An enjoyable tale of Canadian pioneer life inspired by the author’s family history.

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TWELVE HORSES FOR JULIA

THE STORY OF A SOUTHERN ALBERTA PIONEER

A young woman from Iowa settles in Canada in the 19th century.

This novel is the lightly fictionalized tale of Malmqvist’s (The Drone at the Diamond Valley Chop Shop, 2019, etc.) great-great-grandmother that’s based on both family lore and documented history. Julia, the daughter of a French Canadian man and his Oglala Sioux and French wife, leaves her Iowa farm at age 8 after her father kills a thief and antagonizes the local authorities. The family spends several years on a nearby reservation with relatives. After the U.S. government opens land for settlement, Julia and her family set out for Oregon in 1865. During the trip, they are attacked by Blackfoot, and Julia and two younger siblings are adopted by the tribe. Their transition is aided by the presence of Sara, another white adoptee. At 15, Julia marries Moïse (the book’s title refers to the bride price he pays) and joins him on his Oregon farm. After several years of marriage and a reunion with her father, Julia is convinced by Moïse to move to Canada’s newly organized Northwest Territory, where the family settles into ranching in a rural community in southern Alberta. The group later adapts to the arrival of the train and other connections to the wider world. An author’s note elaborates on the historical Julia’s experiences and how Malmqvist came to learn about her family’s past. The novel does an excellent job of capturing Julia’s discomfort as her way of life repeatedly changes (“This was the first house that I’d been in since we’d fled our farm in Iowa when I was a small child”). And while the kidnapped-by–Native Americans trope is a frequently problematic one, the author balances the facts of Julia’s capture with well-rounded portrayals of her adoptive family. The writing is generally strong, although there are occasional bits of stilted dialogue as characters deliver historical trivia (“Have you heard of the Kentucky Derby?...The first race was held last year”). Still, Malmqvist generally turns limited facts into a plausible and highly readable narrative.

An enjoyable tale of Canadian pioneer life inspired by the author’s family history.

Pub Date: N/A

ISBN: 978-1-5255-4531-3

Page Count: 211

Publisher: FriesenPress

Review Posted Online: June 20, 2019

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An enjoyable, cozy novel that touches on tough topics.

THE AUTHENTICITY PROJECT

A group of strangers who live near each other in London become fast friends after writing their deepest secrets in a shared notebook.

Julian Jessop, a septuagenarian artist, is bone-crushingly lonely when he starts “The Authenticity Project”—as he titles a slim green notebook—and begins its first handwritten entry questioning how well people know each other in his tiny corner of London. After 15 years on his own mourning the loss of his beloved wife, he begins the project with the aim that whoever finds the little volume when he leaves it in a cafe will share their true self with their own entry and then pass the volume on to a stranger. The second person to share their inner selves in the notebook’s pages is Monica, 37, owner of a failing cafe and a former corporate lawyer who desperately wants to have a baby. From there the story unfolds, as the volume travels to Thailand and back to London, seemingly destined to fall only into the hands of people—an alcoholic drug addict, an Australian tourist, a social media influencer/new mother, etc.—who already live clustered together geographically. This is a glossy tale where difficulties and addictions appear and are overcome, where lies are told and then forgiven, where love is sought and found, and where truths, once spoken, can set you free. Secondary characters, including an interracial gay couple, appear with their own nuanced parts in the story. The message is strong, urging readers to get off their smartphones and social media and live in the real, authentic world—no chain stores or brands allowed here—making friends and forming a real-life community and support network. And is that really a bad thing?

An enjoyable, cozy novel that touches on tough topics.

Pub Date: Feb. 4, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-9848-7861-8

Page Count: 368

Publisher: Pamela Dorman/Viking

Review Posted Online: Oct. 27, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15, 2019

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A strict report, worthy of sympathy.

THE CATCHER IN THE RYE

A violent surfacing of adolescence (which has little in common with Tarkington's earlier, broadly comic, Seventeen) has a compulsive impact.

"Nobody big except me" is the dream world of Holden Caulfield and his first person story is down to the basic, drab English of the pre-collegiate. For Holden is now being bounced from fancy prep, and, after a vicious evening with hall- and roommates, heads for New York to try to keep his latest failure from his parents. He tries to have a wild evening (all he does is pay the check), is terrorized by the hotel elevator man and his on-call whore, has a date with a girl he likes—and hates, sees his 10 year old sister, Phoebe. He also visits a sympathetic English teacher after trying on a drunken session, and when he keeps his date with Phoebe, who turns up with her suitcase to join him on his flight, he heads home to a hospital siege. This is tender and true, and impossible, in its picture of the old hells of young boys, the lonesomeness and tentative attempts to be mature and secure, the awful block between youth and being grown-up, the fright and sickness that humans and their behavior cause the challenging, the dramatization of the big bang. It is a sorry little worm's view of the off-beat of adult pressure, of contemporary strictures and conformity, of sentiment….

A strict report, worthy of sympathy.

Pub Date: June 15, 1951

ISBN: 0316769177

Page Count: -

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: Nov. 2, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 1951

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