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BROOKLYN CRIME NOVEL

An entertaining, challenging read that may appeal mainly to Lethem fans and scholars.

The award-winning Lethem makes a puzzling return to the scene of an earlier novel.

The title of Lethem’s 13th novel stirs memories of his comic-noir treasure, Motherless Brooklyn (1999), but the clear antecedent here is The Fortress of Solitude (2003); the new book stands as a kind of sociological survey of the urban street life that underpinned Fortress. The crimes involved stem largely from a real estate revolution starting in the 1960s that transformed run-down parts of Brooklyn into desirable residential areas. Lethem focuses on the same Dean Street that featured in Fortress. The narrator, who is from the neighborhood, cites the white “pioneers” who venture into mainly Black areas and renovate old buildings. With vague thoughts of fostering integration, they end up forcing their school-age boys—girls and women are scarce here—to endure getting their pocket money regularly stolen by Black youths from nearby housing projects, an intricate ritual called “yoking” in Fortress and here termed “the dance.” The book consists of brief chapters with recurring characters, like the two boys who cut up quarters in a funny scheme that won’t be resolved for hundreds of pages. Much of the narrative touches on youthful pastimes and traumas, from muggings to skateboards to graffiti, Spaldeens, shoplifting, and sex. The crimes range from actual ones, like theft and rape, but also implicated are poor parenting and property inflation along with the nabe-jolting sins of gentrification. The title notwithstanding, the book is at best an interesting alternative to a conventional novel. Maybe, with its dizzying array of local color, it’s a memoir gone rogue, as is a lot of fiction. The narrator says "it is about what a small number of people remember” and how that knowledge “wishes and doesn’t wish to come out.” When it does, it's Fortress, or it's this.

An entertaining, challenging read that may appeal mainly to Lethem fans and scholars.

Pub Date: Oct. 3, 2023

ISBN: 9780062938824

Page Count: 384

Publisher: Ecco/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: July 13, 2023

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 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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IT STARTS WITH US

Through palpable tension balanced with glimmers of hope, Hoover beautifully captures the heartbreak and joy of starting over.

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The sequel to It Ends With Us (2016) shows the aftermath of domestic violence through the eyes of a single mother.

Lily Bloom is still running a flower shop; her abusive ex-husband, Ryle Kincaid, is still a surgeon. But now they’re co-parenting a daughter, Emerson, who's almost a year old. Lily won’t send Emerson to her father’s house overnight until she’s old enough to talk—“So she can tell me if something happens”—but she doesn’t want to fight for full custody lest it become an expensive legal drama or, worse, a physical fight. When Lily runs into Atlas Corrigan, a childhood friend who also came from an abusive family, she hopes their friendship can blossom into love. (For new readers, their history unfolds in heartfelt diary entries that Lily addresses to Finding Nemo star Ellen DeGeneres as she considers how Atlas was a calming presence during her turbulent childhood.) Atlas, who is single and running a restaurant, feels the same way. But even though she’s divorced, Lily isn’t exactly free. Behind Ryle’s veneer of civility are his jealousy and resentment. Lily has to plan her dates carefully to avoid a confrontation. Meanwhile, Atlas’ mother returns with shocking news. In between, Lily and Atlas steal away for romantic moments that are even sweeter for their authenticity as Lily struggles with child care, breastfeeding, and running a business while trying to find time for herself.

Through palpable tension balanced with glimmers of hope, Hoover beautifully captures the heartbreak and joy of starting over.

Pub Date: Oct. 18, 2022

ISBN: 978-1-668-00122-6

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Atria

Review Posted Online: July 26, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2022

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