An overly simplistic moralism weakens this multigenerational novel.




Glittenberg’s (Land, Love, Life, 2016, etc.) historical family saga follows the fortunes of homesteaders on the northeastern Colorado prairie and their descendants.

After a short flashback set in 1983, this novel begins in the spring of 1909 in Hopetown, Colorado. John William Schultz and his cousin Gus arrive there from Iowa ahead of their families to take up their new claims. They turn out to have different attitudes about them: Gus regards the land as infinitely exploitable, refusing to let any lie fallow, while John protects the land and his seed crop, preserving the best from one generation to the next in a sturdy box that he calls “The Promise Seed.” Prairie dangers such as drought, grasshoppers, fire, and rattlesnakes threaten the homesteaders and sometimes bring tragedy. After losing a child, Gus eventually sells out and returns east, but restoring the land that he ruined takes a decade. The cousins’ dichotomy lives on in John William’s sons: Will is a good farmer, but Hank is, like Gus, selfish and dishonest. Their fortunes diverge during the hard Depression years as Will and family work hard, even becoming migrant fruit pickers for a time, and Hank prospers, often through cheating. After World War II, though, prospects for Will and his family change. Glittenberg tells a moralistic story of white hats and black hats, and one can practically hear the mustache-twirling when Gus, for example, says his ambition is “to own more than anyone else.” Meanwhile, the heroic characters are faultlessly humble, honest, hardworking, and loving, and also welcoming of new ideas, such as organic farming. The cliché of Native Americans being especially spiritual is often emphasized; a half-Cheyenne man who wishes “to be more Indian than white” is not just “a special messenger” or maybe an angel”—he can actually work miracles. The prose style, rife with dashes, is also irritating at times, as are moments of naïve exposition: “she had pneumonia (with drama in her voice).” However, the nitty-gritty details of the homesteaders’ hard lives add some interest to the tale, such as when Papa Paul, John’s father-in-law, inspects seeds to find the best ones: “Papa held fistfuls of seeds, examining each grain, looking for striations and markers. Then he bit into the seed, ‘Look this is a good example of a possible puny seed.’ He showed it around to all the farmers.” 

An overly simplistic moralism weakens this multigenerational novel. 

Pub Date: N/A


Page Count: -

Publisher: Dog Ear Publisher

Review Posted Online: Feb. 1, 2017

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A tasty, if not always tasteful, tale of supernatural mayhem that fans of King and Crichton alike will enjoy.


Are we not men? We are—well, ask Bigfoot, as Brooks does in this delightful yarn, following on his bestseller World War Z (2006).

A zombie apocalypse is one thing. A volcanic eruption is quite another, for, as the journalist who does a framing voice-over narration for Brooks’ latest puts it, when Mount Rainier popped its cork, “it was the psychological aspect, the hyperbole-fueled hysteria that had ended up killing the most people.” Maybe, but the sasquatches whom the volcano displaced contributed to the statistics, too, if only out of self-defense. Brooks places the epicenter of the Bigfoot war in a high-tech hideaway populated by the kind of people you might find in a Jurassic Park franchise: the schmo who doesn’t know how to do much of anything but tries anyway, the well-intentioned bleeding heart, the know-it-all intellectual who turns out to know the wrong things, the immigrant with a tough backstory and an instinct for survival. Indeed, the novel does double duty as a survival manual, packed full of good advice—for instance, try not to get wounded, for “injury turns you from a giver to a taker. Taking up our resources, our time to care for you.” Brooks presents a case for making room for Bigfoot in the world while peppering his narrative with timely social criticism about bad behavior on the human side of the conflict: The explosion of Rainier might have been better forecast had the president not slashed the budget of the U.S. Geological Survey, leading to “immediate suspension of the National Volcano Early Warning System,” and there’s always someone around looking to monetize the natural disaster and the sasquatch-y onslaught that follows. Brooks is a pro at building suspense even if it plays out in some rather spectacularly yucky episodes, one involving a short spear that takes its name from “the sucking sound of pulling it out of the dead man’s heart and lungs.” Grossness aside, it puts you right there on the scene.

A tasty, if not always tasteful, tale of supernatural mayhem that fans of King and Crichton alike will enjoy.

Pub Date: June 16, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-9848-2678-7

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Del Rey/Ballantine

Review Posted Online: Feb. 10, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2020

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Kin “[find] each other’s lives inscrutable” in this rich, sharp story about the way identity is formed.

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Inseparable identical twin sisters ditch home together, and then one decides to vanish.

The talented Bennett fuels her fiction with secrets—first in her lauded debut, The Mothers (2016), and now in the assured and magnetic story of the Vignes sisters, light-skinned women parked on opposite sides of the color line. Desiree, the “fidgety twin,” and Stella, “a smart, careful girl,” make their break from stultifying rural Mallard, Louisiana, becoming 16-year-old runaways in 1954 New Orleans. The novel opens 14 years later as Desiree, fleeing a violent marriage in D.C., returns home with a different relative: her 8-year-old daughter, Jude. The gossips are agog: “In Mallard, nobody married dark....Marrying a dark man and dragging his blueblack child all over town was one step too far.” Desiree's decision seals Jude’s misery in this “colorstruck” place and propels a new generation of flight: Jude escapes on a track scholarship to UCLA. Tending bar as a side job in Beverly Hills, she catches a glimpse of her mother’s doppelgänger. Stella, ensconced in white society, is shedding her fur coat. Jude, so black that strangers routinely stare, is unrecognizable to her aunt. All this is expertly paced, unfurling before the book is half finished; a reader can guess what is coming. Bennett is deeply engaged in the unknowability of other people and the scourge of colorism. The scene in which Stella adopts her white persona is a tour de force of doubling and confusion. It calls up Toni Morrison’s The Bluest Eye, the book's 50-year-old antecedent. Bennett's novel plays with its characters' nagging feelings of being incomplete—for the twins without each other; for Jude’s boyfriend, Reese, who is trans and seeks surgery; for their friend Barry, who performs in drag as Bianca. Bennett keeps all these plot threads thrumming and her social commentary crisp. In the second half, Jude spars with her cousin Kennedy, Stella's daughter, a spoiled actress.

Kin “[find] each other’s lives inscrutable” in this rich, sharp story about the way identity is formed.

Pub Date: June 2, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-525-53629-1

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Riverhead

Review Posted Online: March 15, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2020

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