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BESTIARY

A visceral book that promises a major new literary voice.

In a Taiwanese immigrant family, secrets and myths are indistinguishably intertwined.

This debut novel is told from the alternating perspectives of three generations of women from the same family: Ama, the grandmother, who emigrated from Taiwan with her war-addled husband and two children, leaving three other daughters behind; Mother, who remembers both Taiwan and the Arkansas chicken farm where they arrived through the lens of poverty and struggle; and the daughter, born in this country, who serves as a link between her mother and grandmother which both would be more comfortable severing. From the beginning, the story is one of internalized violence. Agong, the family patriarch, was a soldier from the Chinese mainland, 20 years older than Ama when she married him at 18, already a widow and mother of three. In their second life in America, Agong has lost the thread of his memories and forgotten his name, the faces of his children, and the place where he buried the family gold—in spite of Ama’s best efforts to beat it out of him. Mother, in an attempt to escape Ama’s violence, has married another man from the Chinese mainland and struggles instead to shield her children from her husband’s abuse. Meanwhile, the daughter navigates both the demands of her American community to assimilate and the need of her immigrant family to preserve the cultural memories of a place she has never known. The magic of these origin myths is very much present in all their lives. When the daughter and her brother dig a series of holes in the rank soil of their backyard, the holes become mouths, open and hungry. When the daughter is beaten for this infraction by her mother—enacting a violence more typical of Ama—a tiger tail with its own vituperative will grows from one of the scabs. And when the daughter’s lover, Ben, a girl from Ningxia who could “spit a watermelon seed so far it skipped the sea and planted in another country,” gets the idea to feed the daughter's tail to one of the backyard holes, what emerges are letters from Ama that tell not only the secret at the root of her violence, but the secret at the root of all their entangled lives.

A visceral book that promises a major new literary voice.

Pub Date: Sept. 8, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-593-13258-6

Page Count: 272

Publisher: One World/Random House

Review Posted Online: June 16, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2020

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THE GOD OF THE WOODS

"Don't go into the woods" takes on unsettling new meaning in Moore's blend of domestic drama and crime novel.

Many years after her older brother, Bear, went missing, Barbara Van Laar vanishes from the same sleepaway camp he did, leading to dark, bitter truths about her wealthy family.

One morning in 1975 at Camp Emerson—an Adirondacks summer camp owned by her family—it's discovered that 13-year-old Barbara isn't in her bed. A problem case whose unhappily married parents disdain her goth appearance and "stormy" temperament, Barbara is secretly known by one bunkmate to have slipped out every night after bedtime. But no one has a clue where's she permanently disappeared to, firing speculation that she was taken by a local serial killer known as Slitter. As Jacob Sluiter, he was convicted of 11 murders in the 1960s and recently broke out of prison. He's the one, people say, who should have been prosecuted for Bear's abduction, not a gardener who was framed. Leave it to the young and unproven assistant investigator, Judy Luptack, to press forward in uncovering the truth, unswayed by her bullying father and male colleagues who question whether women are "cut out for this work." An unsavory group portrait of the Van Laars emerges in which the children's father cruelly abuses their submissive mother, who is so traumatized by the loss of Bear—and the possible role she played in it—that she has no love left for her daughter. Picking up on the themes of families in search of themselves she explored in Long Bright River (2020), Moore draws sympathy to characters who have been subjected to spousal, parental, psychological, and physical abuse. As rich in background detail and secondary mysteries as it is, this ever-expansive, intricate, emotionally engaging novel never seems overplotted. Every piece falls skillfully into place and every character, major and minor, leaves an imprint.

"Don't go into the woods" takes on unsettling new meaning in Moore's blend of domestic drama and crime novel.

Pub Date: July 2, 2024

ISBN: 9780593418918

Page Count: 496

Publisher: Riverhead

Review Posted Online: April 13, 2024

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2024

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SANDWICH

A moving, hilarious reminder that parenthood, just like life, means constant change.

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During an annual beach vacation, a mother confronts her past and learns to move forward.

Her family’s annual trip to Cape Cod is always the highlight of Rocky’s year—even more so now that her children are grown and she cherishes what little time she gets with them. Rocky is deep in the throes of menopause, picking fights with her loving husband and occasionally throwing off her clothes during a hot flash, much to the chagrin of her family. She’s also dealing with her parents, who are crammed into the same small summer house (with one toilet that only occasionally spews sewage everywhere) and who are aging at an alarmingly rapid rate. Rocky’s life is full of change, from her body to her identity—she frequently flashes back to the vacations of years past, when her children were tiny. Although she’s grateful for the family she has, she mourns what she’s lost. Newman (author of the equally wonderful We All Want Impossible Things, 2022) imbues Rocky’s internal struggles with importance and gravity, all while showcasing her very funny observations about life and parenting. She examines motherhood with a raw honesty that few others manage—she remembers the hard parts, the depths of despair, panic, and anxiety that can happen with young children, and she also recounts the joy in a way that never feels saccharine. She has a gift for exploring the real, messy contradictions in human emotions. As Rocky puts it, “This may be the only reason we were put on this earth. To say to each other, I know how you feel.”

A moving, hilarious reminder that parenthood, just like life, means constant change.

Pub Date: June 18, 2024

ISBN: 9780063345164

Page Count: 240

Publisher: Harper/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: March 23, 2024

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2024

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