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WHITE CAT, BLACK DOG

Enchanting, mesmerizing, brilliant work.

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Seven modern fairy tales by a master of the short form.

Link, who won a MacArthur Fellowship in 2018, has been publishing groundbreaking fiction since her first collection, Stranger Things Happen, came out in 2001. Troubling old, stale boundaries between literary and genre fiction, writing stories that sometimes lean into horror, sometimes into fantasy, and that never shy away from featuring zombies, Link has produced a body of work that is formally original and emotionally rich. Her new collection of fairy tales is no exception. Part of the pleasure here is watching Link reimagine stories we think we know. That’s the case in “The Game of Smash and Recovery,” a futuristic SF tale based on “Hansel and Gretel,” about a sister and brother living on an alien planet alongside vampires and Handmaids (creatures who are both vicious and ingenious) and waiting for their parents to return for them. Similarly, Link reworks “Snow-White and Rose-Red” into “Skinder’s Veil,” a story about a grad student hiding out in a borrowed cabin trying to finish his dissertation and being visited by two women named Rose White and Rose Red, who both sate and beguile him. Another pleasure is seeing Link update certain tropes. In her hands, the Grimms’ enchanted animals are still enchanted animals, but straight princes and princesses are fabulous gay men and lesbian professionals, the ominous woods are airports with endless delays or post-apocalyptic landscapes where people must travel with corpses to keep monsters at bay, characters enter enchanted states by eating gummies, and true horror is a clogged toilet. Most beguiling are the ways these stories complicate the older tales’ tidy conclusions: Is saving your lover from the Queen of Hell really noble if it means he will someday die from a disease? Is being feared by no one just as debilitating as fearing nothing? Is being brave worth the price? This is fiction that pulls you swiftly into its world and then holds you completely, lingering like an especially intense dream.

Enchanting, mesmerizing, brilliant work.

Pub Date: March 28, 2023

ISBN: 9780593449950

Page Count: 272

Publisher: Random House

Review Posted Online: Jan. 24, 2023

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2023

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LONG ISLAND

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

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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

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DEMON COPPERHEAD

An angry, powerful book seething with love and outrage for a community too often stereotyped or ignored.

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Inspired by David Copperfield, Kingsolver crafts a 21st-century coming-of-age story set in America’s hard-pressed rural South.

It’s not necessary to have read Dickens’ famous novel to appreciate Kingsolver’s absorbing tale, but those who have will savor the tough-minded changes she rings on his Victorian sentimentality while affirming his stinging critique of a heartless society. Our soon-to-be orphaned narrator’s mother is a substance-abusing teenage single mom who checks out via OD on his 11th birthday, and Demon’s cynical, wised-up voice is light-years removed from David Copperfield’s earnest tone. Yet readers also see the yearning for love and wells of compassion hidden beneath his self-protective exterior. Like pretty much everyone else in Lee County, Virginia, hollowed out economically by the coal and tobacco industries, he sees himself as someone with no prospects and little worth. One of Kingsolver’s major themes, hit a little too insistently, is the contempt felt by participants in the modern capitalist economy for those rooted in older ways of life. More nuanced and emotionally engaging is Demon’s fierce attachment to his home ground, a place where he is known and supported, tested to the breaking point as the opiate epidemic engulfs it. Kingsolver’s ferocious indictment of the pharmaceutical industry, angrily stated by a local girl who has become a nurse, is in the best Dickensian tradition, and Demon gives a harrowing account of his descent into addiction with his beloved Dori (as naïve as Dickens’ Dora in her own screwed-up way). Does knowledge offer a way out of this sinkhole? A committed teacher tries to enlighten Demon’s seventh grade class about how the resource-rich countryside was pillaged and abandoned, but Kingsolver doesn’t air-brush his students’ dismissal of this history or the prejudice encountered by this African American outsider and his White wife. She is an art teacher who guides Demon toward self-expression, just as his friend Tommy provokes his dawning understanding of how their world has been shaped by outside forces and what he might be able to do about it.

An angry, powerful book seething with love and outrage for a community too often stereotyped or ignored.

Pub Date: Oct. 18, 2022

ISBN: 978-0-06-325-1922

Page Count: 560

Publisher: Harper/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: July 13, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2022

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