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CHILD BRIDE

A captivating story of a strong African American woman who pursues her dreams.

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In 1950s Louisiana, an African American teenager must leave childhood and her ambitions behind when she marries an older man in this coming-of-age novel about the black diaspora, resilience, and courage.

Until the age of 16, Nell Jones’ home is a ramshackle house on “one of many small hog and pecan farms owned and worked by the descendants of sharecroppers and former slaves.” There, her mother teaches her how to cook, her father shows her how to use a pocket knife to peel an apple in one long spiral strip, and her oldest brother, Robert, tells her how to find the North Star in the night sky. Most of all, Nell loves school, where Miss Parker, a teacher, nurtures her naturally inquisitive nature and her passion for reading. Cocooned in the love of her family and her small community, Nell knows little of the outside world, but she later realizes, “for black southerners racism lived in the air we breathed.” Nell is still an innocent teen when Henry Bight comes to claim her as his bride and take her north to Boston. There, her dreams of becoming a teacher quickly evaporate in the face of Henry’s possessiveness and insistence that she have as many babies as possible. A few years later, Nell is the mother of three young children, a lonely and unfulfilled woman tied to an angry and controlling man. But she does possess an inner strength and stubbornness that will not allow her to simply abandon her dreams. Turner’s warm and personal narrative brings to life the vigor and interdependence of black communities in both the South and the North of the mid-20th century. Nell is an appealing, penetrating, and spirited protagonist whose struggles are relatable to all readers, but much of the power of her story lies in the fact that it is grounded in African American society. White characters make an occasional appearance, but the tale is centered on the black experience. It is disappointing that Nell’s eventual fate seems to rely heavily on the trappings of class privilege, but the book as a whole is uplifting and dynamic.

A captivating story of a strong African American woman who pursues her dreams.

Pub Date: April 14, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-68463-038-7

Page Count: 209

Publisher: N/A

Review Posted Online: April 16, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2020

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  • New York Times Bestseller

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THE WOMEN

A dramatic, vividly detailed reconstruction of a little-known aspect of the Vietnam War.

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A young woman’s experience as a nurse in Vietnam casts a deep shadow over her life.

When we learn that the farewell party in the opening scene is for Frances “Frankie” McGrath’s older brother—“a golden boy, a wild child who could make the hardest heart soften”—who is leaving to serve in Vietnam in 1966, we feel pretty certain that poor Finley McGrath is marked for death. Still, it’s a surprise when the fateful doorbell rings less than 20 pages later. His death inspires his sister to enlist as an Army nurse, and this turn of events is just the beginning of a roller coaster of a plot that’s impressive and engrossing if at times a bit formulaic. Hannah renders the experiences of the young women who served in Vietnam in all-encompassing detail. The first half of the book, set in gore-drenched hospital wards, mildewed dorm rooms, and boozy officers’ clubs, is an exciting read, tracking the transformation of virginal, uptight Frankie into a crack surgical nurse and woman of the world. Her tensely platonic romance with a married surgeon ends when his broken, unbreathing body is airlifted out by helicopter; she throws her pent-up passion into a wild affair with a soldier who happens to be her dead brother’s best friend. In the second part of the book, after the war, Frankie seems to experience every possible bad break. A drawback of the story is that none of the secondary characters in her life are fully three-dimensional: Her dismissive, chauvinistic father and tight-lipped, pill-popping mother, her fellow nurses, and her various love interests are more plot devices than people. You’ll wish you could have gone to Vegas and placed a bet on the ending—while it’s against all the odds, you’ll see it coming from a mile away.

A dramatic, vividly detailed reconstruction of a little-known aspect of the Vietnam War.

Pub Date: Feb. 6, 2024

ISBN: 9781250178633

Page Count: 480

Publisher: St. Martin's

Review Posted Online: Nov. 4, 2023

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2023

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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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