A novel of stark beauty and even starker consequence whose language makes up for the often opaque action of the plot.

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HANNAH VERSUS THE TREE

An heiress to the ancient money of a storied family seeks revenge for personal and global wrongs in this powerful debut novel.

Hannah is the precociously brilliant daughter of the Syrl family. Her rootlet of the family tree—which traces its origins back to Nordic conquest—is led by the somewhat scantily sketched figure of her renegade father, a lesser son who has rejected the lineage of rapacious, colonialist greed that has resulted in his family’s stratospheric wealth. Raised under the haphazard supervision of parents embroiled in the dissolutions of their respective marriages, Hannah and her unnamed male best friend (who narrates the book) are largely educated by the Old One and the Wise One. These are two aging grandparents who provide the children with access to the myth structures of the native peoples who once walked the woods that surround them, teach them how to raise wolf pups, train them in Latin, Greek, and Potawatomi (an Algonquin language), and embed within them a deep appreciation for the value of brutality and the civilizations which are born from it. As a teenager, Hannah is brought back into the fold of the Syrl family by the aging matriarch of the clan (sister to the Wise One). When she opposes a scheme presented by the ruthless eldest son of the Syrl tribe, she is punished with a brutal violation of both her body and her trust. This act sets her on a path of epic vengeance—aided and abetted by our impassioned narrator (who is now both friend and lover); Annika, a sexually nihilistic cousin; Justin, a friend with a gift for violence; and a cast of other druggies, skaters, dealers, and hackers who help her take her vengeance to a global scale. The impact of the novel’s plot is somewhat hampered by its mode of telling. Our narrator is doubly removed from the action by both time (the events of the book have all happened in the past) and emotional distance (he loves Hannah but he is not Hannah, who is the undisputed main character of the novel). In spite of this, de la Durantaye’s (Beckett’s Art of Mismaking, 2016, etc.) background as a literary critic and scholar is translated here into a facility with the mutable power of myth that renders his prose at once a dream and a brutal awakening.

A novel of stark beauty and even starker consequence whose language makes up for the often opaque action of the plot.

Pub Date: Nov. 20, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-944211-50-9

Page Count: 176

Publisher: McSweeney’s

Review Posted Online: Sept. 2, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2018

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A strongly felt, if not terribly gripping, sendoff for a Turow favorite nearly 35 years after his appearance in Presumed...

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THE LAST TRIAL

Trying his final case at 85, celebrated criminal defense lawyer Sandy Stern defends a Nobel-winning doctor and longtime friend whose cancer wonder drug saved Stern's life but subsequently led to the deaths of others.

Federal prosecutors are charging the eminent doctor, Kiril Pafko, with murder, fraud, and insider trading. An Argentine émigré like Stern, Pafko is no angel. His counselor is certain he sold stock in the company that produced the drug, g-Livia, before users' deaths were reported. The 78-year-old Nobelist is a serial adulterer whose former and current lovers have strong ties to the case. Working for one final time alongside his daughter and proficient legal partner, Marta, who has announced she will close the firm and retire along with her father following the case, Stern must deal not only with "senior moments" before Chief Judge Sonya "Sonny" Klonsky, but also his physical frailty. While taking a deep dive into the ups and downs of a complicated big-time trial, Turow (Testimony, 2017, etc.) crafts a love letter to his profession through his elegiac appreciation of Stern, who has appeared in all his Kindle County novels. The grandly mannered attorney (his favorite response is "Just so") has dedicated himself to the law at great personal cost. But had he not spent so much of his life inside courtrooms, "He never would have known himself." With its bland prosecutors, frequent focus on technical details like "double-blind clinical trials," and lack of real surprises, the novel likely will disappoint some fans of legal thrillers. But this smoothly efficient book gains timely depth through its discussion of thorny moral issues raised by a drug that can extend a cancer sufferer's life expectancy at the risk of suddenly ending it.

A strongly felt, if not terribly gripping, sendoff for a Turow favorite nearly 35 years after his appearance in Presumed Innocent.

Pub Date: May 12, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-5387-4813-8

Page Count: 448

Publisher: Grand Central Publishing

Review Posted Online: Feb. 10, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2020

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With humor and insight, Straub creates a family worth rooting for.

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When Astrid Strick witnesses a school bus run over a longtime acquaintance of hers—Barbara Baker, a woman she doesn't like very much—it's only the beginning of the shake-ups to come in her life and the lives of those she loves.

Astrid has been tootling along contentedly in the Hudson Valley town of Clapham, New York, a 68-year-old widow with three grown children. After many years of singlehood since her husband died, she's been quietly seeing Birdie Gonzalez, her hairdresser, for the past two years, and after Barbara's death she determines to tell her children about the relationship: "There was no time to waste, not in this life. There were always more school buses." Elliot, her oldest, who's in real estate, lives in Clapham with his wife, Wendy, who's Chinese American, and their twins toddlers, Aidan and Zachary, who are "such hellions that only a fool would willingly ask for more." Astrid's daughter, Porter, owns a nearby farm producing artisanal goat cheese and has just gotten pregnant through a sperm bank while having an affair with her married high school boyfriend. Nicky, the youngest Strick, is disconcertingly famous for having appeared in an era-defining movie when he was younger and now lives in Brooklyn with his French wife, Juliette, and their daughter, Cecelia, who's being shipped up to live with Astrid for a while after her friend got mixed up with a pedophile she met online. As always, Straub (Modern Lovers, 2016, etc.) draws her characters warmly, making them appealing in their self-centeredness and generosity, their insecurity and hope. The cast is realistically diverse, though in most ways it's fairly superficial; the fact that Birdie is Latina or Porter's obstetrician is African American doesn't have much impact on the story or their characters. Cecelia's new friend, August, wants to make the transition to Robin; that storyline gets more attention, with the two middle schoolers supporting each other through challenging times. The Stricks worry about work, money, sex, and gossip; Straub has a sharp eye for her characters' foibles and the details of their liberal, upper-middle-class milieu.

With humor and insight, Straub creates a family worth rooting for.

Pub Date: May 5, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-59463-469-7

Page Count: 368

Publisher: Riverhead

Review Posted Online: Feb. 10, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2020

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