Sharp storytelling augments this novel of single-minded perseverance.

JOSHUA'S JOURNEY

An old man recounts his youthful struggles in this winding novel set in New Bern, North Carolina. 

Joshua Jordan may be old, and though his life wasn’t easy, he lived a full one. Born just after the Civil War, Joshua, who’s African-American, was born a free man—the first in his family. After his parents died of cholera, his uncle Levi took him in. Levi works for a surly plantation owner, Captain Bigly, and when 12-year-old Joshua rushes through a job on the plantation, resulting in an accident that leaves Captain Bigley’s daughter, Melinda Mae, in a coma. Joshua goes looking for the Swamp Woman, a local healer, who eventually heals the girl. Seeing the power of the Swamp Woman, Joshua wants to treat patients, too, but he soon finds that the road to becoming a doctor is much harder than he thought. His education is subpar, he doesn’t have money, benefactors abandon him, he faces extreme discrimination, and yet...Joshua still works toward his ultimate goal of practicing medicine. Old Joshua soon realizes that his life isn’t over—there is still another chapter (or even two!) to come. Dempsey (The Butterfly, 2017, etc.) is a keen and ferocious storyteller. Frequent flashbacks guide readers toward the satisfying scene of Joshua’s epiphany. The prose is lush and fulfilling: “I missed my own country, flat and sandy, but filled with pines, magnolias, cypress and live oaks hung with moss. I missed the fields covered with cotton plants, plump with the snow-white puffs of cotton waiting to be picked.” As Joshua recounts his past, it motivates him to encourage youngsters to realize their own purposes. Readers may feel similarly inspired. Though the included illustrations aren’t needed, they add texture.

Sharp storytelling augments this novel of single-minded perseverance.

Pub Date: May 14, 2016

ISBN: 978-1-4907-7295-0

Page Count: 158

Publisher: Trafford

Review Posted Online: July 11, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2017

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Still, a respectful and absorbing page-turner.

THE NIGHTINGALE

Hannah’s new novel is an homage to the extraordinary courage and endurance of Frenchwomen during World War II.

In 1995, an elderly unnamed widow is moving into an Oregon nursing home on the urging of her controlling son, Julien, a surgeon. This trajectory is interrupted when she receives an invitation to return to France to attend a ceremony honoring passeurs: people who aided the escape of others during the war. Cut to spring, 1940: Viann has said goodbye to husband Antoine, who's off to hold the Maginot line against invading Germans. She returns to tending her small farm, Le Jardin, in the Loire Valley, teaching at the local school and coping with daughter Sophie’s adolescent rebellion. Soon, that world is upended: The Germans march into Paris and refugees flee south, overrunning Viann’s land. Her long-estranged younger sister, Isabelle, who has been kicked out of multiple convent schools, is sent to Le Jardin by Julien, their father in Paris, a drunken, decidedly unpaternal Great War veteran. As the depredations increase in the occupied zone—food rationing, systematic looting, and the billeting of a German officer, Capt. Beck, at Le Jardin—Isabelle’s outspokenness is a liability. She joins the Resistance, volunteering for dangerous duty: shepherding downed Allied airmen across the Pyrenees to Spain. Code-named the Nightingale, Isabelle will rescue many before she's captured. Meanwhile, Viann’s journey from passive to active resistance is less dramatic but no less wrenching. Hannah vividly demonstrates how the Nazis, through starvation, intimidation and barbarity both casual and calculated, demoralized the French, engineering a community collapse that enabled the deportations and deaths of more than 70,000 Jews. Hannah’s proven storytelling skills are ideally suited to depicting such cataclysmic events, but her tendency to sentimentalize undermines the gravitas of this tale.

Still, a respectful and absorbing page-turner.

Pub Date: Feb. 3, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-312-57722-3

Page Count: 448

Publisher: St. Martin's

Review Posted Online: Nov. 20, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2014

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Soft-focus story moves right along with few surprises. This time around, Hannah avoids the soap-opera complications of her...

DISTANT SHORES

Another middle-aged mom in a muddle.

After years of false starts and big hopes, Elizabeth’s ruggedly handsome husband Jack, a former football star, just landed a spot as a sportscaster on national news. He still loves her, even though much younger women are giving him come-hither looks. Heck, he doesn’t want to betray the love of his life after she helped him kick drugs and stuck by him even when he was a struggling has-been. And won’t it seem hypocritical if he fools around with his sexy assistant while he does in-depth reporting on a rape case involving a famous basketball center? Well, he fools around anyway. Elizabeth, nicknamed Birdie, knows nothing of this, but she withdraws from Jack when her hard-drinking, salt-of-the-earth father has a stroke and dies. Now no one will call her “sugar beet” ever again. Time to return home to Tennessee and contend with Anita, the sort-of-evil stepmother so trashy she wears pink puffy slippers all day long. Naturally, it turns out that Anita actually has a heart of gold and knows a few things about Birdie’s dead mother that were hushed up for years. Mom was an artist, just like Birdie, and an old scandal comes to light as Anita unrolls a vibrant canvas that portrays her secret lover. Perhaps, Birdie muses, her mother died of heartbreak, never having followed her true love or developed her talent. Has she, too, compromised everything she holds dear? Hoping to find out, Birdie joins a support group that promises to reconnect confused women with their passion. She and Jack separate, prompting a how-dare-you fit from their grown daughters. Will Birdie fly her empty nest? Will she go back to college for a degree in art? Will her brooding watercolors ever sell?

Soft-focus story moves right along with few surprises. This time around, Hannah avoids the soap-opera complications of her previous tales (Summer Island, 2001, etc.).

Pub Date: July 1, 2002

ISBN: 0-345-45071-X

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Ballantine

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2002

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