A poignantly written, unflinchingly realistic account of war.

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DIG OR DIE

A historical novel chronicles an American soldier’s march across France during World War I. 

Emmet “Judy” Redding enlists in the Army in order to play baseball, but then war breaks out in Europe. He’s sent to be trained by seasoned French forces in eastern France, a corporal in the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, part of the American Expeditionary Force sent to halt German advancement. After training, Judy participates in the AEF’s first major offensive action in Cantigny in May 1918 and makes his way to Meuse-Argonne by October of the same year, shortly before the war’s conclusion. He experiences his share of amorous rendezvous. In Paris, he falls in love with Jeanne Trevost, a Frenchwoman, and intends to marry her. But their union faces two obstacles. Judy learns from her brother, Rene, that she is promised in marriage to another, a matter of family arrangement. Also, Jeanne works as a spy for France and is captured, leaving Judy praying she survives her ordeal. Debut author Redline served in France as part of the AEF and was a decorated soldier. As the book’s editor and the author’s daughter, Redline Coopey, points out in the introduction, this novel is just as much memoir as it is fiction. The novel is mostly written in the first person from Judy’s perspective and details not only the brutality and deprivation of combat, but also the camaraderie of the soldiers.  Redline captures the savagery of war while avoiding maudlin sentimentality or valorization of the killing fields: “We were thin, emaciated, tattered and torn. If addressed, we didn’t respond, for the effort was too great. We had only curses for those who might fawn upon us and glorify our achievement, but we took and held the town.” The author doesn’t shy away from confronting the moral complexity of war. In one memorably heartbreaking scene, Judy consoles a fellow soldier who raped a woman. The soldier roils with regret, and while horrified on behalf of the victim, Judy also feels great sympathy for his friend, knowing how the pain of loneliness and fear can disfigure the soul. Further, Redline portrays the romances between American soldiers and Frenchwomen with considerable nuance; all were in search of some respite from the war. The predicament of the women is especially bleak since a generation of prospective spouses was sacrificed to repel the Germans. Redline’s prose is sure-footed and powerful, and he often allows Judy to wander into philosophical reverie, thoughtfully contemplating the grimness of his plight. The war’s toll is achingly depicted: Judy initially has reservations about alcohol, but its regular consumption numbed him to his own distress. 

A poignantly written, unflinchingly realistic account of war.

Pub Date: March 6, 2017

ISBN: 978-0-9979351-0-3

Page Count: 356

Publisher: Fox Hollow Press

Review Posted Online: Aug. 10, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 2017

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A touching family drama that effectively explores the negative impact of stress on fragile relationships.

A WEEK AT THE SHORE

A middle-aged woman returns to her childhood home to care for her ailing father, confronting many painful secrets from her past.

When Mallory Aldiss gets a call from a long-ago boyfriend telling her that her elderly father has been gallivanting around town with a gun in his hand, Mallory decides it’s time to return to the small Rhode Island town that she’s been avoiding for more than a decade. Mallory’s precocious 13-year-old daughter, Joy, is thrilled that she'll get to meet her grandfather at long last, and an aunt, too, and she'll finally see the place where her mother grew up. When they arrive in Bay Bluff, it’s barely a few hours before Mallory bumps into her old flame, Jack, the only man she’s ever really loved. Gone is the rebellious young person she remembers, and in his place stands a compassionate, accomplished adult. As they try to reconnect, Mallory realizes that the same obstacle that pushed them apart decades earlier is still standing in their way: Jack blames Mallory’s father for his mother’s death. No one knows exactly how Jack’s mother died, but Jack thinks a love affair between her and Mallory’s father had something to do with it. As Jack and Mallory chase down answers, Mallory also tries to repair her rocky relationships with her two sisters and determine why her father has always been so hard on her. Told entirely from Mallory’s perspective, the novel has a haunting, nostalgic quality. Despite the complex and overlapping layers to the history of Bay Bluff and its inhabitants, the book at times trudges too slowly through Mallory’s meanderings down Memory Lane. Even so, Delinsky sometimes manages to pick up the pace, and in those moments the beauty and nuance of this complicated family tale shine through. Readers who don’t mind skimming past details that do little to advance the plot may find that the juicier nuggets and realistically rendered human connections are worth the effort.

A touching family drama that effectively explores the negative impact of stress on fragile relationships.

Pub Date: May 19, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-250-11951-3

Page Count: 416

Publisher: St. Martin's

Review Posted Online: March 2, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2020

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A love letter to the power of books and friendship.

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THE GIVER OF STARS

Women become horseback librarians in 1930s Kentucky and face challenges from the landscape, the weather, and the men around them.

Alice thought marrying attractive American Bennett Van Cleve would be her ticket out of her stifling life in England. But when she and Bennett settle in Baileyville, Kentucky, she realizes that her life consists of nothing more than staying in their giant house all day and getting yelled at by his unpleasant father, who owns a coal mine. She’s just about to resign herself to a life of boredom when an opportunity presents itself in the form of a traveling horseback library—an initiative from Eleanor Roosevelt meant to counteract the devastating effects of the Depression by focusing on literacy and learning. Much to the dismay of her husband and father-in-law, Alice signs up and soon learns the ropes from the library’s leader, Margery. Margery doesn’t care what anyone thinks of her, rejects marriage, and would rather be on horseback than in a kitchen. And even though all this makes Margery a town pariah, Alice quickly grows to like her. Along with several other women (including one black woman, Sophia, whose employment causes controversy in a town that doesn’t believe black and white people should be allowed to use the same library), Margery and Alice supply magazines, Bible stories, and copies of books like Little Women to the largely poor residents who live in remote areas. Alice spends long days in terrible weather on horseback, but she finally feels happy in her new life in Kentucky, even as her marriage to Bennett is failing. But her powerful father-in-law doesn’t care for Alice’s job or Margery’s lifestyle, and he’ll stop at nothing to shut their library down. Basing her novel on the true story of the Pack Horse Library Project established by the Works Progress Administration in the 1930s, Moyes (Still Me, 2018, etc.) brings an often forgotten slice of history to life. She writes about Kentucky with lush descriptions of the landscape and tender respect for the townspeople, most of whom are poor, uneducated, and grateful for the chance to learn. Although Alice and Margery both have their own romances, the true power of the story is in the bonds between the women of the library. They may have different backgrounds, but their commitment to helping the people of Baileyville brings them together.

A love letter to the power of books and friendship.

Pub Date: Oct. 8, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-399-56248-8

Page Count: 400

Publisher: Pamela Dorman/Viking

Review Posted Online: July 1, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2019

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