A deeply felt book that will lead readers to other books that inspired it.

THE SMALL HEART OF THINGS

BEING AT HOME IN A BECKONING WORLD

A sharply observed, occasionally overwritten collection of essays on the interrelationships of man and nature, of soul and place.

Born in Britain and raised in Canada, Hoffman now lives in and often writes of the Balkans, near the Prespa Lakes, a region of natural splendor and deep political divisions. He and his partner “were led to this Greek village by a book. Having read a glowing review of it in a bird-watching magazine, we bought the book on the off chance that we might someday visit the region it described. But it took only a single evening of leafing through its pages, reading passages aloud, and looking at photographs to reach a decision of far greater import…it captivated us from the start.” An impetuous romantic, the author also came to love that particular place, and here, he shares that love, as well as his love of books about places, for he seems to connect with nature from a particularly literary perspective. He writes of “the resonance of place,” “the environmental vicissitudes of place,” and the feeling that “there are no clean, easy lines that connect ourselves to a place, as if we were joining up a question with its answer in a beginner’s language book.” More compelling than such grand pronouncements and conceptual conceits are the specifics of experience and detail, the wonder Hoffman finds in this seemingly insignificant woods, in the cry of this bird or the stateliness of that tree, and the exhilaration he feels as he experiences life as part of the natural world: “The places where I can look up or out, either at the vast ceiling of cloud and sky, or the disappearing horizon, and feel more or less the same thing: the inconsequential scale of our lives. Paradoxically, it is in those places that I feel most alive, experiencing a wild and shuddering depth to existence.”

A deeply felt book that will lead readers to other books that inspired it.

Pub Date: Oct. 15, 2013

ISBN: 978-0-8203-4556-7

Page Count: 168

Publisher: Univ. of Georgia

Review Posted Online: Aug. 17, 2013

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2013

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A standout immigrant coming-of-age story.

THE DISTANCE BETWEEN US

A MEMOIR

In her first nonfiction book, novelist Grande (Dancing with Butterflies, 2009, etc.) delves into her family’s cycle of separation and reunification.

Raised in poverty so severe that spaghetti reminded her of the tapeworms endemic to children in her Mexican hometown, the author is her family’s only college graduate and writer, whose honors include an American Book Award and International Latino Book Award. Though she was too young to remember her father when he entered the United States illegally seeking money to improve life for his family, she idolized him from afar. However, she also blamed him for taking away her mother after he sent for her when the author was not yet 5 years old. Though she emulated her sister, she ultimately answered to herself, and both siblings constantly sought affirmation of their parents’ love, whether they were present or not. When one caused disappointment, the siblings focused their hopes on the other. These contradictions prove to be the narrator’s hallmarks, as she consistently displays a fierce willingness to ask tough questions, accept startling answers, and candidly render emotional and physical violence. Even as a girl, Grande understood the redemptive power of language to define—in the U.S., her name’s literal translation, “big queen,” led to ridicule from other children—and to complicate. In spelling class, when a teacher used the sentence “my mamá loves me” (mi mamá me ama), Grande decided to “rearrange the words so that they formed a question: ¿Me ama mi mamá? Does my mama love me?”

A standout immigrant coming-of-age story.

Pub Date: Aug. 28, 2012

ISBN: 978-1-4516-6177-4

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Atria

Review Posted Online: June 12, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2012

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Buffs of the Old West will enjoy Clavin’s careful research and vivid writing.

TOMBSTONE

THE EARP BROTHERS, DOC HOLLIDAY, AND THE VENDETTA RIDE FROM HELL

Rootin’-tootin’ history of the dry-gulchers, horn-swogglers, and outright killers who populated the Wild West’s wildest city in the late 19th century.

The stories of Wyatt Earp and company, the shootout at the O.K. Corral, and Geronimo and the Apache Wars are all well known. Clavin, who has written books on Dodge City and Wild Bill Hickok, delivers a solid narrative that usefully links significant events—making allies of white enemies, for instance, in facing down the Apache threat, rustling from Mexico, and other ethnically charged circumstances. The author is a touch revisionist, in the modern fashion, in noting that the Earps and Clantons weren’t as bloodthirsty as popular culture has made them out to be. For example, Wyatt and Bat Masterson “took the ‘peace’ in peace officer literally and knew that the way to tame the notorious town was not to outkill the bad guys but to intimidate them, sometimes with the help of a gun barrel to the skull.” Indeed, while some of the Clantons and some of the Earps died violently, most—Wyatt, Bat, Doc Holliday—died of cancer and other ailments, if only a few of old age. Clavin complicates the story by reminding readers that the Earps weren’t really the law in Tombstone and sometimes fell on the other side of the line and that the ordinary citizens of Tombstone and other famed Western venues valued order and peace and weren’t particularly keen on gunfighters and their mischief. Still, updating the old notion that the Earp myth is the American Iliad, the author is at his best when he delineates those fraught spasms of violence. “It is never a good sign for law-abiding citizens,” he writes at one high point, “to see Johnny Ringo rush into town, both him and his horse all in a lather.” Indeed not, even if Ringo wound up killing himself and law-abiding Tombstone faded into obscurity when the silver played out.

Buffs of the Old West will enjoy Clavin’s careful research and vivid writing.

Pub Date: April 21, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-250-21458-4

Page Count: 400

Publisher: St. Martin's

Review Posted Online: Jan. 20, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2020

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