A modern saga of rocketships, ice floes and dreams of the Caribbean, and great fun to read.

READ REVIEW

BUZZ ALDRIN, WHAT HAPPENED TO YOU IN ALL THE CONFUSION?

Or, the long-awaited Great Faroese Novel: a splendid confusion about life, love and intrigues in the land of the midnight sun.

Thirty-something Norwegian writer/musician/all-around pop icon Harstad has been making quite a splash—or, perhaps, splashdown—with his debut novel of 2005, which was published in 11 countries before making its way to these shores and is now a feature film in the making. The story is perhaps uneasily fitted to the silver screen, for it’s big and sprawling, and most of what happens does so in the interiors of its characters. The protagonist is a lovelorn gardener named Mattias, a young man of simple pleasures and absolutely no ambition: “Here in the garden, and I wanted to be nowhere else in the world” apart—perhaps, from hanging out with his friend Jørn. Mattias finds backing for his contentment in his station in the fate of Buzz Aldrin, the astronaut, who, though in command of the Apollo mission, had all his thunder stolen by Neil Armstrong, whom history remembers as the first man on the Moon, even though Aldrin was “a more experienced pilot in just about every way.” Given the choice, Jørn, naturally enough, would want to be Armstrong, and so the twain diverges—and presto, Mattias, coming into adulthood at just about the time Olof Palme is shot dead in Sweden and the age of Scandinavian innocence dissolves, finds himself in the remote Faeroe Islands. For a man who wants nothing more than for nothing to change, the new venue would seem to be ideal. But, of course, the world intrudes even on the Far North, and Mattias finds himself caught up in weird cabals and improbable plots about which he keeps suitably mum (“Didn’t mention any catastrophes, bloodied hands or envelopes that appeared from nowhere filled with large amounts of money"). The austere landscape and people of the Faeroes become players in Harstad’s poetic narrative, half-dramatic and half-comic, which takes on memorable turns with every page as Mattias realizes just how not in control of his destiny he really is.

A modern saga of rocketships, ice floes and dreams of the Caribbean, and great fun to read.

Pub Date: June 7, 2011

ISBN: 978-1-60980-135-9

Page Count: 480

Publisher: Seven Stories

Review Posted Online: May 3, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2011

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet

Charming, challenging, and so interesting you can hardly put it down.

Our Verdict

  • Our Verdict
  • GET IT

  • Kirkus Reviews'
    Best Books Of 2020

  • New York Times Bestseller

  • IndieBound Bestseller

SUCH A FUN AGE

The relationship between a privileged White mom and her Black babysitter is strained by race-related complications.

Blogger/role model/inspirational speaker Alix Chamberlain is none too happy about moving from Manhattan to Philadelphia for her husband Peter's job as a TV newscaster. With no friends or in-laws around to help out with her almost-3-year-old, Briar, and infant, Catherine, she’ll never get anywhere on the book she’s writing unless she hires a sitter. She strikes gold when she finds Emira Tucker. Twenty-five-year-old Emira’s family and friends expect her to get going on a career, but outside the fact that she’s about to get kicked off her parents’ health insurance, she’s happy with her part-time gigs—and Briar is her "favorite little human." Then one day a double-header of racist events topples the apple cart—Emira is stopped by a security guard who thinks she's kidnapped Briar, and when Peter's program shows a segment on the unusual ways teenagers ask their dates to the prom, he blurts out "Let's hope that last one asked her father first" about a Black boy hoping to go with a White girl. Alix’s combination of awkwardness and obsession with regard to Emira spins out of control and then is complicated by the reappearance of someone from her past (coincidence alert), where lies yet another racist event. Reid’s debut sparkles with sharp observations and perfect details—food, décor, clothes, social media, etc.—and she’s a dialogue genius, effortlessly incorporating toddler-ese, witty boyfriend–speak, and African American Vernacular English. For about two-thirds of the book, her evenhandedness with her varied cast of characters is impressive, but there’s a point at which any possible empathy for Alix disappears. Not only is she shallow, entitled, unknowingly racist, and a bad mother, but she has not progressed one millimeter since high school, and even then she was worse than we thought. Maybe this was intentional, but it does make things—ha ha—very black and white.

Charming, challenging, and so interesting you can hardly put it down.

Pub Date: Jan. 7, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-525-54190-5

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Putnam

Review Posted Online: Oct. 14, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 2019

Did you like this book?

A magnificent achievement: a novel that is, by turns, both optimistic and fatalistic, idealistic without being naïve.

Our Verdict

  • Our Verdict
  • GET IT

  • Kirkus Reviews'
    Best Books Of 2018

  • New York Times Bestseller

  • Pulitzer Prize Winner

THE OVERSTORY

Powers’ (Orfeo, 2014, etc.) 12th novel is a masterpiece of operatic proportions, involving nine central characters and more than half a century of American life.

In this work, Powers takes on the subject of nature, or our relationship to nature, as filtered through the lens of environmental activism, although at its heart the book is after more existential concerns. As is the case with much of Powers’ fiction, it takes shape slowly—first in a pastiche of narratives establishing the characters (a psychologist, an undergraduate who died briefly but was revived, a paraplegic computer game designer, a homeless vet), and then in the kaleidoscopic ways these individuals come together and break apart. “We all travel the Milky Way together, trees and men,” Powers writes, quoting the naturalist John Muir. “In every walk with nature one receives far more than he seeks.” The idea is important because what Powers means to explore is a sense of how we become who we are, individually and collectively, and our responsibility to the planet and to ourselves. Nick, for instance, continues a project begun by his grandfather to take repeated photographs of a single chestnut tree, “one a month for seventy-six years.” Pat, a visionary botanist, discovers how trees communicate with one another only to be discredited and then, a generation later, reaffirmed. What links the characters is survival—the survival of both trees and human beings. The bulk of the action unfolds during the timber wars of the late 1990s, as the characters coalesce on the Pacific coast to save old-growth sequoia from logging concerns. For Powers, however, political or environmental activism becomes a filter through which to consider the connectedness of all things—not only the human lives he portrays in often painfully intricate dimensions, but also the biosphere, both virtual and natural. “The world starts here,” Powers insists. “This is the merest beginning. Life can do anything. You have no idea.”

A magnificent achievement: a novel that is, by turns, both optimistic and fatalistic, idealistic without being naïve.

Pub Date: April 3, 2018

ISBN: 978-0-393-63552-2

Page Count: 512

Publisher: Norton

Review Posted Online: Jan. 23, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2018

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet
more