Next book

THE LIMITS OF THE WORLD

A thoughtful, deeply researched debut.

Through shifting viewpoints, this roving saga about immigration, sacrifice, and fate explores the consequences of making difficult decisions for the sake of one's family.

Having abandoned his premedical studies, Sunil Chandaria is a philosophy graduate student at Harvard, stumped by the prospect of finishing his dissertation on the origins of moral beliefs. His mother, Urmila, runs a struggling gift shop with imported goods in her local mall in Ohio. And Premchand, his father, remains at a distant remove from them both, by turns baffled by and enamored of his son's American lifestyle. When he immigrated from Kenya to Columbus, Ohio, Premchand sought career and financial stability in a medical practice, ultimately creating an unbridgeable cultural gap between his family's two generations: "Premchand's own absorption...had made him lose sight of the fact that in America a child could grow up to be anything. He had not presented his son with any options. Premchand had not known himself what they were." Ultimately, however, it's one of Urmila's decisions that shakes the family to its core, setting off a series of events both tragic and mundane in the U.S. and overseas. Acker's debut is a carefully drawn portrait of a family constrained by choices that reach back generations, from the patriarch's resolve to leave India to seek work building a railroad through the Kenyan plains to Sunil's desire to marry longtime girlfriend Amy, an ambitious scientist who doesn't meet with his mother's approval. In many ways, this is a novel of ideas, and Acker draws heavily on philosophy and histories of British colonialism as her characters parse out the meaning of their decisions—or their inability to make them with clarity and freedom. This sensibility makes for a book grounded in the head, rather than the heart, but it also gives Acker's characters more room to behave in very human ways, whether stubborn, small, or cruel. It's a rare but honest look at the way parents, children, and spouses talk to one another but don't always hear what's being said.

A thoughtful, deeply researched debut.

Pub Date: April 16, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-883285-77-7

Page Count: 300

Publisher: Delphinium

Review Posted Online: Feb. 16, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2019

Next book

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

Next book

THEN SHE WAS GONE

Dark and unsettling, this novel’s end arrives abruptly even as readers are still moving at a breakneck speed.

Ten years after her teenage daughter went missing, a mother begins a new relationship only to discover she can't truly move on until she answers lingering questions about the past.

Laurel Mack’s life stopped in many ways the day her 15-year-old daughter, Ellie, left the house to study at the library and never returned. She drifted away from her other two children, Hanna and Jake, and eventually she and her husband, Paul, divorced. Ten years later, Ellie’s remains and her backpack are found, though the police are unable to determine the reasons for her disappearance and death. After Ellie’s funeral, Laurel begins a relationship with Floyd, a man she meets in a cafe. She's disarmed by Floyd’s charm, but when she meets his young daughter, Poppy, Laurel is startled by her resemblance to Ellie. As the novel progresses, Laurel becomes increasingly determined to learn what happened to Ellie, especially after discovering an odd connection between Poppy’s mother and her daughter even as her relationship with Floyd is becoming more serious. Jewell’s (I Found You, 2017, etc.) latest thriller moves at a brisk pace even as she plays with narrative structure: The book is split into three sections, including a first one which alternates chapters between the time of Ellie’s disappearance and the present and a second section that begins as Laurel and Floyd meet. Both of these sections primarily focus on Laurel. In the third section, Jewell alternates narrators and moments in time: The narrator switches to alternating first-person points of view (told by Poppy’s mother and Floyd) interspersed with third-person narration of Ellie’s experiences and Laurel’s discoveries in the present. All of these devices serve to build palpable tension, but the structure also contributes to how deeply disturbing the story becomes. At times, the characters and the emotional core of the events are almost obscured by such quick maneuvering through the weighty plot.

Dark and unsettling, this novel’s end arrives abruptly even as readers are still moving at a breakneck speed.

Pub Date: April 24, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-5011-5464-5

Page Count: 368

Publisher: Atria

Review Posted Online: Feb. 5, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2018

Close Quickview