A frequently dour but often profound historical novel.

RUNNING AS FAST AS I CAN

In Graham’s debut coming-of-age tale, a teenager flees from abusive households and endures years of turbulence in his life.

Childhood has been hard for Daniel Robinson and his two brothers in their small steel town near Pittsburgh. When their alcoholic father isn’t ignoring them, he’s physically abusing them. The boys’ mother is no help, as she’s in and out of a mental hospital. In the mid-1960s, their father is arrested and the family is split apart. High schooler Daniel moves in with a pastor, whose shocking molestation prompts the teen’s quick departure. Daniel’s life is more stable after he enrolls at Kentucky Methodist College, where he pursues a psychology degree and contemplates joining the U.S. Air Force. But his feeling of happiness is fleeting, as the love that he has for his girlfriend, Elizabeth Johnson, is unrequited. After he witnesses firsthand the infamous shooting at Kent State University on May 4, 1970, he’s so distraught that he leaves everything in his life behind and heads west. During the ’70s, Daniel meets hippies, Vietnam veterans, and a former heroin addict who’s struggling to stay clean, among others. He also works different jobs, including as a counselor at a children’s home. Along the way, he sees some of the worst of what life has to offer as soldiers die in Vietnam and black Americans confront racism. Although Daniel eventually finds the love that he yearns for, tragedy and misery remain constants in his life, keeping him a man on the move. Daniel’s persistent sense of hope alleviates the general gloominess of Graham’s novel. Although the protagonist is constantly traveling, he isn’t merely running from something. He’s often searching for ways that he can help others; for instance, he shows interest in becoming a counselor long before he gets the job at the children’s home. The supporting characters are striking; for example, despite Elizabeth’s apparent manipulation of Daniel’s affection for her, it’s clear that she craves love just as much as he does. In the short opening, set in the present day, Graham effectively teases the events of the novel to come: Daniel vaguely references his wife, Kate; an important letter that she wrote him long ago; and an unknown girl’s disappearance (“everyone blamed me”). The author’s straightforward, first-person prose also makes aloof characters feel even colder; for example, after someone mugs Daniel in San Francisco, he relates how the locals are generally apathetic toward him, despite his noticeable injuries. The protagonist is also occasionally insightful, as when he asserts that “life is written in pencil….We get lots of second chances.” Daniel’s yearslong story touches on numerous issues that reflect the times in which it’s set, such as recreational drug use. But a later subplot, which Graham wisely highlights, is the weightiest: Daniel comes to the aid of Charles Vickers, an African American man who spent two decades in jail for statutory rape. When townspeople object to Vickers’ release, their ire at both men results in a tragic outcome.

A frequently dour but often profound historical novel.

Pub Date: N/A

ISBN: N/A

Page Count: 305

Publisher: Kurti Publishing

Review Posted Online: April 15, 2019

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

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  • New York Times Bestseller

DEVOLUTION

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

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WHERE THE CRAWDADS SING

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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