An in-depth, highly personal portrait of a remarkable talent.




Coates’ debut biographical novel chronicles the life of modernist painter Agnes Lawrence Pelton (1881-1961).

The story begins with Agnes as a child in Germany, where she was born to American parents; both had fled tragedies and scandals in their respective families. She’s a sickly child, and her parents eventually return to Brooklyn, New York, where her mother opens a music school. As a teenager, Agnes studies art at the Pratt Institute, which leads to a job teaching art in Massachusetts. Later, she spends an exhilarating year in Italy, studying under former Pratt instructor Hamilton Easter Field. She’s asked to exhibit her work in the famed Armory Show of 1913 when another mentor sees her work at Field’s gallery. After exhibiting alongside Henri Matisse and Pablo Picasso, Agnes finds herself at the center of the art world, and she rents a studio in Manhattan’s Greenwich Village. Along for the ride are her wealthy friends and patrons, including Mabel Dodge, who invites her to visit Taos, New Mexico. Later, she lives in a windmill in the Hamptons, painting portraits for wealthy families, but she finds it unsatisfying. A trip to Hawaii rekindles Agnes’ desire for spiritual growth, and when a friend invites her to live in a California artists’ commune, she jumps at the chance: “I knew that something was being born inside me, and without having to think about it, I knew what colors I would use.” Coates’ thoroughly researched novel, told from Agnes’ first-person point of view, succeeds beautifully at re-creating the emotional life of this once-obscure artist whose legacy has lately become the subject of renewed interest. The characters are resolute and unshakeable, from Agnes’ stalwart mother to wealthy women who host political radicals and artists in their Fifth Avenue apartments. Coates draws Agnes’ character with care, depicting her as longing for success and acceptance in the art world but also craving solitude. The author also describes the artist’s unique spiritual journey and the inspiration for her later, abstract works in vivid prose that’s worthy of the artist.

An in-depth, highly personal portrait of a remarkable talent.

Pub Date: April 7, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-63152-687-9

Page Count: 328

Publisher: She Writes Press

Review Posted Online: Jan. 21, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2020

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Charming, challenging, and so interesting you can hardly put it down.

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The relationship between a privileged white mom and her black babysitter is strained by race-related complications.

Blogger/role model/inspirational speaker Alix Chamberlain is none too happy about moving from Manhattan to Philadelphia for her husband Peter's job as a TV newscaster. With no friends or in-laws around to help out with her almost-3-year-old, Briar, and infant, Catherine, she’ll never get anywhere on the book she’s writing unless she hires a sitter. She strikes gold when she finds Emira Tucker. Twenty-five-year-old Emira’s family and friends expect her to get going on a career, but outside the fact that she’s about to get kicked off her parents’ health insurance, she’s happy with her part-time gigs—and Briar is her "favorite little human." Then one day a double-header of racist events topples the apple cart—Emira is stopped by a security guard who thinks she's kidnapped Briar, and when Peter's program shows a segment on the unusual ways teenagers ask their dates to the prom, he blurts out "Let's hope that last one asked her father first" about a black boy hoping to go with a white girl. Alix’s combination of awkwardness and obsession with regard to Emira spins out of control and then is complicated by the reappearance of someone from her past (coincidence alert), where lies yet another racist event. Reid’s debut sparkles with sharp observations and perfect details—food, décor, clothes, social media, etc.—and she’s a dialogue genius, effortlessly incorporating toddler-ese, witty boyfriend–speak, and African American Vernacular English. For about two-thirds of the book, her evenhandedness with her varied cast of characters is impressive, but there’s a point at which any possible empathy for Alix disappears. Not only is she shallow, entitled, unknowingly racist, and a bad mother, but she has not progressed one millimeter since high school, and even then she was worse than we thought. Maybe this was intentional, but it does make things—ha ha—very black and white.

Charming, challenging, and so interesting you can hardly put it down.

Pub Date: Jan. 7, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-525-54190-5

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Putnam

Review Posted Online: Oct. 14, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 2019

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Offill is good company for the end of the world.


An ever growing list of worries, from a brother with drug problems to a climate change apocalypse, dances through the lively mind of a university librarian.

In its clever and seductive replication of the inner monologue of a woman living in this particular moment in history, Offill’s (Dept. of Speculation, 2014, etc.) third novel might be thought of as a more laconic cousin of Lucy Ellmann's Ducks, Newburyport. Here, the mind we’re embedded in is that of a librarian named Lizzie—an entertaining vantage point despite her concerns big and small. There’s the lady with the bullhorn who won’t let her walk her sensitive young son into his school building. Her brother, who has finally gotten off drugs and has a new girlfriend but still requires her constant, almost hourly, support. Her mentor, Sylvia, a national expert on climate change, who is fed up with her fans and wants Lizzie to take over answering her mail. (“These people long for immortality, but can’t wait ten minutes for a cup of coffee,” says Sylvia.) “Malodorous,” “Defacing,” “Combative,” “Humming,” “Lonely”: These are just a few of the categories in a pamphlet called Dealing With Problem Patrons that Lizzie's been given at work, Also, her knee hurts, and she’s spending a fortune on car service because she fears she's Mr. Jimmy’s only customer. Then there are the complex mixed messages of a cable show she can't stop watching: Extreme Shopper. Her husband, Ben, a video game designer and a very kind man, is getting a bit exasperated. As the new president is elected and the climate change questions pour in and the doomsday scenarios pile up, Lizzie tries to hold it together. The tension between mundane daily concerns and looming apocalypse, the "weather" of our days both real and metaphorical, is perfectly captured in Offill's brief, elegant paragraphs, filled with insight and humor.

Offill is good company for the end of the world.

Pub Date: Feb. 11, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-385-35110-2

Page Count: 224

Publisher: Knopf

Review Posted Online: Nov. 11, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2019

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