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


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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Unlike baseball, basketball has contributed little to world literature. Call this Exhibit A.


Legal eagle and mystery maven Grisham shifts gears with a novel about roundball.

What possessed Grisham to stop writing about murder in the Spanish moss–dripping milieus of the Deep South is anyone’s guess, and why he elected to write about basketball, one might imagine, speaks to some deep passion for the game. The depth of that love doesn’t quite emerge in these pages, flat of affect, told almost as if a by-the-numbers biography of an actual player. As it is, Grisham invents an all-too-believable hero in Samuel Sooleymon, who plays his way out of South Sudan, a nation wrought by sectarian violence—Sooley is a Dinka, Grisham instructs, of “the largest ethnic class in the country,” pitted against other ethnic groups—and mired in poverty despite the relative opulence of the capital city of Juba, with its “tall buildings, vibrancy, and well-dressed people.” A hard-charging but heart-of-gold coach changes his life when he arrives at the university there, having been dismissed earlier as a “nonshooting guard.” Soon enough Sooley is sinking three-pointers with alarming precision, which lands him a spot on an American college team. Much of the later portion of Grisham’s novel bounces between Sooley’s on-court exploits, jaw-dropping as they are, and his efforts to bring his embattled family, now refugees from civil war, to join him in the U.S.; explains Grisham, again, “Beatrice and her children were Dinka, the largest tribe in South Sudan, and their strongman was supposedly in control of most of the country,” though evidently not the part where they lived. Alas, Sooley, beloved of all, bound for a glorious career in the NBA, falls into the bad company that sudden wealth and fame can bring, and it all comes crashing down in a morality play that has only the virtue of bringing this tired narrative to an end.

Unlike baseball, basketball has contributed little to world literature. Call this Exhibit A.

Pub Date: April 27, 2021

ISBN: 978-0-385-54768-0

Page Count: 368

Publisher: Doubleday

Review Posted Online: March 3, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2021

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The most comforting of comfort-food reading—with a few chills for fun.

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Roberts sticks to formula in this romantic thriller—which should please fans and newcomers alike.

The only daughter of a woman with a wildly successful fitness company, 7-year-old Adrian Rizzo is used to traveling with her mother for videos and photo shoots, the child star of the brand. But everything changes one night when a man breaks into their house, confronts her mother for destroying his marriage, and then dies in a fall down the stairs. Adrian spends the summer with her beloved grandparents, enjoying the idyllic pace of small-town life and making some strong connections. Several years later, teenage Adrian gains the confidence to start her own business with the help of some high school misfits who become her best friends. Fast-forward a few years: Adrian’s grandmother dies in an accident followed by the death of a friend's wife. Adrian decides to move in with her grandfather and to finally make a home. As frequently happens in Roberts’ novels, Adrian's friends all end up living nearby, and they create a loyal, loving network that sees them all through marriage, birth, loss, success, and the other touchstones of maturity. In the background lurks a threat, though: For years, Adrian has been receiving disturbing letters signed only "The Poet," and they begin to arrive more frequently. Adrian’s perfect, messy, successful life—and blossoming relationship—may be in danger from this psychopath, but her friends and family will be there to support and protect her to the happiest of endings. If you're a fan of Roberts’ thrillers, the structure of this novel will bring few surprises, but the familiarity is comforting. Roberts’ strength has always been her ability to create likable, complex characters, and this crew is even more appealing than most—they are never whiny in insecurity or snobbish in success; rather, they provide unwavering support for each other’s ups and downs.

The most comforting of comfort-food reading—with a few chills for fun.

Pub Date: May 25, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-2502-7293-5

Page Count: 448

Publisher: St. Martin's

Review Posted Online: Jan. 27, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2021

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