A masterful exercise in historical hypothesis.

A PROPHET WITHOUT HONOR

A NOVEL OF ALTERNATIVE HISTORY

A historical novel that imagines an alternative ending to World War II.

In 1936, Adolf Hitler boldly ordered the invasion of Western Germany—an undertaking so risky that even his own army’s general staff strongly opposed it. At the time, the German military was in a diminished state and vulnerable to attack by superior forces, but the British and French were caught unaware when the invasion order was given. Many historians have wondered whether much of the bloodshed of World War II could have been avoided if the Allied powers had swiftly responded to this act of aggression. Wurtenbaugh (Newton in the New Age, 2012, etc.) explores precisely this possibility in the novel, in which a young German officer, Lt. Karl von Haydenreich, contacts Dwight D. Eisenhower, then a major in the U.S. Army and a long-standing friend of the family, with stolen documents containing classified military information. The author not only tells the story of the war, but also of von Haydenreich’s life, entirely through excerpted books, journals, correspondence, and periodicals, all fictional—a quilt of information that, stitched together, forms a fully coherent, if unsettled, narrative. Von Haydenreich’s mother died when he was young, and he was raised by a stepmother whose relationship with his father was scandalous. His family were Bavarian nobility and rabid anti-Semites, and as a young man, Von Haydenreich was impressed by Hitler. His father disabused him of his infatuation, and he went on to become a serious student of music, but he eventually quit his studies and joined the Reichswehr. Wurtenbaugh’s account is stunningly original, and he plausibly conjures a remarkably full vision of alternative history. Haydenreich is a beautifully drawn character, rich and complex, and the author allows readers considerable latitude in interpreting his motives. Some of the excerpts presented depict Haydenreich as a hero, some as a traitor, and the author wisely shows great restraint by refusing to offer any narrative commentary that definitively nudges readers toward one option or the other. Wurtenbaugh not only conjures a new historical universe, but also a contentious world of scholarship about it, and he invites readers to join in the dispute. His effort is reminiscent of Philip Roth’s 2004 novel The Plot Against America, as both are wildly imaginative and historically grounded. Most importantly, this book humanizes a global tragedy, making its main character’s inner conflict a microcosm of a nation’s intramural disputes. The entire Von Haydenreich family is memorably, fascinatingly dysfunctional, and the author slowly unfurls his protagonist’s plight in a way that seems fragilely contingent and inexorably fated. One minor criticism is that it would have been better if the author didn’t begin the novel with a prefatory note in his own name, and a concluding historical one. The power of the novel is in the immersive experience it offers, and these two invitations to stand outside the fictional cosmos feel unnecessary and diminishing. Nevertheless, this is an impressive work, as bold as it is meticulous.

A masterful exercise in historical hypothesis.

Pub Date: June 12, 2017

ISBN: N/A

Page Count: 604

Publisher: CreateSpace

Review Posted Online: Aug. 7, 2017

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Packed with riveting drama and painful truths, this book powerfully illustrates the devastation of abuse—and the strength of...

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IT ENDS WITH US

Hoover’s (November 9, 2015, etc.) latest tackles the difficult subject of domestic violence with romantic tenderness and emotional heft.

At first glance, the couple is edgy but cute: Lily Bloom runs a flower shop for people who hate flowers; Ryle Kincaid is a surgeon who says he never wants to get married or have kids. They meet on a rooftop in Boston on the night Ryle loses a patient and Lily attends her abusive father’s funeral. The provocative opening takes a dark turn when Lily receives a warning about Ryle’s intentions from his sister, who becomes Lily’s employee and close friend. Lily swears she’ll never end up in another abusive home, but when Ryle starts to show all the same warning signs that her mother ignored, Lily learns just how hard it is to say goodbye. When Ryle is not in the throes of a jealous rage, his redeeming qualities return, and Lily can justify his behavior: “I think we needed what happened on the stairwell to happen so that I would know his past and we’d be able to work on it together,” she tells herself. Lily marries Ryle hoping the good will outweigh the bad, and the mother-daughter dynamics evolve beautifully as Lily reflects on her childhood with fresh eyes. Diary entries fancifully addressed to TV host Ellen DeGeneres serve as flashbacks to Lily’s teenage years, when she met her first love, Atlas Corrigan, a homeless boy she found squatting in a neighbor’s house. When Atlas turns up in Boston, now a successful chef, he begs Lily to leave Ryle. Despite the better option right in front of her, an unexpected complication forces Lily to cut ties with Atlas, confront Ryle, and try to end the cycle of abuse before it’s too late. The relationships are portrayed with compassion and honesty, and the author’s note at the end that explains Hoover’s personal connection to the subject matter is a must-read.

Packed with riveting drama and painful truths, this book powerfully illustrates the devastation of abuse—and the strength of the survivors.

Pub Date: Aug. 2, 2016

ISBN: 978-1-5011-1036-8

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Atria

Review Posted Online: May 31, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2016

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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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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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