GLOW

Tuccelli’s ambitious first novel offers a fictionalized history of race relations—slavery, the appropriation of Cherokees’ land, the rise of the KKK—encapsulated in the family history of the descendents of Solomon Bounds, an early-19th-century pioneer in rural north Georgia.

  In October 1941, Mia McGee, of Cherokee descent and married to her black childhood sweetheart Obidiah Bounds, is an NAACP activist in Washington, D.C. After receiving a violent threat, she attempts to protect her 11-year-old daughter Ella, sending her by bus to her brother in Hopewell, Ga. When Ella doesn’t show up, Mia rushes to Hopewell in an understandable panic, but readers know that Ella is safely ensconced with Willie Mae and Mary-Mary, two elderly black women who came to her rescue after rednecks attacked her. This slender branch of plot carries a lot of weight as Ella’s ancestors, of black, white, Cherokee blood, tell their stories. Readers will need the supplied family tree to keep names and dates straight: Mia, one-eighth Indian, recalls her depression era childhood and the Klan lynching of Obidiah’s father, as well as visits from the girl ghost Lovelady. Former slave Willie Mae recalls being sold by a white ancestor of Ella’s to Samuel Bounds. Willie Mae, who has “the glow” to attract spirits, is Mary-Mary’s lover but also happily married to Alger, the son of slave Lossie and Riddle Young, the overseer of Samuel’s farm. Riddle and his sister Emmaline, unhappily married to Samuel, are half Cherokee. Childless Emmaline commits suicide and becomes an unsettled spirit. In 1860 Riddle buys Lossie and Alger’s freedom and takes the family, including Willie Mae, back to his homestead. Alger dies while a volunteer in the Confederate Army. Lovelady, Willie Mae’s daughter, drowns escaping an attack by white racists during Reconstruction. The struggle between cruelty and goodness goes on and on.  

 

Pub Date: March 19, 2012

ISBN: 978-0-670-02331-8

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Viking

Review Posted Online: Jan. 23, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2012

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Miller makes Homer pertinent to women facing 21st-century monsters.

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CIRCE

A retelling of ancient Greek lore gives exhilarating voice to a witch.

“Monsters are a boon for gods. Imagine all the prayers.” So says Circe, a sly, petulant, and finally commanding voice that narrates the entirety of Miller’s dazzling second novel. The writer returns to Homer, the wellspring that led her to an Orange Prize for The Song of Achilles (2012). This time, she dips into The Odyssey for the legend of Circe, a nymph who turns Odysseus’ crew of men into pigs. The novel, with its distinctive feminist tang, starts with the sentence: “When I was born, the name for what I was did not exist.” Readers will relish following the puzzle of this unpromising daughter of the sun god Helios and his wife, Perse, who had negligible use for their child. It takes banishment to the island Aeaea for Circe to sense her calling as a sorceress: “I will not be like a bird bred in a cage, I thought, too dull to fly even when the door stands open. I stepped into those woods and my life began.” This lonely, scorned figure learns herbs and potions, surrounds herself with lions, and, in a heart-stopping chapter, outwits the monster Scylla to propel Daedalus and his boat to safety. She makes lovers of Hermes and then two mortal men. She midwifes the birth of the Minotaur on Crete and performs her own C-section. And as she grows in power, she muses that “not even Odysseus could talk his way past [her] witchcraft. He had talked his way past the witch instead.” Circe’s fascination with mortals becomes the book’s marrow and delivers its thrilling ending. All the while, the supernatural sits intriguingly alongside “the tonic of ordinary things.” A few passages coil toward melodrama, and one inelegant line after a rape seems jarringly modern, but the spell holds fast. Expect Miller’s readership to mushroom like one of Circe’s spells.

Miller makes Homer pertinent to women facing 21st-century monsters.

Pub Date: April 10, 2018

ISBN: 978-0-316-55634-7

Page Count: 400

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: Jan. 23, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2018

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Still, a respectful and absorbing page-turner.

THE NIGHTINGALE

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. 20, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2014

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