A gripping tale about the reverberations of spousal abuse.

THE OTHER GLORIA

In this debut novel, a California woman who’s escaped a controlling, abusive husband relives her past life when she was still under his thumb.

In 2019, Gloria Davis speeds down the highway, inexplicably covered in blood. She has suffered memory lapses for years and can’t remember what led to her current predicament. After apparently blacking out, Gloria awakens next to her ex-husband, Charles, instead of her fiance, Rick Gaines. Later determining it’s somehow 2003, she’s once again living with the indifferent man who psychologically abused her. The narrative alternates between this time period and 2017, when Gloria finally decides to leave Charles and eventually meets Rick. Gloria considers 2003 a “do-over” and takes the opportunity to get out of her marriage even earlier. Charles is irate in both time periods and occasionally shows up drunk at Gloria’s home. She’s happy to be away from Charles but soon realizes that, if she stays in 2003, she’ll have to find another way to connect with Rick. Meanwhile, the protagonist, whom a psychologist has diagnosed with dissociative disorder, knows “the Other Gloria” has taken over during those lapses in memory. She suspects the unsettling dreams she’s having in 2003, in which she’s locked inside a box, may actually be memories. Villafane has written a riveting story about domestic abuse. Although there are later indications that Charles’ abuse has been physical, his cold, domineering nature is unnerving on its own. Even after Gloria moves out, Charles is a frightening individual who bangs on her door late at night. Benevolent characters help alleviate the story’s overall bleakness; good-guy Rick is the focus, but Gloria also gets support from her parents and, in 2017, her teen daughters, Chrissy and Sarah. The author skillfully distinguishes the two time periods, using past tense for 2017 and present tense for the 2003 that Gloria is reliving. Villafane’s largely unadorned prose soberly depicts a woman who struggles to put herself and her daughters first and stop catering to the needs of a self-serving husband.

A gripping tale about the reverberations of spousal abuse.

Pub Date: N/A

ISBN: N/A

Page Count: 330

Publisher: Kurti Publishing

Review Posted Online: May 5, 2019

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Forget about solving all these crimes; the signal triumph here is (spoiler) the heroine’s survival.

A CONSPIRACY OF BONES

Another sweltering month in Charlotte, another boatload of mysteries past and present for overworked, overstressed forensic anthropologist Temperance Brennan.

A week after the night she chases but fails to catch a mysterious trespasser outside her town house, some unknown party texts Tempe four images of a corpse that looks as if it’s been chewed by wild hogs, because it has been. Showboat Medical Examiner Margot Heavner makes it clear that, breaking with her department’s earlier practice (The Bone Collection, 2016, etc.), she has no intention of calling in Tempe as a consultant and promptly identifies the faceless body herself as that of a young Asian man. Nettled by several errors in Heavner’s analysis, and even more by her willingness to share the gory details at a press conference, Tempe launches her own investigation, which is not so much off the books as against the books. Heavner isn’t exactly mollified when Tempe, aided by retired police detective Skinny Slidell and a host of experts, puts a name to the dead man. But the hints of other crimes Tempe’s identification uncovers, particularly crimes against children, spur her on to redouble her efforts despite the new M.E.’s splenetic outbursts. Before he died, it seems, Felix Vodyanov was linked to a passenger ferry that sank in 1994, an even earlier U.S. government project to research biological agents that could control human behavior, the hinky spiritual retreat Sparkling Waters, the dark web site DeepUnder, and the disappearances of at least four schoolchildren, two of whom have also turned up dead. And why on earth was Vodyanov carrying Tempe’s own contact information? The mounting evidence of ever more and ever worse skulduggery will pull Tempe deeper and deeper down what even she sees as a rabbit hole before she confronts a ringleader implicated in “Drugs. Fraud. Breaking and entering. Arson. Kidnapping. How does attempted murder sound?”

Forget about solving all these crimes; the signal triumph here is (spoiler) the heroine’s survival.

Pub Date: March 17, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-9821-3888-2

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Scribner

Review Posted Online: Dec. 23, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2020

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Miller makes Homer pertinent to women facing 21st-century monsters.

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CIRCE

A retelling of ancient Greek lore gives exhilarating voice to a witch.

“Monsters are a boon for gods. Imagine all the prayers.” So says Circe, a sly, petulant, and finally commanding voice that narrates the entirety of Miller’s dazzling second novel. The writer returns to Homer, the wellspring that led her to an Orange Prize for The Song of Achilles (2012). This time, she dips into The Odyssey for the legend of Circe, a nymph who turns Odysseus’ crew of men into pigs. The novel, with its distinctive feminist tang, starts with the sentence: “When I was born, the name for what I was did not exist.” Readers will relish following the puzzle of this unpromising daughter of the sun god Helios and his wife, Perse, who had negligible use for their child. It takes banishment to the island Aeaea for Circe to sense her calling as a sorceress: “I will not be like a bird bred in a cage, I thought, too dull to fly even when the door stands open. I stepped into those woods and my life began.” This lonely, scorned figure learns herbs and potions, surrounds herself with lions, and, in a heart-stopping chapter, outwits the monster Scylla to propel Daedalus and his boat to safety. She makes lovers of Hermes and then two mortal men. She midwifes the birth of the Minotaur on Crete and performs her own C-section. And as she grows in power, she muses that “not even Odysseus could talk his way past [her] witchcraft. He had talked his way past the witch instead.” Circe’s fascination with mortals becomes the book’s marrow and delivers its thrilling ending. All the while, the supernatural sits intriguingly alongside “the tonic of ordinary things.” A few passages coil toward melodrama, and one inelegant line after a rape seems jarringly modern, but the spell holds fast. Expect Miller’s readership to mushroom like one of Circe’s spells.

Miller makes Homer pertinent to women facing 21st-century monsters.

Pub Date: April 10, 2018

ISBN: 978-0-316-55634-7

Page Count: 400

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: Jan. 23, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2018

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