Weirdly compelling and compellingly weird.

ENTER THE AARDVARK

A story of taxidermy, political intrigue, and love between men from the author of The Convalescent (2009).

The story begins at the beginning—or close enough. It begins with the birth—or close enough—of our planet. Several eons pass over the next few pages until a Victorian naturalist traveling in Africa encounters his first aardvark. Then another story begins, and in this story, “you”—these sections are narrated in the second person—are an up-and-coming young Republican legislator with a Ronald Reagan fetish. These two stories become intertwined when an aardvark specimen Sir Richard Ostlet sent to his friend and lover Titus Downing, a taxidermist, is delivered to Alexander Paine Wilson’s D.C. town house. As both narratives unfold, it becomes clear that Wilson and Downing have a great deal in common. The taxidermist is compelled to be circumspect about his relationship with Ostlet because what they do together is an actual crime in 19th-century England. For Wilson, coming out is impossible not only because of his political party, but also because he doesn’t even define himself as gay. Yes, he has frequent and very enjoyable sexual encounters with a philanthropist named Greg Tampico, but they’re just two straight guys who happen to enjoy sex with other men. The aardvark serves as a sort of intermediary between these two men and their lovers. Resurrecting this strange beast allows Downing to stay connected with Ostlet even after Ostlet has abandoned him and married a woman. When a FedEx truck dumps this selfsame aardvark on Wilson’s doorstep, he sees it as a message from Greg—one that the congressman will spend most of the novel struggling to decipher. In addition to providing a lot of detail about the art of taxidermy, Anthony offers meditations on the interconnectedness of all things. There are also ghosts and Nazis, in case all that isn’t enough.

Weirdly compelling and compellingly weird.

Pub Date: March 24, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-316-53615-8

Page Count: 192

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: Dec. 29, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2020

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Wingate sheds light on a shameful true story of child exploitation but is less successful in engaging readers in her...

BEFORE WE WERE YOURS

Avery Stafford, a lawyer, descendant of two prominent Southern families and daughter of a distinguished senator, discovers a family secret that alters her perspective on heritage.

Wingate (Sisters, 2016, etc.) shifts the story in her latest novel between present and past as Avery uncovers evidence that her Grandma Judy was a victim of the Tennessee Children’s Home Society and is related to a woman Avery and her father meet when he visits a nursing home. Although Avery is living at home to help her parents through her father’s cancer treatment, she is also being groomed for her own political career. Readers learn that investigating her family’s past is not part of Avery's scripted existence, but Wingate's attempts to make her seem torn about this are never fully developed, and descriptions of her chemistry with a man she meets as she's searching are also unconvincing. Sections describing the real-life orphanage director Georgia Tann, who stole poor children, mistreated them, and placed them for adoption with wealthy clients—including Joan Crawford and June Allyson—are more vivid, as are passages about Grandma Judy and her siblings. Wingate’s fans and readers who enjoy family dramas will find enough to entertain them, and book clubs may enjoy dissecting the relationship and historical issues in the book.

Wingate sheds light on a shameful true story of child exploitation but is less successful in engaging readers in her fictional characters' lives.

Pub Date: June 6, 2017

ISBN: 978-0-425-28468-1

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Ballantine

Review Posted Online: March 21, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2017

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This book sings with the terrible silence of dead civilizations in which once there was valor.

THINGS FALL APART

Written with quiet dignity that builds to a climax of tragic force, this book about the dissolution of an African tribe, its traditions, and values, represents a welcome departure from the familiar "Me, white brother" genre.

Written by a Nigerian African trained in missionary schools, this novel tells quietly the story of a brave man, Okonkwo, whose life has absolute validity in terms of his culture, and who exercises his prerogative as a warrior, father, and husband with unflinching single mindedness. But into the complex Nigerian village filters the teachings of strangers, teachings so alien to the tribe, that resistance is impossible. One must distinguish a force to be able to oppose it, and to most, the talk of Christian salvation is no more than the babbling of incoherent children. Still, with his guns and persistence, the white man, amoeba-like, gradually absorbs the native culture and in despair, Okonkwo, unable to withstand the corrosion of what he, alone, understands to be the life force of his people, hangs himself. In the formlessness of the dying culture, it is the missionary who takes note of the event, reminding himself to give Okonkwo's gesture a line or two in his work, The Pacification of the Primitive Tribes of the Lower Niger.

This book sings with the terrible silence of dead civilizations in which once there was valor.

Pub Date: Jan. 23, 1958

ISBN: 0385474547

Page Count: 207

Publisher: McDowell, Obolensky

Review Posted Online: April 23, 2013

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 1958

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