A poignantly written, unflinchingly realistic account of war.

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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The phrase “tour de force” could have been invented for this audacious novel.

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A LITTLE LIFE

Four men who meet as college roommates move to New York and spend the next three decades gaining renown in their professions—as an architect, painter, actor and lawyer—and struggling with demons in their intertwined personal lives.

Yanagihara (The People in the Trees, 2013) takes the still-bold leap of writing about characters who don’t share her background; in addition to being male, JB is African-American, Malcolm has a black father and white mother, Willem is white, and “Jude’s race was undetermined”—deserted at birth, he was raised in a monastery and had an unspeakably traumatic childhood that’s revealed slowly over the course of the book. Two of them are gay, one straight and one bisexual. There isn’t a single significant female character, and for a long novel, there isn’t much plot. There aren’t even many markers of what’s happening in the outside world; Jude moves to a loft in SoHo as a young man, but we don’t see the neighborhood change from gritty artists’ enclave to glitzy tourist destination. What we get instead is an intensely interior look at the friends’ psyches and relationships, and it’s utterly enthralling. The four men think about work and creativity and success and failure; they cook for each other, compete with each other and jostle for each other’s affection. JB bases his entire artistic career on painting portraits of his friends, while Malcolm takes care of them by designing their apartments and houses. When Jude, as an adult, is adopted by his favorite Harvard law professor, his friends join him for Thanksgiving in Cambridge every year. And when Willem becomes a movie star, they all bask in his glow. Eventually, the tone darkens and the story narrows to focus on Jude as the pain of his past cuts deep into his carefully constructed life.  

The phrase “tour de force” could have been invented for this audacious novel.

Pub Date: March 10, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-385-53925-8

Page Count: 720

Publisher: Doubleday

Review Posted Online: Dec. 22, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2015

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TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD

A first novel, this is also a first person account of Scout's (Jean Louise) recall of the years that led to the ending of a mystery, the breaking of her brother Jem's elbow, the death of her father's enemy — and the close of childhood years. A widower, Atticus raises his children with legal dispassion and paternal intelligence, and is ably abetted by Calpurnia, the colored cook, while the Alabama town of Maycomb, in the 1930's, remains aloof to their divergence from its tribal patterns. Scout and Jem, with their summer-time companion, Dill, find their paths free from interference — but not from dangers; their curiosity about the imprisoned Boo, whose miserable past is incorporated in their play, results in a tentative friendliness; their fears of Atticus' lack of distinction is dissipated when he shoots a mad dog; his defense of a Negro accused of raping a white girl, Mayella Ewell, is followed with avid interest and turns the rabble whites against him. Scout is the means of averting an attack on Atticus but when he loses the case it is Boo who saves Jem and Scout by killing Mayella's father when he attempts to murder them. The shadows of a beginning for black-white understanding, the persistent fight that Scout carries on against school, Jem's emergence into adulthood, Calpurnia's quiet power, and all the incidents touching on the children's "growing outward" have an attractive starchiness that keeps this southern picture pert and provocative. There is much advance interest in this book; it has been selected by the Literary Guild and Reader's Digest; it should win many friends.

Pub Date: July 11, 1960

ISBN: 0060935464

Page Count: 323

Publisher: Lippincott

Review Posted Online: Oct. 7, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 1960

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