Brilliantly researched, imaginative cross-genre historical fiction.

LOVING MODIGLIANI

THE AFTERLIFE OF JEANNE HÉBUTERNE

A part fantastical ghost story, part romance focuses on Modigliani’s lover.

Paris, 1920: Italian painter Modigliani dies of consumption. Two days later, Jeanne Hébuterne, artist, model, and common-law wife of Modi, throws herself out the window of her parents’ home. Jeanne dies, but her spirit survives. Tethered to her body by an ethereal umbilical cord, she is prepared for burial in the artist studio she shared with Modi. As a ghost, no one hears her while she rails that the studio has been ransacked and Modi’s paintings have vanished. Her brother, André, collects her work but doesn’t find the piece she had not yet finished, the painting she was going to give Modi had he recovered. Modi had started a picture of her and their baby daughter but abandoned it. Jeanne took up the painting and added Modi’s figure but did not complete it before they both died. After her burial, Jeanne is no longer tied to her body and must navigate the afterlife, searching for Modi. Lappin’s striking afterlife creates a compelling secondary realm to the superbly researched, fleshed-out historical world in and around Paris. What could easily have been a biographical novel—one that ended with Jeanne’s death—is instead a far more intricate tale. The time periods include Paris, 1920; Vichy France under Nazi rule, 1941; and then another layer: 1981, when an art historian uncovers Jeanne’s work and journals. In this blend of world events, art history, and ghost story, one of the author’s greatest strengths is her worldbuilding. Death, from the very first page, is fully realized. The umbilical cord that initially connects Jeanne to her corpse is as “clear and stretchy as a jellyfish tentacle, and a bit sticky, like old egg whites. It shimmered like mother of pearl.” There are rules and a detailed bureaucracy in the world of the dead. One must have money to catch a train; the train has compartments based on class; and Jeanne must inquire about Modi’s whereabouts with the bureau, which is divided according to one’s religion. The book’s inventive afterlife is as vividly drawn as the streets of Paris.

Brilliantly researched, imaginative cross-genre historical fiction.

Pub Date: Dec. 15, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-947175-30-3

Page Count: 263

Publisher: Serving House Books

Review Posted Online: Feb. 4, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2021

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An alternately farcical and poignant look at family bonds.

THE SUMMER PLACE

When a family convenes at their Cape Cod summer home for a wedding, old secrets threaten to ruin everything.

Sarah Danhauser is shocked when her beloved stepdaughter announces her engagement to her boyfriend, Gabe. After all, Ruby’s only 22, and Sarah suspects that their relationship was fast-tracked because of the time they spent together in quarantine during the early days of the pandemic. Sarah’s mother, Veronica, is thrilled, mostly because she longs to have the entire family together for one last celebration before she puts their Cape Cod summer house on the market. But getting to Ruby and Gabe’s wedding might prove more difficult than anyone thought. Sarah can’t figure out why her husband, Eli, has been so distant and distracted ever since Ruby moved home to Park Slope (bringing Gabe with her), and she's afraid he may be having an affair. Veronica is afraid that a long-ago dalliance might come back to bite her. Ruby isn’t sure how to process the conflicting feelings she’s having about her upcoming nuptials. And Sam, Sarah’s twin brother, is a recent widower who’s dealing with some pretty big romantic confusion. As the entire extended family, along with Gabe’s relatives, converges on the summer house, secrets become impossible to keep, and it quickly becomes clear that this might not be the perfect gathering Veronica was envisioning. If they make it to the wedding, will their family survive the aftermath? Weiner creates a story with all the misunderstandings and miscommunications of a screwball comedy or a Shakespeare play (think A Midsummer Night’s Dream). But the surprising, over-the-top actions of the characters are grounded by a realistic and moving look at grief and ambition (particularly for Sarah and Veronica, both of whom give up demanding creative careers early on). At times the flashbacks can slow down the story, but even when the characters are lying, cheating, and hiding from each other, they still seem like a real and loving family.

An alternately farcical and poignant look at family bonds.

Pub Date: May 10, 2022

ISBN: 978-1-5011-3357-2

Page Count: 432

Publisher: Atria

Review Posted Online: Feb. 9, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2022

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A curious fetishization of outsiders, outlaws, and the down-and-out.

THE RAVAGED

This debut novel from Walking Dead actor Reedus follows three thematically connected yet narratively unrelated people as they journey to find themselves.

Hunter, a heavily tatted Iraq War vet and self-proclaimed gearhead, attacks his boss at the bike shop after catching him kicking a dog. “Hunter was old school,” the narrator says, rough-hewn but with strong moral fiber and a heart of gold. After learning his father died in a “mysterious house fire” in California, Hunter hops on his Buell S1 motorcycle alongside his buddies Nugget and Itch for a cross-country haul to execute the will. Meanwhile, a wealthy 65-year-old executive named Jack is mugged while traveling aimlessly through South America, neither the first nor the last of his hardships. Jack abandoned his cushy, bloodless office lifestyle after his dying mother told him to “run and never look back,” words he continuously labors to unpack. Finally, Anne, an abused teenage girl in Tennessee, steals her father’s savings and .38 revolver and runs away from home, clobbering her brother upside the head with a cast-iron skillet when he tries to stop her. She connects with her friend Trot, and they join a community of train-hoppers. Co-written by Bill, the story reads like a pastiche of Robert Pirsig’s Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance and Jack Kerouac’s On the Road, the latter of which is name-dropped as “great” by multiple characters. Though occasionally hitting some beautiful imagery of the American heartland, Reedus falls victim to implausible dialogue—“Fabiola, you are reading me like a stock report,” Jack says—and overcooked language: “flesh the color of a high-dollar medium-roast coffee bean.” Frequently wordy summaries do little to develop the thinly sketched characters; we know nearly as much about them on Page 25 as on Page 250.

A curious fetishization of outsiders, outlaws, and the down-and-out.

Pub Date: May 10, 2022

ISBN: 978-1-09-416680-3

Page Count: 292

Publisher: Blackstone

Review Posted Online: March 16, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2022

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