by Kirun Kapur ‧ RELEASE DATE: Oct. 20, 2020
Poems of craft, power, and compassion: a fine collection.
Awards & Accolades
Best Books Of 2020
Kapur’s collected poems compellingly respond to afflictions and healing in women’s lives.
This second collection for Kapur, following Visiting Indira Gandhi’s Palmist (2015), was a finalist for the National Poetry Series; many of the poems first appeared in literary magazines while two won awards and were anthologized. Several threads weave through the book, including Hindu mythology, conversations on a crisis hotline, and the ravages of illness for both sufferer and onlooker. Much of the work addresses the corrosive ways girls are portrayed as responsible for their own rape and abuse. Drawing on the Hindu epic Ramayana, in which Sita, wife of Rama, must prove her innocence via fire ordeal after being kidnapped by a demon king, Kapur writes in her opening poem that “Every girl can be taught / her middle name is shame.” Whether ancient or contemporary, the same story prevails, as suggested by the poetic form in “Steubenville Ghazal” (referring to the 2013 Steubenville High School rape case). An Arabic poetry form dating to the seventh century, the ghazal is written in couplets that repeat an ending refrain—in this case, a preposition plus him. Narrated by the survivor, the building up of this phrase leads to a devastating conclusion: “My name is redacted, it no longer applies. / I end every line writing him, him, him,” just as media accounts tended to focus on harm to the promising futures of the accused.
The spareness of Kapur’s lines throughout the collection speaks of emotions that must be contained; in the hotline poems, fragmentary lines halt and hesitate across the page as the callers struggle to articulate their stories. “I wish the old me would just,” reads one unfinished, perhaps unfinishable, thought. Such lines thrum with coiled tension. Throughout, the speaker’s role is often to bear witness, sometimes in ways that can find expression only on the page. As a hotline worker, she’s been trained not to react with shock; as a hospital visitor, in the poetry cycle that gives the collection its name, she must be circumspect: “I watch the last / whip of light blurring the far bank slip away. / It will be back tomorrow. I know better than to say so.” Kapur’s craft is everywhere evident, as in these lines from “Waiting for Sleep, I Imagine Sita in Her Youth,” a poem that also uses imagery from Sita’s captivity, though the she in the poem could be any Indian woman: “From the window she could see / women from every corner of the city // walk into the river, disappear / then rise clean, saris soaking.” The sibilants in these lines onomatopoeically recall the rush and rinse of water, as they do in the final stanza when the speaker imagines herself with Sita in the river, “so we might both rise ready / to wring out the story.” The alliteration of window/women/walk and rise/ready/wring skillfully enacts both the connection described and the process of transforming experience through the work of art making.Poems of craft, power, and compassion: a fine collection.
Pub Date: Oct. 20, 2020
Page Count: 85
Publisher: Black Lawrence Press
Review Posted Online: Sept. 17, 2020
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 2020
Review Program: Kirkus Indie
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by Mitch Albom ‧ RELEASE DATE: Nov. 14, 2023
A captivating allegory about evil, lies, and forgiveness.
Truth and deception clash in this tale of the Holocaust.
Udo Graf is proud that the Wolf has assigned him the task of expelling all 50,000 Jews from Salonika, Greece. In that city, Nico Krispis is an 11-year-old Jewish boy whose blue eyes and blond hair deceive, but whose words do not. Those who know him know he has never told a lie in his life—“Never be the one to tell lies, Nico,” his grandfather teaches him. “God is always watching.” Udo and Nico meet, and Udo decides to exploit the child’s innocence. At the train station where Jews are being jammed into cattle cars bound for Auschwitz, Udo gives Nico a yellow star to wear and persuades him to whisper among the crowd, “I heard it from a German officer. They are sending us to Poland. We will have new homes. And jobs.” The lad doesn’t know any better, so he helps persuade reluctant Jews to board the train to hell. “You were a good little liar,” Udo later tells Nico, and delights in the prospect of breaking the boy’s spirit, which is more fun and a greater challenge than killing him outright. When Nico realizes the horrific nature of what he's done, his truth-telling days are over. He becomes an inveterate liar about everything. Narrating the story is the Angel of Truth, whom according to a parable God had cast out of heaven and onto earth, where Truth shattered into billions of pieces, each to lodge in a human heart. (Obviously, many hearts have been missed.) Truth skillfully weaves together the characters, including Nico; his brother, Sebastian; Sebastian’s wife, Fannie; and the “heartless deceiver” Udo. Events extend for decades beyond World War II, until everyone’s lives finally collide in dramatic fashion. As Truth readily acknowledges, his account is loaded with twists and turns, some fortuitous and others not. Will Nico Krispis ever seek redemption? And will he find it? Author Albom’s passion shows through on every page in this well-crafted novel.A captivating allegory about evil, lies, and forgiveness.
Pub Date: Nov. 14, 2023
Page Count: 352
Review Posted Online: Sept. 21, 2023
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 2023
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by Susan Mallery ‧ RELEASE DATE: May 31, 2022
A book begging to be read on the beach, with the sun warming the sand and salt in the air: pure escapism.
Three woman who join together to rent a large space along the beach in Los Angeles for their stores—a gift shop, a bakery, and a bookstore—become fast friends as they each experience the highs, and lows, of love.
Bree is a friendly but standoffish bookstore owner who keeps everyone she knows at arm’s length, from guys she meets in bars to her friends. Mikki is a settled-in-her-routines divorced mother of two, happily a mom, gift-shop owner, and co-parent with her ex-husband, Perry. And Ashley is a young, very-much-in-love bakery owner specializing in muffins who devotes herself to giving back to the community through a nonprofit that helps community members develop skills and find jobs. When the women meet drooling over a boardwalk storefront that none of them can afford on her own, a plan is hatched to divide the space in three, and a friendship—and business partnership—is born. An impromptu celebration on the beach at sunset with champagne becomes a weekly touchpoint to their lives as they learn more about each other and themselves. Their friendship blossoms as they help each other, offering support, hard truths, and loving backup. Author Mallery has created a delightful story of friendship between three women that also offers a variety of love stories as they fall in love, make mistakes, and figure out how to be the best—albeit still flawed—versions of themselves. The men are similarly flawed and human. While the story comes down clearly on the side of all-encompassing love, Mallery has struck a careful balance: There is just enough sex to be spicy, just enough swearing to be naughty, and just enough heartbreak to avoid being cloying.A book begging to be read on the beach, with the sun warming the sand and salt in the air: pure escapism.
Pub Date: May 31, 2022
Page Count: 352
Publisher: Harlequin MIRA
Review Posted Online: March 15, 2022
Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2022
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