Next book

TOAD

A gentle, funny, heartbreaking indictment of the naïve excesses of the 1960s and the testament of a woman who survived them.

A posthumously published novel from the author of Geek Love (1989).

Dunn’s magnum opus—the tale of a family of carnival freaks—is a true cult classic, but the year it was published, it was also a finalist for the thoroughly mainstream National Book Award. Geek Love has never been out of print, and it continues to be a solid backlist performer. Few authors with one bestseller get an obituary in the New York Times, but Dunn achieved that distinction in 2016. She’s an author who wrote a book about outsiders who has been embraced by insiders. This newly published novel suggests that this counterculture hero had a complicated relationship with the counterculture of her youth. The narrator is Sally Gunnar, a woman who has chosen to live alone except for the goldfish she keeps in a jar on her kitchen table, the toad that lives in her yard, and the handful of visitors she invites into her house. When her sister-in-law asks, “Remember Sam and Carlotta? Whatever became of them?” Sally drifts back to Portland in the 1960s. A student at a small liberal arts school—Dunn attended Reed—Sam is, in Sally’s words, a “spunky little character with an intellectual air.” He’s also a jackass. In his desire to outgrow his middle-class New York upbringing, Sam tries on a variety of names and ethnicities. He falls in love with Carlotta, an ethereal hippy who seems to find him as profound as he finds himself. Together with a narcissistic psychology student named Rennel, these misfits form something close to a family. Sally is part of this unit—she even starts taking classes at their fancy college—but she never loses an outsider’s perspective. She recognizes that her friends are ridiculous, and she loves them anyway. As the narrative moves back and forth in time, it takes a dark turn. Sam and Carlotta’s belief that they are equipped to live off the land leads to tragedy. Sally’s self-deprecation—which at first seems like her viewing herself with the same irony with which she regards her friends—turns out to be a mask for clinical depression. But Sally endures to find a fragile peace, carefully tended day by day.

A gentle, funny, heartbreaking indictment of the naïve excesses of the 1960s and the testament of a woman who survived them.

Pub Date: Nov. 1, 2022

ISBN: 978-0-374-60232-1

Page Count: 352

Publisher: MCD/Farrar, Straus and Giroux

Review Posted Online: Aug. 16, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2022

Awards & Accolades

Likes

  • Readers Vote
  • 112


Our Verdict

  • Our Verdict
  • GET IT


  • New York Times Bestseller

Next book

THE WOMEN

A dramatic, vividly detailed reconstruction of a little-known aspect of the Vietnam War.

Awards & Accolades

Likes

  • Readers Vote
  • 112


Our Verdict

  • Our Verdict
  • GET IT


  • New York Times Bestseller

A young woman’s experience as a nurse in Vietnam casts a deep shadow over her life.

When we learn that the farewell party in the opening scene is for Frances “Frankie” McGrath’s older brother—“a golden boy, a wild child who could make the hardest heart soften”—who is leaving to serve in Vietnam in 1966, we feel pretty certain that poor Finley McGrath is marked for death. Still, it’s a surprise when the fateful doorbell rings less than 20 pages later. His death inspires his sister to enlist as an Army nurse, and this turn of events is just the beginning of a roller coaster of a plot that’s impressive and engrossing if at times a bit formulaic. Hannah renders the experiences of the young women who served in Vietnam in all-encompassing detail. The first half of the book, set in gore-drenched hospital wards, mildewed dorm rooms, and boozy officers’ clubs, is an exciting read, tracking the transformation of virginal, uptight Frankie into a crack surgical nurse and woman of the world. Her tensely platonic romance with a married surgeon ends when his broken, unbreathing body is airlifted out by helicopter; she throws her pent-up passion into a wild affair with a soldier who happens to be her dead brother’s best friend. In the second part of the book, after the war, Frankie seems to experience every possible bad break. A drawback of the story is that none of the secondary characters in her life are fully three-dimensional: Her dismissive, chauvinistic father and tight-lipped, pill-popping mother, her fellow nurses, and her various love interests are more plot devices than people. You’ll wish you could have gone to Vegas and placed a bet on the ending—while it’s against all the odds, you’ll see it coming from a mile away.

A dramatic, vividly detailed reconstruction of a little-known aspect of the Vietnam War.

Pub Date: Feb. 6, 2024

ISBN: 9781250178633

Page Count: 480

Publisher: St. Martin's

Review Posted Online: Nov. 4, 2023

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2023

Next book

LONG ISLAND

A moving portrait of rueful middle age and the failure to connect.

An acclaimed novelist revisits the central characters of his best-known work.

At the end of Brooklyn (2009), Eilis Lacey departed Ireland for the second and final time—headed back to New York and the Italian American husband she had secretly married after first traveling there for work. In her hometown of Enniscorthy, she left behind Jim Farrell, a young man she’d fallen in love with during her visit, and the inevitable gossip about her conduct. Tóibín’s 11th novel introduces readers to Eilis 20 years later, in 1976, still married to Tony Fiorello and living in the titular suburbia with their two teenage children. But Eilis’ seemingly placid existence is disturbed when a stranger confronts her, accusing Tony of having an affair with his wife—now pregnant—and threatening to leave the baby on their doorstep. “She’d known men like this in Ireland,” Tóibín writes. “Should one of them discover that their wife had been unfaithful and was pregnant as a result, they would not have the baby in the house.” This shock sends Eilis back to Enniscorthy for a visit—or perhaps a longer stay. (Eilis’ motives are as inscrutable as ever, even to herself.) She finds the never-married Jim managing his late father’s pub; unbeknownst to Eilis (and the town), he’s become involved with her widowed friend Nancy, who struggles to maintain the family chip shop. Eilis herself appears different to her old friends: “Something had happened to her in America,” Nancy concludes. Although the novel begins with a soap-operatic confrontation—and ends with a dramatic denouement, as Eilis’ fate is determined in a plot twist worthy of Edith Wharton—the author is a master of quiet, restrained prose, calmly observing the mores and mindsets of provincial Ireland, not much changed from the 1950s.

A moving portrait of rueful middle age and the failure to connect.

Pub Date: May 7, 2024

ISBN: 9781476785110

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Scribner

Review Posted Online: Feb. 3, 2024

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2024

Close Quickview