A haunting vision of post-'60s malaise whose narrator somehow retains his humor, compassion, and even optimism in the wake...

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REVOLUTIONARIES

A grown-up child of the 1960s looks back in anger, seasoned with retroactive awe, at his mercurial father, a legendary activist and counterculture icon.

It will be all but impossible for readers of a certain age to wander far into this elegiac monologue about family upheaval, political tumult, and ruined hopes without thinking of Yippie co-founder Abbie Hoffman (1936-1989), who challenged the political establishment in the '60s with anarchic humor, incendiary rhetoric, and heedless mischief. Most (if not quite all) of the things that happen in this novel to the irrepressible Lenny Snyder, from his glory days as street-level activist and counterculture superstar to his early-1970s period on the run from drug-related criminal charges, happened in real life to Hoffman. Playwright Furst, who displayed wit and empathy dealing with youthful protagonists in Short People (2003) and The Sabotage Café (2007), filters Lenny’s life through the childhood reminiscences of his grown-up son, Fred, short for “Freedom,” who was literally conceived by Lenny and his wife, Suzy, on the grounds of Central Park's Sheep Meadow minutes after they were married in front of “four thousand witnesses tripping on acid and a photographer from the Associated Press.” At first, Fred, along with everybody in Lenny’s orbit, is enthralled with his dad’s “cracked-whip cackle,” rapid-fire patter, and physical courage. But the older Fred gets, the more bewildered he is by Lenny’s mood swings and the verbal abuse and offhand neglect he visits upon those closest to him, whether it’s Fred’s mother, the novel’s most heartbreaking character, or folk singer Phil Ochs, who’s a very close second as he always shows up to help, despite his estrangement from Lenny and his own physical and psychological decline, wherever Suzy and Fred are struggling to live after Lenny’s deep dive into the underground. Other real-life characters come into view, including Allen Ginsberg, William Kunstler, and Jerry Rubin, though Rubin's thinly disguised persona appears under the name Sy Neuman. But what raises this book far above being a roman à clef are the vivid scenes of Fred trying to have a normal childhood in gray, grimy Nixon-era New York City and of him and his mother finding solace with each other as they watch Lenny drift away from them, literally and figuratively.

A haunting vision of post-'60s malaise whose narrator somehow retains his humor, compassion, and even optimism in the wake of the most crushing disillusionment.

Pub Date: April 19, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-307-27114-3

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Knopf

Review Posted Online: Jan. 21, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2019

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With humor and insight, Straub creates a family worth rooting for.

ALL ADULTS HERE

When Astrid Strick witnesses a school bus run over a longtime acquaintance of hers—Barbara Baker, a woman she doesn't like very much—it's only the beginning of the shake-ups to come in her life and the lives of those she loves.

Astrid has been tootling along contentedly in the Hudson Valley town of Clapham, New York, a 68-year-old widow with three grown children. After many years of singlehood since her husband died, she's been quietly seeing Birdie Gonzalez, her hairdresser, for the past two years, and after Barbara's death she determines to tell her children about the relationship: "There was no time to waste, not in this life. There were always more school buses." Elliot, her oldest, who's in real estate, lives in Clapham with his wife, Wendy, who's Chinese American, and their twins toddlers, Aidan and Zachary, who are "such hellions that only a fool would willingly ask for more." Astrid's daughter, Porter, owns a nearby farm producing artisanal goat cheese and has just gotten pregnant through a sperm bank while having an affair with her married high school boyfriend. Nicky, the youngest Strick, is disconcertingly famous for having appeared in an era-defining movie when he was younger and now lives in Brooklyn with his French wife, Juliette, and their daughter, Cecelia, who's being shipped up to live with Astrid for a while after her friend got mixed up with a pedophile she met online. As always, Straub (Modern Lovers, 2016, etc.) draws her characters warmly, making them appealing in their self-centeredness and generosity, their insecurity and hope. The cast is realistically diverse, though in most ways it's fairly superficial; the fact that Birdie is Latina or Porter's obstetrician is African American doesn't have much impact on the story or their characters. Cecelia's new friend, August, wants to make the transition to Robin; that storyline gets more attention, with the two middle schoolers supporting each other through challenging times. The Stricks worry about work, money, sex, and gossip; Straub has a sharp eye for her characters' foibles and the details of their liberal, upper-middle-class milieu.

With humor and insight, Straub creates a family worth rooting for.

Pub Date: May 5, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-59463-469-7

Page Count: 368

Publisher: Riverhead

Review Posted Online: Feb. 10, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2020

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A daring concept not so daringly developed.

THE BOOK OF LONGINGS

In Kidd’s (The Invention of Wings, 2014, etc.) feminist take on the New Testament, Jesus has a wife whose fondest longing is to write.

Ana is the daughter of Matthias, head scribe to Herod Antipas, tetrarch of Galilee. She demonstrates an exceptional aptitude for writing, and Matthias, for a time, indulges her with reed pens, papyri, and other 16 C.E. office supplies. Her mother disapproves, but her aunt, Yaltha, mentors Ana in the ways of the enlightened women of Alexandria, from whence Yaltha, suspected of murdering her brutal husband, was exiled years before. Yaltha was also forced to give up her daughter, Chaya, for adoption. As Ana reaches puberty, parental tolerance of her nonconformity wanes, outweighed by the imperative to marry her off. Her adopted brother, Judas—yes, that Judas—is soon disowned for his nonconformity—plotting against Antipas. On the very day Ana, age 14, meets her prospective betrothed, the repellent Nathanial, in the town market, she also encounters Jesus, a young tradesman, to whom she’s instantly drawn. Their connection deepens after she encounters Jesus in the cave where she is concealing her writings about oppressed women. When Nathanial dies after his betrothal to Ana but before their marriage, Ana is shunned for insufficiently mourning him—and after refusing to become Antipas’ concubine, she is about to be stoned until Jesus defuses the situation with that famous admonition. She marries Jesus and moves into his widowed mother’s humble compound in Nazareth, accompanied by Yaltha. There, poverty, not sexism, prohibits her from continuing her writing—office supplies are expensive. Kidd skirts the issue of miracles, portraying Jesus as a fully human and, for the period, accepting husband—after a stillbirth, he condones Ana’s practice of herbal birth control. A structural problem is posed when Jesus’ active ministry begins—what will Ana’s role be? Problem avoided when, notified by Judas that Antipas is seeking her arrest, she and Yaltha journey to Alexandria in search of Chaya. In addition to depriving her of the opportunity to write the first and only contemporaneous gospel, removing Ana from the main action destroys the novel’s momentum.

A daring concept not so daringly developed.

Pub Date: April 21, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-525-42976-0

Page Count: 432

Publisher: Viking

Review Posted Online: Jan. 27, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2020

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