A respectably ambitious but unfocused debut novel.

AGELESS CONFESSIONS

An experimental work of fiction that eventually focuses on characters in the orbit of an eating-disorder treatment center.

The book begins with a biblical prologue in Jerusalem in 985 B.C.E. featuring King David of Israel before quickly jumping onboard the ship Confessions that’s en route to Portugal in 1431. The captain is searching for his daughter, Aria, who created the “sacred book belonging to royalty,” the Fleurs de Lys. Shortly thereafter, the story focuses on Bird, a weathered woman who lives in a graveyard. These characters are never brought up again after the scene switches to the City of Roses eating-disorder clinic in the Canadian community of Rockland in 1998, run by a woman named Maggie. One day at the clinic, caregiver Carla roughly attempts to feed a patient; when her new co-worker, Erin, sees this, the latter accuses the clinic of force-feeding. Erin goes on to write a newspaper story about City of Roses that eventually results in the clinic’s shutdown. Maggie’s daughter, Gabrielle, later writes a book about the clinic that’s made into a movie; the deceased Ebony Velvet was a former patient there, and Maggie’s determined to share her story. The next section focuses on Ebony’s experience in the hospital;she has a baby whomshe names Snowflake Princess, aka Ivory, who’s the central character of the remainder of the work. There’s definite promise in Street’s prose, as she has a knack for poetic description: “When kindness would rule as a queen, the night would be star-thick, spelling joy from one generation to the next.” At times, though, the highly detailed writing feels somewhat stilted and awkward: “When Ebony tried not to listen, Chloe spoke. She carried a black Bible. Ebony felt helpless to change her.” Overall, the execution of the story is uneven, as the earlier sections don’t tie into the later parts and feel more like separate stories; it’s unclear what the author’s attempting to do or say with this unusual structure. The work has potential, but it would have benefited from more straightforward organization.

A respectably ambitious but unfocused debut novel.

Pub Date: N/A

ISBN: N/A

Page Count: -

Publisher: Manuscript

Review Posted Online: March 9, 2021

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As the pieces of this magical literary puzzle snap together, a flicker of hope is sparked for our benighted world.

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CLOUD CUCKOO LAND

An ancient Greek manuscript connects humanity's past, present, and future.

Stranger, whoever you are, open this to learn what will amaze you” wrote Antonius Diogenes at the end of the first century C.E.—and millennia later, Pulitzer Prize winner Doerr is his fitting heir. Around Diogenes' manuscript, "Cloud Cuckoo Land"—the author did exist, but the text is invented—Doerr builds a community of readers and nature lovers that transcends the boundaries of time and space. The protagonist of the original story is Aethon, a shepherd whose dream of escaping to a paradise in the sky leads to a wild series of adventures in the bodies of beast, fish, and fowl. Aethon's story is first found by Anna in 15th-century Constantinople; though a failure as an apprentice seamstress, she's learned ancient Greek from an elderly scholar. Omeir, a country boy of the same period, is rejected by the world for his cleft lip—but forms the deepest of connections with his beautiful oxen, Moonlight and Tree. In the 1950s, Zeno Ninis, a troubled ex–GI in Lakeport, Idaho, finds peace in working on a translation of Diogenes' recently recovered manuscript. In 2020, 86-year-old Zeno helps a group of youngsters put the story on as a play at the Lakeport Public Library—unaware that an eco-terrorist is planting a bomb in the building during dress rehearsal. (This happens in the first pages of the book and continues ticking away throughout.) On a spaceship called the Argos bound for Beta Oph2 in Mission Year 65, a teenage girl named Konstance is sequestered in a sealed room with a computer named Sybil. How could she possibly encounter Zeno's translation? This is just one of the many narrative miracles worked by the author as he brings a first-century story to its conclusion in 2146.

As the pieces of this magical literary puzzle snap together, a flicker of hope is sparked for our benighted world.

Pub Date: Sept. 28, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-982168-43-8

Page Count: 656

Publisher: Scribner

Review Posted Online: June 29, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2021

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Funny, sad, astute, occasionally creepy, and slyly irresistible.

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APPLES NEVER FALL

Australian novelist Moriarty combines domestic realism and noirish mystery in this story about the events surrounding a 69-year-old Sydney woman’s disappearance.

Joy and Stan Delaney met as champion tennis players more than 50 years ago and ran a well-regarded tennis academy until their recent retirement. Their long, complicated marriage has been filled with perhaps as much passion for the game of tennis as for each other or their children. When Joy disappears on Feb. 14, 2020 (note the date), the last text she sends to her now-grown kids—bohemian Amy, passive Logan, flashy Troy, and migraine-suffering Brooke—is too garbled by autocorrect to decipher and stubborn Stan refuses to accept that there might be a problem. But days pass and Joy remains missing and uncharacteristically silent. As worrisome details come to light, the police become involved. The structure follows the pattern of Big Little Lies (2014) by setting up a mystery and then jumping months into the past to unravel it. Here, Moriarty returns to the day a stranger named Savannah turned up bleeding on the Delaneys’ doorstep and Joy welcomed her to stay for an extended visit. Who is Savannah? Whether she’s innocent, scamming, or something else remains unclear on many levels. Moriarty is a master of ambiguity and also of the small, telling detail like a tossed tennis racket or the repeated appearance of apple crumble. Starting with the abandoned bike that's found by a passing motorist on the first page, the evidence that accumulates around what happened to Joy constantly challenges the reader both to notice which minor details (and characters) matter and to distinguish between red herrings and buried clues. The ultimate reveal is satisfying, if troubling. But Moriarty’s main focus, which she approaches from countless familiar and unexpected angles, is the mystery of family and what it means to be a parent, child, or sibling in the Delaney family—or in any family, for that matter.

Funny, sad, astute, occasionally creepy, and slyly irresistible.

Pub Date: Sept. 14, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-250-22025-7

Page Count: 480

Publisher: Henry Holt

Review Posted Online: June 16, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2021

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