A political opera written in an often flat, journalistic style, but Fang and Mei Ling are indelible characters.

IN THE LAP OF THE GODS

In her first novel, Lovett chronicles the human cost of building China’s Three Gorges Dam on the Yangtze River.

Liu earns a meager livelihood scavenging the villages abandoned as the Yangtze rises. After finding a forsaken baby girl at the river’s edge, he approaches Fang, an entrepreneur who offers to help sell the baby to an orphanage. At the last minute Liu, whose beloved wife died while pregnant two years earlier, decides to keep the baby he calls Rose. With the help of an elderly neighbor, Liu learns to care for Rose. He also begins to court a waitress, Mei Ling, at the newly thriving restaurant of his friend Tai. Liu, Tai and Mei Ling all come from villages swept away by the dam’s creation. Mei Ling left her parents once they were relocated rather than be forced into an arranged marriage, but as a good daughter she continues to send money home. Tai plays matchmaker, throwing Liu and Mei Ling together as they work to open Tai’s new, larger restaurant. Mei Ling accepts Liu’s marriage proposal, but has difficulty adjusting to her new domestic life, in particular to the demands of feisty little Rose. When a job opportunity occurs in another city, she takes it and finds herself falling in love with her boss. Meanwhile Fang, who spent his youth in the countryside during the Cultural Revolution, hears from an old friend, Longshan, whose sister Sulin remains the lost love of Fang’s life. Rose is Sulin’s granddaughter. Fang approaches Liu to sell the child back shortly after Mei Ling asks for a divorce. Afraid of losing Rose and assuming he’s already lost Mei Ling, Liu leaves town with Rose to start a new life elsewhere without leaving a forwarding address. Fang’s love and submerged idealism mingle as he involves himself in Longshan and Sulin’s fight to receive compensation for their forced relocation. 

A political opera written in an often flat, journalistic style, but Fang and Mei Ling are indelible characters.

Pub Date: Nov. 1, 2010

ISBN: 978-1-935248-13-2

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Leapfrog

Review Posted Online: Sept. 9, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1, 2010

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A clever and current book about a complicated woman and her romantic relationships.

CONVERSATIONS WITH FRIENDS

The story of the entangled affairs of a group of exceedingly smart and self-possessed creative types.

Frances, an aloof and intelligent 21-year-old living in Dublin, is an aspiring poet and communist. She performs her spoken-word pieces with her best friend and ex-lover, Bobbi, who is equally intellectual but gregarious where Frances is shy and composed where Frances is awkward. When Melissa, a notable writer and photographer, approaches the pair to offer to do a profile of them, they accept excitedly. While Bobbi is taken with Melissa, Frances becomes infatuated by her life—her success, her beautiful home, her actor husband, Nick. Nick is handsome and mysterious and, it turns out, returns Frances’ attraction. Although he can sometimes be withholding of his affection (he struggles with depression), they begin a passionate affair. Frances and Nick’s relationship makes difficult the already tense (for its intensity) relationship between Frances and Bobbi. In the midst of this complicated dynamic, Frances is also managing endometriosis and neglectful parents—an abusive, alcoholic father and complicit mother. As a narrator, Frances describes all these complex fragments in an ethereal and thoughtful but self-loathing way. Rooney captures the mood and voice of contemporary women and their interpersonal connections and concerns without being remotely predictable. In her debut novel, she deftly illustrates psychology’s first lesson: that everyone is doomed to repeat their patterns.

A clever and current book about a complicated woman and her romantic relationships.

Pub Date: July 11, 2017

ISBN: 978-0-451-49905-9

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Hogarth

Review Posted Online: April 18, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 2017

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Doerr captures the sights and sounds of wartime and focuses, refreshingly, on the innate goodness of his major characters.

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ALL THE LIGHT WE CANNOT SEE

Doerr presents us with two intricate stories, both of which take place during World War II; late in the novel, inevitably, they intersect.

In August 1944, Marie-Laure LeBlanc is a blind 16-year-old living in the walled port city of Saint-Malo in Brittany and hoping to escape the effects of Allied bombing. D-Day took place two months earlier, and Cherbourg, Caen and Rennes have already been liberated. She’s taken refuge in this city with her great-uncle Etienne, at first a fairly frightening figure to her. Marie-Laure’s father was a locksmith and craftsman who made scale models of cities that Marie-Laure studied so she could travel around on her own. He also crafted clever and intricate boxes, within which treasures could be hidden. Parallel to the story of Marie-Laure we meet Werner and Jutta Pfennig, a brother and sister, both orphans who have been raised in the Children’s House outside Essen, in Germany. Through flashbacks we learn that Werner had been a curious and bright child who developed an obsession with radio transmitters and receivers, both in their infancies during this period. Eventually, Werner goes to a select technical school and then, at 18, into the Wehrmacht, where his technical aptitudes are recognized and he’s put on a team trying to track down illegal radio transmissions. Etienne and Marie-Laure are responsible for some of these transmissions, but Werner is intrigued since what she’s broadcasting is innocent—she shares her passion for Jules Verne by reading aloud 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea. A further subplot involves Marie-Laure’s father’s having hidden a valuable diamond, one being tracked down by Reinhold von Rumpel, a relentless German sergeant-major.

Doerr captures the sights and sounds of wartime and focuses, refreshingly, on the innate goodness of his major characters.

Pub Date: May 6, 2014

ISBN: 978-1-4767-4658-6

Page Count: 448

Publisher: Scribner

Review Posted Online: March 6, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2014

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