A brilliant novel about a young man’s reckoning with a flawed and violent world.

A GOOD COUNTRY

An American-born son of Iranian immigrants becomes radicalized.

Rez Courdee is the son of well-to-do Iranian immigrants. His father is strict, his mother retiring. Rez performs well at his private Southern California high school. At first, Rez is a “typical” American teenager, blissfully numbing himself with surfing and drugs to the complexities of his life and world. But after the Boston Marathon and another massacre closer to home, Rez can’t ignore the fact that he is treated with suspicion and prejudice by the same white community with which he has spent his entire life. Khadivi’s (The Walking, 2013, etc.) latest novel is the story of a young man’s gradual radicalization. A filmmaker as well as a writer, Khadivi is a massive talent, lyrical, evocative, and unsparing. Her latest work completes a loose trilogy of novels that traces a line of genealogy down from Rez’s grandfather to his father to himself. But Rez’s story stands on its own. His radicalization takes place gradually, the result of a countless number of small intertwining factors rather than one overwhelming reason. That makes Rez’s journey believable, his psychological transition vivid and real. You’ll sympathize with Rez even as you find yourself devastated by his ultimate choices. Khadivi’s feat is a crucial one, especially at this moment in time, when young Muslim men are dehumanized by white Americans far more often than they are understood to be complicated, and individual, human beings. The book has only two small flaws. The first is that, though there is brief mention early on that Rez has a sister, she is never seen or heard from again. The second flaw, if it is a flaw, is one that afflicts all books, everywhere, and that is that the story, finally, must come to an end. You won't want the book to end. You will want to follow Rez. You will want to hear what happens next.

A brilliant novel about a young man’s reckoning with a flawed and violent world.

Pub Date: May 23, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-63286-584-7

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Bloomsbury

Review Posted Online: March 7, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2017

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Despite some distractions, there’s an irresistible charm to Owens’ first foray into nature-infused romantic fiction.

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WHERE THE CRAWDADS SING

A wild child’s isolated, dirt-poor upbringing in a Southern coastal wilderness fails to shield her from heartbreak or an accusation of murder.

“The Marsh Girl,” “swamp trash”—Catherine “Kya” Clark is a figure of mystery and prejudice in the remote North Carolina coastal community of Barkley Cove in the 1950s and '60s. Abandoned by a mother no longer able to endure her drunken husband’s beatings and then by her four siblings, Kya grows up in the careless, sometimes-savage company of her father, who eventually disappears, too. Alone, virtually or actually, from age 6, Kya learns both to be self-sufficient and to find solace and company in her fertile natural surroundings. Owens (Secrets of the Savanna, 2006, etc.), the accomplished co-author of several nonfiction books on wildlife, is at her best reflecting Kya’s fascination with the birds, insects, dappled light, and shifting tides of the marshes. The girl’s collections of shells and feathers, her communion with the gulls, her exploration of the wetlands are evoked in lyrical phrasing which only occasionally tips into excess. But as the child turns teenager and is befriended by local boy Tate Walker, who teaches her to read, the novel settles into a less magical, more predictable pattern. Interspersed with Kya’s coming-of-age is the 1969 murder investigation arising from the discovery of a man’s body in the marsh. The victim is Chase Andrews, “star quarterback and town hot shot,” who was once Kya’s lover. In the eyes of a pair of semicomic local police officers, Kya will eventually become the chief suspect and must stand trial. By now the novel’s weaknesses have become apparent: the monochromatic characterization (good boy Tate, bad boy Chase) and implausibilities (Kya evolves into a polymath—a published writer, artist, and poet), yet the closing twist is perhaps its most memorable oddity.

Despite some distractions, there’s an irresistible charm to Owens’ first foray into nature-infused romantic fiction.

Pub Date: Aug. 14, 2018

ISBN: 978-0-7352-1909-0

Page Count: 384

Publisher: Putnam

Review Posted Online: May 15, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 2018

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FOR WHOM THE BELL TOLLS

This is good Hemingway. It has some of the tenderness of A Farewell to Arms and some of its amazing power to make one feel inside the picture of a nation at war, of the people experiencing war shorn of its glamor, of the emotions that the effects of war — rather than war itself — arouse. But in style and tempo and impact, there is greater resemblance to The Sun Also Rises. Implicit in the characters and the story is the whole tragic lesson of Spain's Civil War, proving ground for today's holocaust, and carrying in its small compass, the contradictions, the human frailties, the heroism and idealism and shortcomings. In retrospect the thread of the story itself is slight. Three days, during which time a young American, a professor who has taken his Sabbatical year from the University of Montana to play his part in the struggle for Loyalist Spain and democracy. He is sent to a guerilla camp of partisans within the Fascist lines to blow up a strategic bridge. His is a complex problem in humanity, a group of undisciplined, unorganized natives, emotionally geared to go their own way, while he has a job that demands unreasoning, unwavering obedience. He falls in love with a lovely refugee girl, escaping the terrors of a fascist imprisonment, and their romance is sharply etched against a gruesome background. It is a searing book; Hemingway has done more to dramatize the Spanish War than any amount of abstract declamation. Yet he has done it through revealing the pettinesses, the indignities, the jealousies, the cruelties on both sides, never glorifying simply presenting starkly the belief in the principles for which these people fought a hopeless war, to give the rest of the world an interval to prepare. There is something of the implacable logic of Verdun in the telling. It's not a book for the thin-skinned; it has more than its fill of obscenities and the style is clipped and almost too elliptical for clarity at times. But it is a book that repays one for bleak moments of unpleasantness.

Pub Date: Oct. 21, 1940

ISBN: 0684803356

Page Count: 484

Publisher: Scribner

Review Posted Online: Oct. 7, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1, 1940

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