Ambitious but uninspiring.

ARIADNE

A debut novelist retells timeless tales from a feminine perspective.

Classical mythology endures—at least in part—because of its malleability. Ancient Near Eastern cultures borrowed one another’s deities and transformed them to meet their own needs. Poets, playwrights, and painters have been creating their own iterations of the Olympian gods for thousands of years. One of the difficulties of working with familiar figures and well-known tropes is making them fresh. Writers crafting long-form narratives face the additional challenge of putting flesh on archetypes. In choosing to give a voice to a woman plagued by awful men—her father, King Minos; her first love, the hero Theseus; Dionysus, the god of wine—Saint succeeds in presenting a distinctive version of Ariadne. The author doesn’t quite deliver on making her protagonist—or anyone else in this novel—real. One issue is Saint’s prose style. She uses formal, stilted language that is, perhaps, supposed to create a sense of antiquity but instead just feels unnatural. There is more telling than showing, and characters launch into soliloquies that might make sense in a Greek tragedy but are out of place here. On the whole, Saint is writing in a mode that is neither realist nor fantasy but an awkward place in between. For example, as she offers a detailed depiction of the infancy and development of the Minotaur—Ariadne’s half brother—the monster ceases to be horrifying and instead becomes slightly ridiculous. The reader has leisure to ask such questions as why, since cows are herbivores, a creature with the head of a bull would enjoy a diet of human flesh. Worse, though, is that Saint manages to make Dionysus—a god who inspired bloodthirsty frenzies in his drunken followers—boring. Ariadne becomes his bride soon after she’s dumped by Theseus. After a few years, Ariadne and Dionysus are staying together for the kids and hoping that a couples vacation to Athens will spice things up.

Ambitious but uninspiring.

Pub Date: May 4, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-250-77358-6

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Flatiron Books

Review Posted Online: Feb. 10, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2021

Did you like this book?

Through palpable tension balanced with glimmers of hope, Hoover beautifully captures the heartbreak and joy of starting over.

IT STARTS WITH US

The sequel to It Ends With Us (2016) shows the aftermath of domestic violence through the eyes of a single mother.

Lily Bloom is still running a flower shop; her abusive ex-husband, Ryle Kincaid, is still a surgeon. But now they’re co-parenting a daughter, Emerson, who's almost a year old. Lily won’t send Emerson to her father’s house overnight until she’s old enough to talk—“So she can tell me if something happens”—but she doesn’t want to fight for full custody lest it become an expensive legal drama or, worse, a physical fight. When Lily runs into Atlas Corrigan, a childhood friend who also came from an abusive family, she hopes their friendship can blossom into love. (For new readers, their history unfolds in heartfelt diary entries that Lily addresses to Finding Nemo star Ellen DeGeneres as she considers how Atlas was a calming presence during her turbulent childhood.) Atlas, who is single and running a restaurant, feels the same way. But even though she’s divorced, Lily isn’t exactly free. Behind Ryle’s veneer of civility are his jealousy and resentment. Lily has to plan her dates carefully to avoid a confrontation. Meanwhile, Atlas’ mother returns with shocking news. In between, Lily and Atlas steal away for romantic moments that are even sweeter for their authenticity as Lily struggles with child care, breastfeeding, and running a business while trying to find time for herself.

Through palpable tension balanced with glimmers of hope, Hoover beautifully captures the heartbreak and joy of starting over.

Pub Date: Oct. 18, 2022

ISBN: 978-1-668-00122-6

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Atria

Review Posted Online: July 27, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2022

Did you like this book?

A tale that’s at once familiar and full of odd and unexpected twists—vintage King, in other words.

FAIRY TALE

Narnia on the Penobscot: a grand, and naturally strange, entertainment from the ever prolific King.

What’s a person to do when sheltering from Covid? In King’s case, write something to entertain himself while reflecting on what was going on in the world outside—ravaged cities, contentious politics, uncertainty. King’s yarn begins in a world that’s recognizably ours, and with a familiar trope: A young woman, out to buy fried chicken, is mashed by a runaway plumber’s van, sending her husband into an alcoholic tailspin and her son into a preadolescent funk, driven “bugfuck” by a father who “was always trying to apologize.” The son makes good by rescuing an elderly neighbor who’s fallen off a ladder, though he protests that the man’s equally elderly German shepherd, Radar, was the true hero. Whatever the case, Mr. Bowditch has an improbable trove of gold in his Bates Motel of a home, and its origin seems to lie in a shed behind the house, one that Mr. Bowditch warns the boy away from: “ ‘Don’t go in there,’ he said. ‘You may in time, but for now don’t even think of it.’ ” It’s not Pennywise who awaits in the underworld behind the shed door, but there’s plenty that’s weird and unexpected, including a woman, Dora, whose “skin was slate gray and her face was cruelly deformed,” and a whole bunch of people—well, sort of people, anyway—who’d like nothing better than to bring their special brand of evil up to our world’s surface. King’s young protagonist, Charlie Reade, is resourceful beyond his years, but it helps that the old dog gains some of its youthful vigor in the depths below. King delivers a more or less traditional fable that includes a knowing nod: “I think I know what you want,” Charlie tells the reader, "and now you have it”—namely, a happy ending but with a suitably sardonic wink.

A tale that’s at once familiar and full of odd and unexpected twists—vintage King, in other words.

Pub Date: Sept. 6, 2022

ISBN: 978-1-66800-217-9

Page Count: 608

Publisher: Scribner

Review Posted Online: June 22, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2022

Did you like this book?

more