A rich, thoughtful portrait of a professor in peril both from outside influences and her own body’s betrayal.


A woman battles a debilitating brain disease while juggling career and romance issues in this sequel.

Former journalist and educator Franklin (The Raindrop Institute, 2017) continues the saga of Dart Sommers, a 63-year-old North Carolina psychology professor and co-founder of the Raindrop Institute, a research center aimed at vanquishing global poverty. Though she tries to hide it from Classy, Susan, Lynn, and Mary Beth, her four longtime tenants and the institute’s other co-founders, Dart has been experiencing harrowing episodes of dizziness and vision problems. Whether painting on a ladder or displaying odd behavior at work, she sees the condition escalate to panic-inducing proportions. Dart’s family history has complicated her life as well. On his deathbed, her father left his home to her, but conditionally. She would unrealistically have five years to “solve poverty” or the home would be sold. The Raindrop Institute think tank was born, but it has yet to curtail civilization’s collapse. Still, the estate’s attorney deems Dart’s efforts sufficient and grants her ownership of the house, though the decision incites her guilt at not being able to do more. This feeling deepens once her symptoms become debilitating and she sees a physician, who diagnoses her with frontotemporal dementia. This changes everything, not to mention that marriage and family issues intrude on her household, and the tenants begin to leave. Her boss, Jarvis Asher “Ash” White, a widower whose wife perished from FTD, wants her to move in with him, but Dart is unsure; meanwhile, collaborating with a research student reignites the bad blood between her and a colleague. In this resonant and lucid portrayal of a woman facing dire health and job problems, the triple threat of serious work accusations, her missing cousin Ellen, and her deteriorating mental state brings Dart to the brink of a breakdown. But she remains buoyed by efforts to advance the institute’s mission with outreach efforts and Ash’s unconditional support as she declines. Alongside a somewhat grim, melodramatic narrative, Franklin imparts some intriguing, thought-provoking theories about poverty, brain function, ageism, and gender equality (“Did she believe that men alone could save the world? If so, they’d had centuries of male leadership to craft a better world, and it hadn’t worked”). In addition, the author deftly inspires interest in FTD, a “very real disease.”

A rich, thoughtful portrait of a professor in peril both from outside influences and her own body’s betrayal.  

Pub Date: May 21, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-63152-507-0

Page Count: 288

Publisher: She Writes Press

Review Posted Online: Jan. 24, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2019

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Despite some distractions, there’s an irresistible charm to Owens’ first foray into nature-infused romantic fiction.

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A wild child’s isolated, dirt-poor upbringing in a Southern coastal wilderness fails to shield her from heartbreak or an accusation of murder.

“The Marsh Girl,” “swamp trash”—Catherine “Kya” Clark is a figure of mystery and prejudice in the remote North Carolina coastal community of Barkley Cove in the 1950s and '60s. Abandoned by a mother no longer able to endure her drunken husband’s beatings and then by her four siblings, Kya grows up in the careless, sometimes-savage company of her father, who eventually disappears, too. Alone, virtually or actually, from age 6, Kya learns both to be self-sufficient and to find solace and company in her fertile natural surroundings. Owens (Secrets of the Savanna, 2006, etc.), the accomplished co-author of several nonfiction books on wildlife, is at her best reflecting Kya’s fascination with the birds, insects, dappled light, and shifting tides of the marshes. The girl’s collections of shells and feathers, her communion with the gulls, her exploration of the wetlands are evoked in lyrical phrasing which only occasionally tips into excess. But as the child turns teenager and is befriended by local boy Tate Walker, who teaches her to read, the novel settles into a less magical, more predictable pattern. Interspersed with Kya’s coming-of-age is the 1969 murder investigation arising from the discovery of a man’s body in the marsh. The victim is Chase Andrews, “star quarterback and town hot shot,” who was once Kya’s lover. In the eyes of a pair of semicomic local police officers, Kya will eventually become the chief suspect and must stand trial. By now the novel’s weaknesses have become apparent: the monochromatic characterization (good boy Tate, bad boy Chase) and implausibilities (Kya evolves into a polymath—a published writer, artist, and poet), yet the closing twist is perhaps its most memorable oddity.

Despite some distractions, there’s an irresistible charm to Owens’ first foray into nature-infused romantic fiction.

Pub Date: Aug. 14, 2018

ISBN: 978-0-7352-1909-0

Page Count: 384

Publisher: Putnam

Review Posted Online: May 15, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 2018

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Relentlessly suspenseful and unexpectedly timely: just the thing for Dick Cheney’s bedside reading wherever he’s keeping...


From the Jack Reacher series , Vol. 6

When the newly elected Vice President’s life is threatened, the Secret Service runs to nomadic soldier-of-fortune Jack Reacher (Echo Burning, 2001, etc.) in this razor-sharp update of The Day of the Jackal and In the Line of Fire that’s begging to be filmed.

Why Reacher? Because M.E. Froelich, head of the VP’s protection team, was once a colleague and lover of his late brother Joe, who’d impressed her with tales of Jack’s derring-do as an Army MP. Now Froelich and her Brooks Brothers–tailored boss Stuyvesant have been receiving a series of anonymous messages threatening the life of North Dakota Senator/Vice President–elect Brook Armstrong. Since the threats may be coming from within the Secret Service’s own ranks—if they aren’t, it’s hard to see how they’ve been getting delivered—they can’t afford an internal investigation. Hence the call to Reacher, who wastes no time in hooking up with his old friend Frances Neagley, another Army vet turned private eye, first to see whether he can figure out a way to assassinate Armstrong, then to head off whoever else is trying. It’s Reacher’s matter-of-fact gift to think of everything, from the most likely position a sniper would assume at Armstrong’s Thanksgiving visit to a homeless shelter to the telltale punctuation of one of the threats, and to pluck helpers from the tiny cast who can fill the remaining gaps because they aren’t idiots or stooges. And it’s Child’s gift to keep tightening the screws, even when nothing’s happening except the arrival of a series of unsigned letters, and to convey a sense of the blank impossibility of guarding any public figure from danger day after highly exposed day, and the dedication and heroism of the agents who take on this daunting job.

Relentlessly suspenseful and unexpectedly timely: just the thing for Dick Cheney’s bedside reading wherever he’s keeping himself these days.

Pub Date: May 1, 2001

ISBN: 0-399-14861-2

Page Count: 384

Publisher: Putnam

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2002

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