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HIGHWAY 28 WEST

An ominous, often alienating piece of experimental fiction set along a hellish highway.

A man journeys along a nightmarish path in Taylor’s experimental novel.

Highway 28 West is a desolate place. It’s a stretch of road where “everything takes at least two hours or two days or two months or two years longer than it should,” as one resident puts it. “Unless it’s something bad, and then it happens a lot quicker than it should…” Along its winding route are trailer parks, ponds, and houses of worship like the Eternal Truth of Jesus Christ on Calvary Church. It’s home to vultures, roadkill, 18-wheelers hauling pine, and, in the winter, enough snow to strand a traveler in his tracks. That’s what happens to Preacher. Preacher isn’t really a preacher—he goes by a nickname he picked up in high school. His actual beliefs about God—or anything else for that matter—are rather ambivalent. When his pick-up truck stalls on the snowy highway, he approaches a trailer home to ask to use the phone and interrupts a couple in the midst of a screaming match. The wife invites Preacher to stay for coffee while the man steps away to sneak some whiskey in the bathroom. The wife takes the opportunity to seduce Preacher, then tells him of her plan to murder her husband with the shotgun hanging above the fireplace. Fleeing the trailer and impending murder, Preacher visits another one nearby, where a woman cares for her sick husband and son. The very next day, after getting his truck fixed, Preacher wanders into the Eternal Truth of Jesus Christ on Calvary Church only to discover a joint funeral for the boy and his father. These are just the first of several strange encounters Preacher experiences driving up and down Highway 28 West. He also finds a pit-bull puppy and a dead man, takes a job at a boxing plant, fails to help two teenagers drowning in a pond, and witnesses a mass shooting at a high school pep rally.

The novel is formatted like a play: Preacher recounts his adventures as monologues delivered to a crowd of people, many of whom have heard aspects of the story from other sources. They shout out comments, observations, and critiques of Preacher’s storytelling ability (during the telling of the anecdote about the arguing couple, one crowd member shouts, upon learning of the shotgun, “Just shoot the damn thing!”). Some members of the crowd have distinct personalities, like Lizzie, the “Girl Poet in Crowd,” who offers cryptic verses now and again between Preacher’s speeches. The stories Preacher tells are hard to make sense of—they have the fluidity and ambiguity of religious allegory, and both Preacher and the crowd often have difficulty assessing their meaning; the format itself adds an additional layer of abstraction. Preacher sometimes tells his stories in the first person, sometimes in the third, and there’s a slipperiness to the time and setting. Fans of Samuel Beckett and other aggressively postmodern writers may enjoy picking apart the layers of Preacher’s dreamlike soliloquies, but most readers will probably be left baffled by this difficult-to-parse work.

An ominous, often alienating piece of experimental fiction set along a hellish highway.

Pub Date: May 15, 2023

ISBN: 9781952386602

Page Count: 120

Publisher: Sagging Meniscus Press

Review Posted Online: April 21, 2023

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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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THIS SUMMER WILL BE DIFFERENT

A steamy, romantic summer read with a charming setting.

A florist attempts to avoid her best friend’s brother—and their powerful chemistry—on Prince Edward Island.

When Lucy Ashby visits her best friend Bridget’s family home on Prince Edward Island for the first time, Bridget gives her three rules: Eat your weight in oysters….Leave the city behind. And, most importantly, Don’t fall in love with my brother. Unfortunately for Lucy, she sleeps with Felix basically the second her plane lands, unaware that he’s Bridget’s brother until it’s too late. Lucy has never felt understood or accepted by her immediate family, and Bridget is one of the very few people she allows into her inner circle, so Lucy’s desperate to abide by these rules. And so she and Felix try to avoid each other on every one of Lucy’s visits to PEI over the years. And, of course, they fail spectacularly, always returning to each other when they’re in between relationships. But it’s never been anything serious…Lucy makes sure of that, backing off whenever her emotions feel too strong. In her “real life” back in Toronto, it’s easier for Lucy to avoid thinking of Felix as she runs a busy floral shop, working herself into the ground. But when Bridget asks Lucy to come to PEI for an emergency girls’ trip less than two weeks before Bridget is supposed to get married, Lucy drops everything to be there for her best friend. She doesn’t expect to find Felix there, along with feelings that are stronger and more difficult than ever to ignore. Even more than jeopardizing her relationship with Bridget, Lucy is afraid that giving in to her feelings could ruin the life she’s worked so hard to build. Fortune, the author of hits like Every Summer After (2022), gives readers another refreshingly summery story full of angst, romance, and sex scenes aplenty. The PEI setting is a beautiful backdrop for Lucy and Felix’s secret hookups and Lucy’s journey of self-discovery as she learns how to stand on her own two feet as a business owner, friend, and daughter. In addition to frequent (and welcome) Anne of Green Gables references, there are oysters galore and many sandy, windy scenes that transport readers straight to the island.

A steamy, romantic summer read with a charming setting.

Pub Date: May 7, 2024

ISBN: 9780593638880

Page Count: 368

Publisher: Berkley

Review Posted Online: March 9, 2024

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2024

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