Not quite a Texas gusher but offers a steady stream of entertainment and intrigue.

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Redneck Opera

A NOVEL

A young man sets out on a quest for wealth and recognition in this promising novel by Mooney.

Junior Peck was born into neither luck nor money. Growing up in Enid, Oklahoma, the son of a drunken construction worker, Junior’s life changes when a deadly tornado hits town. The storm topples a wall in the new gymnasium, killing two girls. Junior’s father, Leland, is held accountable and jailed for substandard workmanship. Junior’s mother, Daisy, struggles to cope with the shame. She sends her son off to Weldon Christian Camp, hoping to show him a bigger, better life. Surrounded by privileged kids of successful businessmen, Junior is immediately out of place. They sneer at his clothes and haircut and shun him at the Saturday night dance. He leaves the camp, resentment festering, and swears that he will become rich in order to command respect. Returning home to find his mother in an asylum, he heads to the one place he can realize his dream: Texas during the oil boom. Hanging out in rowdy wildcatter bars, he learns every intricate scam. He becomes an ace con man and inveigles his way into the heart of Priss, the daughter of a rich lumberyard owner, to whom he proposes. Using the most despicable of methods, he amasses wealth and property, but will his machinations be exposed? The novel charts other aspects of the oil boom, most significantly, the construction of the Grand Petroleum Shannon Hotel on Galveston Bay. On occasion, this feels like an unnecessary digression, bringing in a glut of characters that the author doesn’t fully develop. The actor Howard Hughes drops in and out of the plot, as does Mary Martin, adding little value. The narrative is, nevertheless, highly devourable, its key ingredient being a liberal sprinkling of dry Texan humor: “Although Bobby was rather good-looking...the girls realized he was about as useless as tits on a bull.”

Not quite a Texas gusher but offers a steady stream of entertainment and intrigue.

Pub Date: Sept. 30, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-98-641500-5

Page Count: 276

Publisher: Kiddrose

Review Posted Online: Oct. 26, 2015

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A daring concept not so daringly developed.

THE BOOK OF LONGINGS

In Kidd’s (The Invention of Wings, 2014, etc.) feminist take on the New Testament, Jesus has a wife whose fondest longing is to write.

Ana is the daughter of Matthias, head scribe to Herod Antipas, tetrarch of Galilee. She demonstrates an exceptional aptitude for writing, and Matthias, for a time, indulges her with reed pens, papyri, and other 16 C.E. office supplies. Her mother disapproves, but her aunt, Yaltha, mentors Ana in the ways of the enlightened women of Alexandria, from whence Yaltha, suspected of murdering her brutal husband, was exiled years before. Yaltha was also forced to give up her daughter, Chaya, for adoption. As Ana reaches puberty, parental tolerance of her nonconformity wanes, outweighed by the imperative to marry her off. Her adopted brother, Judas—yes, that Judas—is soon disowned for his nonconformity—plotting against Antipas. On the very day Ana, age 14, meets her prospective betrothed, the repellent Nathanial, in the town market, she also encounters Jesus, a young tradesman, to whom she’s instantly drawn. Their connection deepens after she encounters Jesus in the cave where she is concealing her writings about oppressed women. When Nathanial dies after his betrothal to Ana but before their marriage, Ana is shunned for insufficiently mourning him—and after refusing to become Antipas’ concubine, she is about to be stoned until Jesus defuses the situation with that famous admonition. She marries Jesus and moves into his widowed mother’s humble compound in Nazareth, accompanied by Yaltha. There, poverty, not sexism, prohibits her from continuing her writing—office supplies are expensive. Kidd skirts the issue of miracles, portraying Jesus as a fully human and, for the period, accepting husband—after a stillbirth, he condones Ana’s practice of herbal birth control. A structural problem is posed when Jesus’ active ministry begins—what will Ana’s role be? Problem avoided when, notified by Judas that Antipas is seeking her arrest, she and Yaltha journey to Alexandria in search of Chaya. In addition to depriving her of the opportunity to write the first and only contemporaneous gospel, removing Ana from the main action destroys the novel’s momentum.

A daring concept not so daringly developed.

Pub Date: April 21, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-525-42976-0

Page Count: 432

Publisher: Viking

Review Posted Online: Jan. 27, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2020

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A touching family drama that effectively explores the negative impact of stress on fragile relationships.

A WEEK AT THE SHORE

A middle-aged woman returns to her childhood home to care for her ailing father, confronting many painful secrets from her past.

When Mallory Aldiss gets a call from a long-ago boyfriend telling her that her elderly father has been gallivanting around town with a gun in his hand, Mallory decides it’s time to return to the small Rhode Island town that she’s been avoiding for more than a decade. Mallory’s precocious 13-year-old daughter, Joy, is thrilled that she'll get to meet her grandfather at long last, and an aunt, too, and she'll finally see the place where her mother grew up. When they arrive in Bay Bluff, it’s barely a few hours before Mallory bumps into her old flame, Jack, the only man she’s ever really loved. Gone is the rebellious young person she remembers, and in his place stands a compassionate, accomplished adult. As they try to reconnect, Mallory realizes that the same obstacle that pushed them apart decades earlier is still standing in their way: Jack blames Mallory’s father for his mother’s death. No one knows exactly how Jack’s mother died, but Jack thinks a love affair between her and Mallory’s father had something to do with it. As Jack and Mallory chase down answers, Mallory also tries to repair her rocky relationships with her two sisters and determine why her father has always been so hard on her. Told entirely from Mallory’s perspective, the novel has a haunting, nostalgic quality. Despite the complex and overlapping layers to the history of Bay Bluff and its inhabitants, the book at times trudges too slowly through Mallory’s meanderings down Memory Lane. Even so, Delinsky sometimes manages to pick up the pace, and in those moments the beauty and nuance of this complicated family tale shine through. Readers who don’t mind skimming past details that do little to advance the plot may find that the juicier nuggets and realistically rendered human connections are worth the effort.

A touching family drama that effectively explores the negative impact of stress on fragile relationships.

Pub Date: May 19, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-250-11951-3

Page Count: 416

Publisher: St. Martin's

Review Posted Online: March 2, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2020

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