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Shanty Gold

A gripping but uneven story of a young woman obtaining her independence in a new land.

An Irish immigrant forges a new life in a turbulent time in Charters’ debut novel.

In 1849, 13-year-old Mary Boland is determined to fulfill the promise she made to her dying mother: leave the disease and despair of life in Ireland, locate her father in America, and give him the golden cross that Mary’s mother gave her. After Mary initially meets kind strangers who help her get to the coast, a devious Englishwoman tricks her onto The Pilgrim’s Dandy, a “coffin ship” aboard which half the passengers are expected to die on the trans-Atlantic trip. Onboard, the sailors brutally use and abuse Mary, her new friend Ceili, and the slave boy Kamua. Despite the atrocities they face on the voyage, Mary and Kam are able to start a new life in Boston, where Kam gets work as a deliveryboy and Mary begins working in an Irish pub (Ceili isn’t so lucky). In time, they become a traveling medicine man and a midwife, respectively. As Mary tries to learn her father’s fate and sort out her feelings for the handsome Daniel Kelly, she begins having run-ins with the dangerous and lecherous Shiv McGraw, a gangster with an iron grip on South Boston. Mary must evade Shiv’s clutches, discover the secrets of her Irish family, and protect the lives of her new Boston family as she tries to establish her new life. Charters interweaves many important topics—immigration, civil rights, women’s rights—into her exciting novel. The narrative paints an evocative portrait of South Boston in the era of Irish immigration, and the supporting characters are particularly well-represented. However, the novel struggles to find a consistent tone as it switches from scenes of rape to childish friendship to slapstick pranks without the scene-setting and worldbuilding that would make such drastic shifts make sense.

A gripping but uneven story of a young woman obtaining her independence in a new land.

Pub Date: Aug. 1, 2015

ISBN: 978-1-62420-176-9

Page Count: 330

Publisher: Rogue Phoenix Press

Review Posted Online: Aug. 31, 2015

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A LITTLE LIFE

The phrase “tour de force” could have been invented for this audacious novel.

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Four men who meet as college roommates move to New York and spend the next three decades gaining renown in their professions—as an architect, painter, actor and lawyer—and struggling with demons in their intertwined personal lives.

Yanagihara (The People in the Trees, 2013) takes the still-bold leap of writing about characters who don’t share her background; in addition to being male, JB is African-American, Malcolm has a black father and white mother, Willem is white, and “Jude’s race was undetermined”—deserted at birth, he was raised in a monastery and had an unspeakably traumatic childhood that’s revealed slowly over the course of the book. Two of them are gay, one straight and one bisexual. There isn’t a single significant female character, and for a long novel, there isn’t much plot. There aren’t even many markers of what’s happening in the outside world; Jude moves to a loft in SoHo as a young man, but we don’t see the neighborhood change from gritty artists’ enclave to glitzy tourist destination. What we get instead is an intensely interior look at the friends’ psyches and relationships, and it’s utterly enthralling. The four men think about work and creativity and success and failure; they cook for each other, compete with each other and jostle for each other’s affection. JB bases his entire artistic career on painting portraits of his friends, while Malcolm takes care of them by designing their apartments and houses. When Jude, as an adult, is adopted by his favorite Harvard law professor, his friends join him for Thanksgiving in Cambridge every year. And when Willem becomes a movie star, they all bask in his glow. Eventually, the tone darkens and the story narrows to focus on Jude as the pain of his past cuts deep into his carefully constructed life.  

The phrase “tour de force” could have been invented for this audacious novel.

Pub Date: March 10, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-385-53925-8

Page Count: 720

Publisher: Doubleday

Review Posted Online: Dec. 21, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2015

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THE NIGHTINGALE

Still, a respectful and absorbing page-turner.

Hannah’s new novel is an homage to the extraordinary courage and endurance of Frenchwomen during World War II.

In 1995, an elderly unnamed widow is moving into an Oregon nursing home on the urging of her controlling son, Julien, a surgeon. This trajectory is interrupted when she receives an invitation to return to France to attend a ceremony honoring passeurs: people who aided the escape of others during the war. Cut to spring, 1940: Viann has said goodbye to husband Antoine, who's off to hold the Maginot line against invading Germans. She returns to tending her small farm, Le Jardin, in the Loire Valley, teaching at the local school and coping with daughter Sophie’s adolescent rebellion. Soon, that world is upended: The Germans march into Paris and refugees flee south, overrunning Viann’s land. Her long-estranged younger sister, Isabelle, who has been kicked out of multiple convent schools, is sent to Le Jardin by Julien, their father in Paris, a drunken, decidedly unpaternal Great War veteran. As the depredations increase in the occupied zone—food rationing, systematic looting, and the billeting of a German officer, Capt. Beck, at Le Jardin—Isabelle’s outspokenness is a liability. She joins the Resistance, volunteering for dangerous duty: shepherding downed Allied airmen across the Pyrenees to Spain. Code-named the Nightingale, Isabelle will rescue many before she's captured. Meanwhile, Viann’s journey from passive to active resistance is less dramatic but no less wrenching. Hannah vividly demonstrates how the Nazis, through starvation, intimidation and barbarity both casual and calculated, demoralized the French, engineering a community collapse that enabled the deportations and deaths of more than 70,000 Jews. Hannah’s proven storytelling skills are ideally suited to depicting such cataclysmic events, but her tendency to sentimentalize undermines the gravitas of this tale.

Still, a respectful and absorbing page-turner.

Pub Date: Feb. 3, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-312-57722-3

Page Count: 448

Publisher: St. Martin's

Review Posted Online: Nov. 19, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2014

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