BRAZIL

The indefatigable Updike only occasionally succeeds here. Tristo, a black teenager from the favela, encounters Isabel, a rich and sheltered young daughter of the elite, one afternoon on Rio's Copacabana beach—and when Isabel takes him home and gives her maidenhead to him, both kids discover a love union like that of their storied counterparts, Romeo and Juliet. With Tristo, Isabel flees Rio, ahead of her father's armed posse, and they make it as far as So Paulo. There, Isabel is wrenched away—but this is only the first of a number of forced (and false) partings, around which, together, Isabel and Tristo will turn to gold-mining, prostitution, living among jungle Indians, and finally re-civilization. Isabel will even resort to the help of magic to have Tristo returned to her, at the price of a shaman-induced change in respective skin-colors for them both—Updike's woolliest turn in a story fanciful with twists and turns, touristy aperáus, and sexual philosophy. Like a slab of abused plywood, the novel is forever coming apart into its separate laminates. Updike at times (especially when he's trying to write suspenseful scenes, or violent ones) seems to be using the exotic foreignness of his setting as an excuse for over-vividness, somewhat like Karl May's old German romances of the American Indian. Elsewhere, more cunningly, he seems to be subverting some of Latin-American magic realism's more bloated clichÇs by overturning them into a kind of realistic-magic fiction. But, again, as in the African-based The Coup, he seems to think he needs another continent to try to tell the story of a wholly other—and maybe to tell a story, period. The Updikean intelligence and draughtsmanship and sex-awe constantly obtrude, weakening the narrative big picture, studding the book with perceptions and alertness galore but never with quite the air of exotic metaphysical enchantment the novelist seems to seek. Saul Bellow's finest book, Henderson the Rain King, is still unchallenged as the only American novel of our era to do that.

Pub Date: Feb. 9, 1994

ISBN: 0-679-43071-7

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Knopf

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 1993

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A romantic, sad, and ultimately hopeful book that’s perfect for fans of Jojo Moyes.

GHOSTED

In Walsh’s American debut, a woman desperately tries to find out why the man she spent a whirlwind week with never called.

Sarah has just separated from her American husband and is visiting her hometown in England when she meets Eddie. He’s kind and charming, and although they only spend one week together, she falls in love. When he has to leave for a trip, she knows they’ll keep in touch—they’re already making plans for the rest of their lives. But then Eddie never calls, and Sarah’s increasingly frantic efforts to contact him are fruitless. Is he hurt? Is he dead? As her friends tell her, there’s a far greater likelihood that he’s just blowing her off—she’s been ghosted. After trying to track Eddie down at a football game, Sarah starts to become ashamed of herself—after all, she’s almost 40 years old and she’s essentially stalking a man who never called her. But as Sarah slowly learns, she and Eddie didn’t actually meet randomly—they both have a connection to an accident that happened years ago, and it may have something to do with why he disappeared. The tension quickly amps up as the secrets of Eddie’s and Sarah’s pasts are revealed, and the truth behind their connection is genuinely surprising and heartbreaking. The barriers between Sarah and Eddie seem insurmountable at times, and although their issues are resolved in a tidy manner, the emotions behind their actions are always believable. Walsh has created a deeply moving romance with an intriguing mystery and a touching portrait of grief at its heart.

A romantic, sad, and ultimately hopeful book that’s perfect for fans of Jojo Moyes.

Pub Date: July 24, 2018

ISBN: 978-0-525-52277-5

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Pamela Dorman/Viking

Review Posted Online: May 1, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2018

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An ambitious and bewitching gem of a book with mystery and passion inscribed on every page.

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THE STARLESS SEA

A withdrawn graduate student embarks on an epic quest to restore balance to the world in this long-anticipated follow-up to The Night Circus (2011).

Zachary Ezra Rawlins is a typical millennial introvert; he likes video games, escapist reading, and drinking sidecars. But when he recognizes himself in the pages of a mysterious book from the university library, he's unnerved—and determined to uncover the truth. What begins as a journey for answers turns into something much bigger, and Zachary must decide whether to trust the handsome stranger he meets at a highflying literary fundraiser in New York or to retreat back to his thesis and forget the whole affair. In a high-wire feat of metatextual derring-do, Morgenstern weaves Zachary's adventure into a stunning array of linked fables, myths, and origin stories. There are pirates and weary travelers, painters who can see the future, lovers torn asunder, a menacing Owl King, and safe harbors for all the stories of the world, far below the Earth on the golden shores of a Starless Sea. Clocking in at more than 500 pages, the novel requires patience as Morgenstern puts all the pieces in place, but it is exquisitely pleasurable to watch the gears of this epic fantasy turn once they're set in motion. As in The Night Circus, Morgenstern is at her best when she imagines worlds and rooms and parties in vivid detail, right down to the ballroom stairs "festooned with lanterns and garlands of paper dipped in gold" or a cloak carved from ice with "ships and sailors and sea monsters...lost in the drifting snow." This novel is a love letter to readers as much as an invitation: Come and see how much magic is left in the world. Fans of Neil Gaiman and V.E. Schwab, Kelly Link and Susanna Clarke will want to heed the call.

An ambitious and bewitching gem of a book with mystery and passion inscribed on every page.

Pub Date: Nov. 5, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-385-54121-3

Page Count: 512

Publisher: Doubleday

Review Posted Online: Aug. 4, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2019

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