A quiet and introspective novel of wartime adventure.



A teenage girl rescues a downed American pilot in World War II Norway.

In this historical novel, Kjeldsen (Tomorrow City, 2013) follows 15-year-old Kari Dahlstrøm as she sets out to help an American pilot who lands near her family’s farm in rural Norway, despite her misanthropic widowed father Erling’s protest that the incident is not their concern. Kari sneaks out on foot and locates the pilot, Maj. Lance Mahurin, tangled up in his parachute in a tree. After freeing him, she offers to take him to safety in Sweden. They eventually head off in a rickety cart pulled by Torden, the Dahlstrøm family’s horse. When Erling realizes Kari is gone, he sets out on her trail, as does Nazi officer Lt. Conrad Moltke, guided by informants willing to trade collaboration for personal benefit. The two men chase their targets across the treacherous Norwegian mountains. Kari and Lance contend with the dangers of ice and snow, as well as the ever-present threat of German soldiers, as they make their way to the Swedish border. Erling’s journey in their tracks is solitary, while Moltke’s pursuit is hampered by conflicts with his superiors and the men he commands. The narrative switches frequently among characters, providing readers with an understanding of the motivations of all involved. Despite the high drama and action-driven hunt, the story remains at its core a quiet one, focused on the well-developed, internal struggles of the characters and with the careful, evocative use of language (“The first faint smudges of dawn began to emerge on the horizon. At the onset, they were barely perceptible, little more than smears on a lampblack canvas”). Although the prose is strong, the grammar is less so, and repeated errors in proper noun possessive formation detract from the narrative. Kjeldsen’s writing benefits from a deep underlying knowledge, not only of World War II ranks and weaponry—though history buffs should appreciate the details—but also of farming techniques, the hazards of a winter trek through Scandinavian woods, and animal behavior (“After Torden slipped again, he pulled up and whinnied, refusing to proceed further until Kari dug her heels into his sides”). The book is less adept at bringing readers into its female protagonist’s mind; despite the challenges she faces on her odyssey, Kari’s thoughts consist disproportionately of her infatuation with Lance.

 A quiet and introspective novel of wartime adventure.

Pub Date: Jan. 24, 2017

ISBN: 978-0-9984657-2-2

Page Count: 212

Publisher: Grenzland Press

Review Posted Online: Jan. 11, 2017

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Kin “[find] each other’s lives inscrutable” in this rich, sharp story about the way identity is formed.

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Inseparable identical twin sisters ditch home together, and then one decides to vanish.

The talented Bennett fuels her fiction with secrets—first in her lauded debut, The Mothers (2016), and now in the assured and magnetic story of the Vignes sisters, light-skinned women parked on opposite sides of the color line. Desiree, the “fidgety twin,” and Stella, “a smart, careful girl,” make their break from stultifying rural Mallard, Louisiana, becoming 16-year-old runaways in 1954 New Orleans. The novel opens 14 years later as Desiree, fleeing a violent marriage in D.C., returns home with a different relative: her 8-year-old daughter, Jude. The gossips are agog: “In Mallard, nobody married dark....Marrying a dark man and dragging his blueblack child all over town was one step too far.” Desiree's decision seals Jude’s misery in this “colorstruck” place and propels a new generation of flight: Jude escapes on a track scholarship to UCLA. Tending bar as a side job in Beverly Hills, she catches a glimpse of her mother’s doppelgänger. Stella, ensconced in white society, is shedding her fur coat. Jude, so black that strangers routinely stare, is unrecognizable to her aunt. All this is expertly paced, unfurling before the book is half finished; a reader can guess what is coming. Bennett is deeply engaged in the unknowability of other people and the scourge of colorism. The scene in which Stella adopts her white persona is a tour de force of doubling and confusion. It calls up Toni Morrison’s The Bluest Eye, the book's 50-year-old antecedent. Bennett's novel plays with its characters' nagging feelings of being incomplete—for the twins without each other; for Jude’s boyfriend, Reese, who is trans and seeks surgery; for their friend Barry, who performs in drag as Bianca. Bennett keeps all these plot threads thrumming and her social commentary crisp. In the second half, Jude spars with her cousin Kennedy, Stella's daughter, a spoiled actress.

Kin “[find] each other’s lives inscrutable” in this rich, sharp story about the way identity is formed.

Pub Date: June 2, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-525-53629-1

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Riverhead

Review Posted Online: March 15, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2020

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More Hallmarkiana, from a shameless expert in the genre.


High-stakes weepmeister Sparks (A Walk to Remember, 1999, etc.) opts for a happy ending his fourth time out. His writing has improved—though it's still the equivalent of paint-by-numbers—and he makes use this time of at least a vestige of credible psychology.

That vestige involves the deep dark secret—it has something to do with his father's death when son Taylor was nine—that haunts kind, good 36-year-old local contractor Taylor McAden and makes him withdraw from relationships whenever they start getting serious enough to maybe get permanent. He's done this twice before, and now he does it again with pretty and sweet single mother Denise Holton, age 29, who's moved from Atlanta to Taylor's town of Edenton, North Carolina, in order to devote her time more fully to training her four-year-old son Kyle to overcome the peculiar impediment he has that keeps him from achieving normal language acquisition. Okay? When Denise has a car accident in a bad storm, she's rescued by volunteer fireman Taylor—who also rescues little Kyle after he wanders away from his injured mom in the storm. Love blooms in the weeks that follow—until Taylor suddenly begins putting on the brakes. What is it that holds him back, when there just isn't any question but that he loves Denise and vice versa-not to mention that he's "great" with Kyle, just like a father? It will require a couple of near-death experiences (as fireman Taylor bravely risks his life to save others); emotional steadiness from the intelligent, good, true Denise; and the terrible death of a dear and devoted friend before Taylor will come to the point at last of confiding to Denise the terrible memory of how his father died—and the guilt that's been its legacy to Taylor. The psychological dam broken, love will at last be able to flow.

More Hallmarkiana, from a shameless expert in the genre.

Pub Date: Sept. 19, 2000

ISBN: 0-446-52550-2

Page Count: 352

Publisher: N/A

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2000

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