"From a wound, beauty rises” in this modern-day Winesburg, Ohio.

WHAT LUCK, THIS LIFE

A small town’s residents cope with their lives and an American tragedy.

A scream comes across the sky, and there’s nothing to compare to it in Schwille’s quietly contemplative and affecting first novel. On Feb. 1, 2003, the Space Shuttle Columbia exploded while re-entering the Earth's atmosphere, and debris fell into the water. Schwille imagines that debris fell onto Kiser, a “dinky, third-fiddle” east Texas town near Louisiana. She introduces us to a wide array of locals and their simple lives, now interrupted by search and rescue operations. Schwille’s narrative is told from widely different points of view and employs subtle time shifts going back and forth across years. “Time,” to quote from her Italo Calvino epigraph, “is a catastrophe, perpetual and irreversible.” Kiser suffers from drought, unemployment, multiple divorces, damaged soldiers returning from war, meth labs, anti-gay sentiments, domestic violence, and racism. Wes MacFarland tells us Kiser “wasn’t one of those storybook places.” He’s a struggling, tormented, gay tree-service foreman married to a woman named Holly. Their young, troubled son, Frankie, “heard the shuttle come apart” and came across an “orange space suit wedged in the crook of a tall tree...an astronaut’s torso inside it.” Wes will abandon Kiser, moving to Houston to be with his partner, Ben. Holly will divorce him and marry Pastor Will Simpson, who felt she “had brushed against the devil’s ways.” “Diabetic, Gandhi-thin” Plato Winchester, a “modern-day Davy Crockett,” found “bits of metal, pieces of foam, something he said looked like glass.” A “shoe-less foot, missing one big toe” is found beside Junior Pierce’s mailbox. Gabe Dixon, a poor African-American man, finds a female hand with a ring on it. “The people of Kiser had spread their arms around [this] disaster and accepted the great burden of its grief.”

"From a wound, beauty rises” in this modern-day Winesburg, Ohio.

Pub Date: Sept. 18, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-938235-42-9

Page Count: 216

Publisher: Hub City Press

Review Posted Online: July 2, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2018

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Why you double-crossing little double crossers! Fiendishly clever.

PRETTY THINGS

The daughter of a grifter plans to fund her mother’s cancer treatment with a revenge con.

Rich people suck, don’t they? Nina Ross found this out in her adolescence, when her romance with Benny Liebling was broken up by his status-obsessed, old-money father, who found them screwing in the guest cottage of the family’s Lake Tahoe estate. Back then, Nina had a future—but she’s since followed her con-artist mother into the family business with the help of a handsome blue-eyed Irish confederate named Lachlan. “Here’s my rule,” Nina tells him. “Only people who have too much, and only people who deserve it.” Of course, he agrees. “We take only what we need.” With her art history background, Nina is usually able to target a few expensive antiques they can lift without the rich dopes even noticing they’re gone. But now that Nina's mother is hovering at death’s door without health insurance, she’s going after the $1 million in cash Benny mentioned was in his father’s safe all those years ago. So back to Lake Tahoe it is. The older Lieblings are dead, and Benny’s in the bin, so it’s his sister Vanessa Liebling who is the target of the complicated caper. Vanessa is a terribly annoying character—“I couldn’t tell you how I went from a few dozen Instagram followers to a half-million. One day, you’re uploading photos of your dog wearing sunglasses; and the next you’re begin flown to Coachella on a private jet with four other social media It Girls…”—but, in fact, you’ll hate everyone in this book. That is surely Brown’s (Watch Me Disappear, 2017, etc.) intention as she’s the one making them natter on this way. She also makes them vomit much more than is normal, whether it’s because they’re poisoning each other or because they’re just so horrified by each other’s behavior. Definitely stay to see how it all turns out.

Why you double-crossing little double crossers! Fiendishly clever.

Pub Date: April 21, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-525-47912-3

Page Count: 496

Publisher: Random House

Review Posted Online: Jan. 13, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2020

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FOR WHOM THE BELL TOLLS

This is good Hemingway. It has some of the tenderness of A Farewell to Arms and some of its amazing power to make one feel inside the picture of a nation at war, of the people experiencing war shorn of its glamor, of the emotions that the effects of war — rather than war itself — arouse. But in style and tempo and impact, there is greater resemblance to The Sun Also Rises. Implicit in the characters and the story is the whole tragic lesson of Spain's Civil War, proving ground for today's holocaust, and carrying in its small compass, the contradictions, the human frailties, the heroism and idealism and shortcomings. In retrospect the thread of the story itself is slight. Three days, during which time a young American, a professor who has taken his Sabbatical year from the University of Montana to play his part in the struggle for Loyalist Spain and democracy. He is sent to a guerilla camp of partisans within the Fascist lines to blow up a strategic bridge. His is a complex problem in humanity, a group of undisciplined, unorganized natives, emotionally geared to go their own way, while he has a job that demands unreasoning, unwavering obedience. He falls in love with a lovely refugee girl, escaping the terrors of a fascist imprisonment, and their romance is sharply etched against a gruesome background. It is a searing book; Hemingway has done more to dramatize the Spanish War than any amount of abstract declamation. Yet he has done it through revealing the pettinesses, the indignities, the jealousies, the cruelties on both sides, never glorifying simply presenting starkly the belief in the principles for which these people fought a hopeless war, to give the rest of the world an interval to prepare. There is something of the implacable logic of Verdun in the telling. It's not a book for the thin-skinned; it has more than its fill of obscenities and the style is clipped and almost too elliptical for clarity at times. But it is a book that repays one for bleak moments of unpleasantness.

Pub Date: Oct. 21, 1940

ISBN: 0684803356

Page Count: 484

Publisher: Scribner

Review Posted Online: Oct. 7, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1, 1940

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