by Marie-Helene Bertino ‧ RELEASE DATE: June 2, 2020
A vivid book about lives visited by violent strangeness but lived with authentic humor and hope.
One week before her wedding, The Bride is confronted in her Long Island hotel room by the spirit of her dead grandmother, embodied in the form of a parakeet, who begs her to reconnect with her estranged brother, a reclusive playwright who has made his career by staging the worst moment of The Bride’s own life.
The main character of this self-assured, strange, and winning book is a young woman in the final stages of preparing for her wedding to the groom, an elementary school principal whom she likes because he “doesn’t have to be drunk to dance.” However, as the wedding date approaches, The Bride’s psychological landscape becomes increasingly hazardous, and all her life’s certainties come under review. Following her grandmother’s avian visit, The Bride—who works as a biographer for people with traumatic brain injuries, helping them reconstruct their lives prior to their traumatizing events—travels back into the city to finalize her wedding plans, meet with her current client, pick up a new wedding dress (her original one has been liberally befouled by parakeet granny), and arrange a meeting with her brother, Tom, whose acclaimed play, Parakeet, is back on Broadway. The Bride lost contact with her brother over the course of the 10 years that have passed since their grandmother’s death and her own traumatizing event, a random act of violence that forms the central story of her brother’s play. When she finally does manage to hunt Tom down, she discovers that in those 10 years he has transitioned into Simone and must reenter her life, if she deigns to, as The Bride’s sister. From there—in the bright, prismatic, and fleeting language of the internet age—Bertino traces The Bride’s ping-pong journey in and out of the lives, and sometimes literally the bodies, of her frosty and judgmental mother; her professionally competent best friend; strangers who might be former lovers or alternate versions of herself; parakeet costumed performers who are being paid to reenact the Bride’s past, present, and potential future; and a Japanese lifestyle-blogging reptile in a suit and tie, to name a few of Bertino’s many memorable characters. The book’s linguistic pyrotechnics and the shimmering, miragelike nature of Bertino’s images demand a lot of the reader, but the relatability of The Bride’s honest and earnest attempts to do her best with the uncooperative life she has been given resonate on a deep, perhaps even universal, frequency.A vivid book about lives visited by violent strangeness but lived with authentic humor and hope.
Pub Date: June 2, 2020
Page Count: 240
Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux
Review Posted Online: March 14, 2020
Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2020
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by James McBride ‧ RELEASE DATE: Aug. 8, 2023
If it’s possible for America to have a poet laureate, why can’t James McBride be its storyteller-in-chief?
Awards & Accolades
Best Books Of 2023
New York Times Bestseller
McBride follows up his hit novel Deacon King Kong (2020) with another boisterous hymn to community, mercy, and karmic justice.
It's June 1972, and the Pennsylvania State Police have some questions concerning a skeleton found at the bottom of an old well in the ramshackle Chicken Hill section of Pottstown that’s been marked for redevelopment. But Hurricane Agnes intervenes by washing away the skeleton and all other physical evidence of a series of extraordinary events that began more than 40 years earlier, when Jewish and African American citizens shared lives, hopes, and heartbreak in that same neighborhood. At the literal and figurative heart of these events is Chona Ludlow, the forbearing, compassionate Jewish proprietor of the novel’s eponymous grocery store, whose instinctive kindness and fairness toward the Black families of Chicken Hill exceed even that of her husband, Moshe, who, with Chona’s encouragement, desegregates his theater to allow his Black neighbors to fully enjoy acts like Chick Webb’s swing orchestra. Many local White Christians frown upon the easygoing relationship between Jews and Blacks, especially Doc Roberts, Pottstown’s leading physician, who marches every year in the local Ku Klux Klan parade. The ties binding the Ludlows to their Black neighbors become even stronger over the years, but that bond is tested most stringently and perilously when Chona helps Nate Timblin, a taciturn Black janitor at Moshe’s theater and the unofficial leader of his community, conceal and protect a young orphan named Dodo who lost his hearing in an explosion. He isn’t at all “feeble-minded,” but the government wants to put him in an institution promising little care and much abuse. The interlocking destinies of these and other characters make for tense, absorbing drama and, at times, warm, humane comedy. McBride’s well-established skill with narrative tactics may sometimes spill toward the melodramatic here. But as in McBride’s previous works, you barely notice such relatively minor contrivances because of the depth of characterizations and the pitch-perfect dialogue of his Black and Jewish characters. It’s possible to draw a clear, straight line from McBride’s breakthrough memoir, The Color of Water (1996), to the themes of this latest work.If it’s possible for America to have a poet laureate, why can’t James McBride be its storyteller-in-chief?
Pub Date: Aug. 8, 2023
Page Count: 400
Review Posted Online: May 9, 2023
Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 2023
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by Susan Mallery ‧ RELEASE DATE: May 31, 2022
A book begging to be read on the beach, with the sun warming the sand and salt in the air: pure escapism.
Three woman who join together to rent a large space along the beach in Los Angeles for their stores—a gift shop, a bakery, and a bookstore—become fast friends as they each experience the highs, and lows, of love.
Bree is a friendly but standoffish bookstore owner who keeps everyone she knows at arm’s length, from guys she meets in bars to her friends. Mikki is a settled-in-her-routines divorced mother of two, happily a mom, gift-shop owner, and co-parent with her ex-husband, Perry. And Ashley is a young, very-much-in-love bakery owner specializing in muffins who devotes herself to giving back to the community through a nonprofit that helps community members develop skills and find jobs. When the women meet drooling over a boardwalk storefront that none of them can afford on her own, a plan is hatched to divide the space in three, and a friendship—and business partnership—is born. An impromptu celebration on the beach at sunset with champagne becomes a weekly touchpoint to their lives as they learn more about each other and themselves. Their friendship blossoms as they help each other, offering support, hard truths, and loving backup. Author Mallery has created a delightful story of friendship between three women that also offers a variety of love stories as they fall in love, make mistakes, and figure out how to be the best—albeit still flawed—versions of themselves. The men are similarly flawed and human. While the story comes down clearly on the side of all-encompassing love, Mallery has struck a careful balance: There is just enough sex to be spicy, just enough swearing to be naughty, and just enough heartbreak to avoid being cloying.A book begging to be read on the beach, with the sun warming the sand and salt in the air: pure escapism.
Pub Date: May 31, 2022
Page Count: 352
Publisher: Harlequin MIRA
Review Posted Online: March 15, 2022
Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2022
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