An enthusiastic, profound coming-of-age tale for an older generation.

THAT GOLDEN SHORE

A middle-aged rocker traverses the highs and lows of modern-day California in this introspective sequel.

Jack is living his dream. For the last couple of years, the 50-something has had regular music gigs in two bands. He’s a long way from his corporate job back East, having gradually made his way to California. Now he’s doing what he loves—jamming on guitar and bass for a paycheck and surfing whenever he gets a chance. Jack’s life hasn’t been without tribulations. He mourns the partner he lost to cancer, regrets leaving a girlfriend when he took a mountain rescue job in Colorado, and, most recently, seems to miss another girlfriend whose job called her to New Zealand. Still, he revels in his freedom. He has no worries about taking care of a family—an ideal that his drunken father had long ago tarnished. Sadly, Jack’s current and reliable love, California, undergoes big changes. Wildfire evacuations upend his peace, and a planned resort threatens to demolish the homes in his beachside community. Jack, meanwhile, can’t help but reflect on the “girl” in “Sunset Road,” one of his band’s most popular songs. “There is no sunset road,” Jack muses. “There’s just a road, and no one at the end waiting for you, unless you ask them to.” But he soon meets Eve, a schoolteacher and a single mother. Jack, a free spirit on stage, suddenly finds himself immersed in Eve’s extended family, an unfamiliar terrain that he willingly braves.

Kleinke’s novel, a sequel to Dudeville (2017), brims with lively descriptions of its sunny locale. Characters watch glorious sunsets, drift off listening to the crashing tides, and endure high temperatures that wildfires make even hotter. Jack, though, spends a lot of time in his head; a recurring scene shows him zoning out while stuck in California traffic (with honking horns bringing him back to reality). But even when he ponders abstract ideas, details remain concrete. For example, Jack contemplates the Presence, aka God: “The Presence is nowhere more intensely present than above treeline, at the top of a mountain, with all of creation spread out before me; or at the very bottom of a desert canyon, with all of Time…or pouring in off the ocean, in pulsing waves of consciousness beyond my consciousness.” As part of his introspection, Jack experiments with different religions, which Kleinke treats respectfully. The protagonist embraces Judaism, though he wasn’t born Jewish, and Jack, who’s White, learns about Eve’s Native family’s religion. These differing religions represent unity, or a family, that Jack, who’s something of a drifter, doesn’t have. As the story progresses, readers catch glimpses of Jack’s fascinating life—his troubled childhood, past loves, and the incident that led to his rock ’n’ roll–filled days. Jack maintains an intriguing serenity, especially under pressure—his “eye-of-the-shitstorm mode.” He’s a believable character; his calm exterior sometimes breaks, like when he takes an understandably aggressive tone with “surf punks” bullying others at the beach.

An enthusiastic, profound coming-of-age tale for an older generation.

Pub Date: Feb. 15, 2021

ISBN: 978-0-578-75439-0

Page Count: 330

Publisher: Bayamet Books

Review Posted Online: March 27, 2021

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For devoted Hannah fans in search of a good cry.

THE FOUR WINDS

The miseries of the Depression and Dust Bowl years shape the destiny of a Texas family.

“Hope is a coin I carry: an American penny, given to me by a man I came to love. There were times in my journey when I felt as if that penny and the hope it represented were the only things that kept me going.” We meet Elsa Wolcott in Dalhart, Texas, in 1921, on the eve of her 25th birthday, and wind up with her in California in 1936 in a saga of almost unrelieved woe. Despised by her shallow parents and sisters for being sickly and unattractive—“too tall, too thin, too pale, too unsure of herself”—Elsa escapes their cruelty when a single night of abandon leads to pregnancy and forced marriage to the son of Italian immigrant farmers. Though she finds some joy working the land, tending the animals, and learning her way around Mama Rose's kitchen, her marriage is never happy, the pleasures of early motherhood are brief, and soon the disastrous droughts of the 1930s drive all the farmers of the area to despair and starvation. Elsa's search for a better life for her children takes them out west to California, where things turn out to be even worse. While she never overcomes her low self-esteem about her looks, Elsa displays an iron core of character and courage as she faces dust storms, floods, hunger riots, homelessness, poverty, the misery of migrant labor, bigotry, union busting, violent goons, and more. The pedantic aims of the novel are hard to ignore as Hannah embodies her history lesson in what feels like a series of sepia-toned postcards depicting melodramatic scenes and clichéd emotions.

For devoted Hannah fans in search of a good cry.

Pub Date: Feb. 9, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-2501-7860-2

Page Count: 464

Publisher: St. Martin's

Review Posted Online: Nov. 18, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2020

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A whimsical fantasy about learning what’s important in life.

THE MIDNIGHT LIBRARY

An unhappy woman who tries to commit suicide finds herself in a mysterious library that allows her to explore new lives.

How far would you go to address every regret you ever had? That’s the question at the heart of Haig’s latest novel, which imagines the plane between life and death as a vast library filled with books detailing every existence a person could have. Thrust into this mysterious way station is Nora Seed, a depressed and desperate woman estranged from her family and friends. Nora has just lost her job, and her cat is dead. Believing she has no reason to go on, she writes a farewell note and takes an overdose of antidepressants. But instead of waking up in heaven, hell, or eternal nothingness, she finds herself in a library filled with books that offer her a chance to experience an infinite number of new lives. Guided by Mrs. Elm, her former school librarian, she can pull a book from the shelf and enter a new existence—as a country pub owner with her ex-boyfriend, as a researcher on an Arctic island, as a rock star singing in stadiums full of screaming fans. But how will she know which life will make her happy? This book isn't heavy on hows; you won’t need an advanced degree in quantum physics or string theory to follow its simple yet fantastical logic. Predicting the path Nora will ultimately choose isn’t difficult, either. Haig treats the subject of suicide with a light touch, and the book’s playful tone will be welcome to readers who like their fantasies sweet if a little too forgettable.

A whimsical fantasy about learning what’s important in life.

Pub Date: Sept. 29, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-52-555947-4

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Viking

Review Posted Online: July 14, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2020

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