An original and psychologically rich tale in need of a bit of some drama to match.
A patriarch’s visit to his adult children triggers some lingering stresses and pushes everyone to a breaking point.
Khemiri’s fifth novel and third to be translated into English tracks 10 emotionally stressful days in the life of one family in Stockholm. Twice a year the “grandfather” (characters are identified solely by their familial roles) comes to the city to visit his son and daughter, but his arrival is treated like that of a coming storm. He’s casually bigoted, critical of nearly everyone he interacts with, and his visits seem less loving than strategic: His son maintains a flat for him to stay in so he can claim Swedish residency and dodge taxes in his (unnamed) home country. The son is thinking of breaking this “father clause,” but he’s long been timid and indecisive and is now ground down as a stay-at-home dad to a 4-year-old and a 1-year-old. (There are multiple attenuated scenes of him stressfully prepping the tots for the day; true to Scandinavian literary fiction standards, bowel movements are prominent.) Nearby, the daughter, who’s pregnant, is having second thoughts about her boyfriend, a know-it-all film buff stuck in a job as a PE teacher. The son has spent years uncertain about his career direction (on this tumultuous week he’s giving stand-up comedy a try), and a prominent theme in the novel is men’s need for approval from their fathers and the various ways they suffer from that need. Khemiri’s shifting perspectives across characters (including, at one point, that of a ghost) effectively conjure up a mood of dread, which intensifies as we learn more about the grandfather’s third child and the circumstances of her death. But the novel’s climactic plot turns are mild in comparison to the foreboding tone that precedes them; the concluding feeling is less of things coming to a head than a general muddling through.An original and psychologically rich tale in need of a bit of some drama to match.
Pub Date: Aug. 25, 2020
Page Count: 320
Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux
Review Posted Online: March 14, 2020
Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2020
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by James McBride ‧ RELEASE DATE: Aug. 8, 2023
If it’s possible for America to have a poet laureate, why can’t James McBride be its storyteller-in-chief?
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Best Books Of 2023
New York Times Bestseller
McBride follows up his hit novel Deacon King Kong (2020) with another boisterous hymn to community, mercy, and karmic justice.
It's June 1972, and the Pennsylvania State Police have some questions concerning a skeleton found at the bottom of an old well in the ramshackle Chicken Hill section of Pottstown that’s been marked for redevelopment. But Hurricane Agnes intervenes by washing away the skeleton and all other physical evidence of a series of extraordinary events that began more than 40 years earlier, when Jewish and African American citizens shared lives, hopes, and heartbreak in that same neighborhood. At the literal and figurative heart of these events is Chona Ludlow, the forbearing, compassionate Jewish proprietor of the novel’s eponymous grocery store, whose instinctive kindness and fairness toward the Black families of Chicken Hill exceed even that of her husband, Moshe, who, with Chona’s encouragement, desegregates his theater to allow his Black neighbors to fully enjoy acts like Chick Webb’s swing orchestra. Many local White Christians frown upon the easygoing relationship between Jews and Blacks, especially Doc Roberts, Pottstown’s leading physician, who marches every year in the local Ku Klux Klan parade. The ties binding the Ludlows to their Black neighbors become even stronger over the years, but that bond is tested most stringently and perilously when Chona helps Nate Timblin, a taciturn Black janitor at Moshe’s theater and the unofficial leader of his community, conceal and protect a young orphan named Dodo who lost his hearing in an explosion. He isn’t at all “feeble-minded,” but the government wants to put him in an institution promising little care and much abuse. The interlocking destinies of these and other characters make for tense, absorbing drama and, at times, warm, humane comedy. McBride’s well-established skill with narrative tactics may sometimes spill toward the melodramatic here. But as in McBride’s previous works, you barely notice such relatively minor contrivances because of the depth of characterizations and the pitch-perfect dialogue of his Black and Jewish characters. It’s possible to draw a clear, straight line from McBride’s breakthrough memoir, The Color of Water (1996), to the themes of this latest work.If it’s possible for America to have a poet laureate, why can’t James McBride be its storyteller-in-chief?
Pub Date: Aug. 8, 2023
Page Count: 400
Review Posted Online: May 9, 2023
Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 2023
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by Susan Mallery ‧ RELEASE DATE: May 31, 2022
A book begging to be read on the beach, with the sun warming the sand and salt in the air: pure escapism.
Three woman who join together to rent a large space along the beach in Los Angeles for their stores—a gift shop, a bakery, and a bookstore—become fast friends as they each experience the highs, and lows, of love.
Bree is a friendly but standoffish bookstore owner who keeps everyone she knows at arm’s length, from guys she meets in bars to her friends. Mikki is a settled-in-her-routines divorced mother of two, happily a mom, gift-shop owner, and co-parent with her ex-husband, Perry. And Ashley is a young, very-much-in-love bakery owner specializing in muffins who devotes herself to giving back to the community through a nonprofit that helps community members develop skills and find jobs. When the women meet drooling over a boardwalk storefront that none of them can afford on her own, a plan is hatched to divide the space in three, and a friendship—and business partnership—is born. An impromptu celebration on the beach at sunset with champagne becomes a weekly touchpoint to their lives as they learn more about each other and themselves. Their friendship blossoms as they help each other, offering support, hard truths, and loving backup. Author Mallery has created a delightful story of friendship between three women that also offers a variety of love stories as they fall in love, make mistakes, and figure out how to be the best—albeit still flawed—versions of themselves. The men are similarly flawed and human. While the story comes down clearly on the side of all-encompassing love, Mallery has struck a careful balance: There is just enough sex to be spicy, just enough swearing to be naughty, and just enough heartbreak to avoid being cloying.A book begging to be read on the beach, with the sun warming the sand and salt in the air: pure escapism.
Pub Date: May 31, 2022
Page Count: 352
Publisher: Harlequin MIRA
Review Posted Online: March 15, 2022
Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2022
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