vanish.

The talented Bennett fuels her fiction with secrets—first in her lauded debut, The Mothers (2016), and now in the assured and magnetic story of the Vignes sisters, light-skinned women parked on opposite sides of the color line. Desiree, the “fidgety twin,” and Stella, “a smart, careful girl,” make their break from stultifying rural Mallard, Louisiana, becoming 16-year-old runaways in 1954 New Orleans. The novel opens 14 years later as Desiree, fleeing a violent marriage in D.C., returns home with a different relative: her 8-year-old daughter, Jude. The gossips are agog: “In Mallard, nobody married dark....Marrying a dark man and dragging his blueblack child all over town was one step too far.” Desiree's decision seals Jude’s misery in this “colorstruck” place and propels a new generation of flight: Jude escapes on a track scholarship to UCLA. Tending bar as a side job in Beverly Hills, she catches a glimpse of her mother’s doppelgänger. Stella, ensconced in white society, is shedding her fur coat. Jude, so black that strangers routinely stare, is unrecognizable to her aunt. All this is expertly paced, unfurling before the book is half finished; a reader can guess what is coming. Bennett is deeply engaged in the unknowability of other people and the scourge of colorism. The scene in which Stella adopts her white persona is a tour de force of doubling and confusion. It calls up Toni Morrison’s The Bluest Eye, the book's 50-year-old antecedent. Bennett's novel plays with its characters' nagging feelings of being incomplete—for the twins without each other; for Jude’s boyfriend, Reese, who is trans and seeks surgery; for their friend Barry, who performs in drag as Bianca. Bennett keeps all these plot threads thrumming and her social commentary crisp. In the second half, Jude spars with her cousin Kennedy, Stella's daughter, a spoiled actress.

Kin “[find] each other’s lives inscrutable” in this rich, sharp story about the way identity is formed.

Pub Date: June 2, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-525-53629-1

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Riverhead

Review Posted Online: March 15, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2020

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