Erudite and unusual, Gainza’s voice evokes both John Berger and Silvina Ocampo even as she creates something wholly new.

OPTIC NERVE

A woman chronicles her city, her family, and the culture that has defined her life in this debut novel by an Argentinian journalist and art critic.

The unnamed narrator of Gainza’s first foray into fiction, which is also the first of her books to be translated into English, is a flâneur of the metaphysical. A languorous woman approaching middle age, our narrator—one of the many self-proclaimed black sheep in an aristocratic Argentinian family on the decline—lives, works, and, eventually, refuses to leave Buenos Aires due to a pathological fear of flying she develops in her late 20s. Far from feeling trapped by this semicloistered life, however, she revels in the intimacy of her city, whose every mood she faithfully chronicles in service to the moment when the “clouds occasionally part and, out of nowhere, something emerges.” As our narrator navigates her life, the reader builds a picture of her marriage, friendships, estrangements, entanglements, family grudges, and desires that feels at once spontaneous and curated. The narrator allows us an intimacy through her stream-of-consciousness impressions which the author controls through her nonchronological ordering, shifting points of view, and short tales from the lives of famous artists interspersed among the chapters. The effect is like walking through an eclectically assembled gallery show organized around the central theme of domestic ephemera. The narrator’s childhood exploration of Buenos Aires while walking the family dog leads to Toulouse-Lautrec’s debauchery in the dance halls of Montemarte; her husband’s friendship with a prostitute in the cancer ward where he is receiving treatment opens the doors to the mystery of Rothko’s refusal to finish his commissioned murals for the Four Seasons in New York. With cultural touch points ranging from the Doors to Michel de Montaigne—and touching on Guy de Maupassant, Aubrey Beardsley, Marguerite Duras, and a host of others in between—Gainza writes a lingual picture of a woman who walks the echoing halls of Western cultural history with the intimate familiarity of an initiate while maintaining a sense of astonishment at the wonders of the everyday world, where, when, "the grandiose…grows tiresome…a simple little hill does well enough.”

Erudite and unusual, Gainza’s voice evokes both John Berger and Silvina Ocampo even as she creates something wholly new.

Pub Date: April 9, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-948226-16-5

Page Count: 208

Publisher: Catapult

Review Posted Online: Jan. 21, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2019

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Despite some distractions, there’s an irresistible charm to Owens’ first foray into nature-infused romantic fiction.

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WHERE THE CRAWDADS SING

A wild child’s isolated, dirt-poor upbringing in a Southern coastal wilderness fails to shield her from heartbreak or an accusation of murder.

“The Marsh Girl,” “swamp trash”—Catherine “Kya” Clark is a figure of mystery and prejudice in the remote North Carolina coastal community of Barkley Cove in the 1950s and '60s. Abandoned by a mother no longer able to endure her drunken husband’s beatings and then by her four siblings, Kya grows up in the careless, sometimes-savage company of her father, who eventually disappears, too. Alone, virtually or actually, from age 6, Kya learns both to be self-sufficient and to find solace and company in her fertile natural surroundings. Owens (Secrets of the Savanna, 2006, etc.), the accomplished co-author of several nonfiction books on wildlife, is at her best reflecting Kya’s fascination with the birds, insects, dappled light, and shifting tides of the marshes. The girl’s collections of shells and feathers, her communion with the gulls, her exploration of the wetlands are evoked in lyrical phrasing which only occasionally tips into excess. But as the child turns teenager and is befriended by local boy Tate Walker, who teaches her to read, the novel settles into a less magical, more predictable pattern. Interspersed with Kya’s coming-of-age is the 1969 murder investigation arising from the discovery of a man’s body in the marsh. The victim is Chase Andrews, “star quarterback and town hot shot,” who was once Kya’s lover. In the eyes of a pair of semicomic local police officers, Kya will eventually become the chief suspect and must stand trial. By now the novel’s weaknesses have become apparent: the monochromatic characterization (good boy Tate, bad boy Chase) and implausibilities (Kya evolves into a polymath—a published writer, artist, and poet), yet the closing twist is perhaps its most memorable oddity.

Despite some distractions, there’s an irresistible charm to Owens’ first foray into nature-infused romantic fiction.

Pub Date: Aug. 14, 2018

ISBN: 978-0-7352-1909-0

Page Count: 384

Publisher: Putnam

Review Posted Online: May 15, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 2018

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Relentlessly suspenseful and unexpectedly timely: just the thing for Dick Cheney’s bedside reading wherever he’s keeping...

WITHOUT FAIL

From the Jack Reacher series , Vol. 6

When the newly elected Vice President’s life is threatened, the Secret Service runs to nomadic soldier-of-fortune Jack Reacher (Echo Burning, 2001, etc.) in this razor-sharp update of The Day of the Jackal and In the Line of Fire that’s begging to be filmed.

Why Reacher? Because M.E. Froelich, head of the VP’s protection team, was once a colleague and lover of his late brother Joe, who’d impressed her with tales of Jack’s derring-do as an Army MP. Now Froelich and her Brooks Brothers–tailored boss Stuyvesant have been receiving a series of anonymous messages threatening the life of North Dakota Senator/Vice President–elect Brook Armstrong. Since the threats may be coming from within the Secret Service’s own ranks—if they aren’t, it’s hard to see how they’ve been getting delivered—they can’t afford an internal investigation. Hence the call to Reacher, who wastes no time in hooking up with his old friend Frances Neagley, another Army vet turned private eye, first to see whether he can figure out a way to assassinate Armstrong, then to head off whoever else is trying. It’s Reacher’s matter-of-fact gift to think of everything, from the most likely position a sniper would assume at Armstrong’s Thanksgiving visit to a homeless shelter to the telltale punctuation of one of the threats, and to pluck helpers from the tiny cast who can fill the remaining gaps because they aren’t idiots or stooges. And it’s Child’s gift to keep tightening the screws, even when nothing’s happening except the arrival of a series of unsigned letters, and to convey a sense of the blank impossibility of guarding any public figure from danger day after highly exposed day, and the dedication and heroism of the agents who take on this daunting job.

Relentlessly suspenseful and unexpectedly timely: just the thing for Dick Cheney’s bedside reading wherever he’s keeping himself these days.

Pub Date: May 1, 2001

ISBN: 0-399-14861-2

Page Count: 384

Publisher: Putnam

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2002

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