A tight series installment that thrives on narrative risk.


From the Jack Harper Trilogy series , Vol. 2

In Barlow’s thriller sequel, 18-year-old Jack Harper attempts to break free from a tragic past, until she hears the siren’s song of revenge.

As this installment opens, Jack watches a mansion burn. She’s destroyed the headquarters of the Infinitum cult run by her father, Cyrus. Lutin, a supernatural being known as a ferric, gave her the power to resurrect the dead, but has now vanished from her life. Jack drives Cyrus’ car from Basille, Louisiana, to New York City to “build my life, one brick at a time.” Initially, the stimulating metropolis invigorates her. Then she sees that Cyrus’ downfall—and the location of the car she stole—have made the news. She eventually settles into a routine of robbing people in Central Park so she can afford an apartment under the alias Sarah Anderson. She’s shocked when she starts receiving letters from children from around the country who are still trapped in the cult’s network; somehow, her precautions have come to naught, and Jack realizes that her attempt at a new life is a fantasy. As she attempts to retreat into drug use, she meets Patrick Flannigan, a princely party animal who turns out to be the target of a criminal syndicate; his father owns the mysterious Lucient Laboratories, which may have a connection to Jack’s past. Barlow’s remarkable sequel keeps the tension high, and the twists consistently feel fresh and unexpected. Jonathon Roth, later introduced as the leader of the criminal Outfit organization, proves a compelling foil for Jack. The protagonist’s quest for self-possession is never eclipsed by the supernatural pyrotechnics, although the action scenes are remarkably cinematic: “Blood exploded from beneath his right cheekbone. Teeth flew out of his mouth to rattle off the windshield.” The final third consists of carefully arranged surprises, each adding psychological complexity to the story—and hints that the next volume will be even grander.

A tight series installment that thrives on narrative risk.

Pub Date: Oct. 13, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-64428-137-6

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Rare Bird Books

Review Posted Online: April 23, 2021

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A deep and grimly whimsical exploration of what it means to be a son, a father, and an artist.


A retelling of Pinocchio from Geppetto's point of view.

The novel purports to be the memoirs of Geppetto, a carpenter from the town of Collodi, written in the belly of a vast fish that has swallowed him. Fortunately for Geppetto, the fish has also engulfed a ship, and its supplies—fresh water, candles, hardtack, captain’s logbook, ink—are what keep the Swallowed Man going. (Collodi is, of course, the name of the author of the original Pinocchio.) A misfit whose loneliness is equaled only by his drive to make art, Geppetto scours his surroundings for supplies, crafting sculptures out of pieces of the ship’s wood, softened hardtack, mussel shells, and his own hair, half hoping and half fearing to create a companion once again that will come to life. He befriends a crab that lives all too briefly in his beard, then mourns when “she” dies. Alone in the dark, he broods over his past, reflecting on his strained relationship with his father and his harsh treatment of his own “son”—Pinocchio, the wooden puppet that somehow came to life. In true Carey fashion, the author illustrates the novel with his own images of his protagonist’s art: sketches of Pinocchio, of woodworking tools, of the women Geppetto loved; photos of driftwood, of tintypes, of a sculpted self-portrait with seaweed hair. For all its humor, the novel is dark and claustrophobic, and its true subject is the responsibilities of creators. Remembering the first time he heard of the sea monster that was to swallow him, Geppetto wonders if the monster is somehow connected to Pinocchio: “The unnatural child had so thrown the world off-balance that it must be righted at any cost, and perhaps the only thing with the power to right it was a gigantic sea monster, born—I began to suppose this—just after I cracked the world by making a wooden person.” Later, contemplating his self-portrait bust, Geppetto asks, “Monster of the deep. Am I, then, the monster? Do I nightmare myself?”

A deep and grimly whimsical exploration of what it means to be a son, a father, and an artist.

Pub Date: Jan. 26, 2021

ISBN: 978-0-593-18887-3

Page Count: 208

Publisher: Riverhead

Review Posted Online: Sept. 30, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 2020

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A battle hymn as novel about sinking your teeth into the available options for self-determination and ripping them to shreds.


A new mother who fears she's going through a frightening and exhilarating transformation leans into the feral side of motherhood.

In this myth-steeped debut, an unnamed artist and mother, not having had a solid night's sleep since her son was born more than two years earlier, has begun waking enraged in the night. Her oblivious tech-bro husband travels for work, "rendering her a de-facto single mom" while he enjoys nightly room service, abundant quiet, and a bed to himself, and she tries to adjust to life at home with their child after having made the ambivalent decision to leave her "dream job" as director of a community gallery. In the wake of creating another human with her body (not to mention sleep deprivation and lack of child care), her impulse to create in other ways has been quashed, her mind wiped clean of ideas as she watches grad school friends, who have both children and the necessary support to advance their careers, ascend, with write-ups in the Times, biennials, residencies, and guest teaching invitations. When she confesses to her husband that she thinks she may be turning into a dog, he laughs off her concerns about the changes she's experiencing—coarse hair sprouting from the back of her neck, lengthening canines, a pilonidal cyst that suspiciously resembles a tail. She self-deprecatingly calls herself "Nightbitch," which plants the germ for a new self she incrementally invents and increasingly embodies, with considerable help from a mysterious library book called A Field Guide to Magical Women. Though at points this novel can read as if ticking boxes from a list of notes cribbed from an internet moms' group, it remains a darkly funny, often insightful dive into the competitive relationship and mutually generative potential between art and motherhood and the animalism underlying procreation and child-rearing. It is both a lament for and, at times, a satire of discontented, primarily White, heterosexual cis women who, without sufficient familial or community support, seek out often toxic and sometimes predatory online communities, where their propensities for a certain kind of American middle-class girl-boss elitism are honed toward "mom shaming" and multilevel marketing scams. Disconnected from family and without a strong sense of cultural belonging, even when Nightbitch seeks to create something truly original, like the MLM moms slinging leggings with appropriated patterns, she also colonizes, longing for and profiting from "the things [she] never had."

A battle hymn as novel about sinking your teeth into the available options for self-determination and ripping them to shreds.

Pub Date: July 20, 2021

ISBN: 978-0-385-54681-2

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Doubleday

Review Posted Online: June 2, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2021

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