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PARAKEET

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

ISBN: 978-0-374-22945-0

Page Count: 240

Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux

Review Posted Online: March 14, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2020

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  • New York Times Bestseller


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ONE ITALIAN SUMMER

An unconventional love story that embraces people’s flaws and selfishness as part of what makes them human.

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  • New York Times Bestseller


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A 30-year-old married woman from Los Angeles, finding herself adrift after her mother’s death, travels to Italy on a long-awaited vacation they had planned to take together.

Katy Silver’s one and only true love is her mother. Her mother is—was—her first call, her last call, her everything. When Carol dies after a long illness, Katy is so overcome with grief she cannot imagine continuing her life as it was. Already on leave from work to tend to her mother, she tells her husband, Eric, that she needs space and heads to the vacation in Positano, Italy, that she and her mother had been planning. The purpose of the trip had been for Katy to see for herself the location, food, and scenery of a life-changing trip Carol had taken in her youth. Once Katy arrives at the Hotel Poseidon, she locks her wedding and engagement rings and her cellphone in the hotel room’s safe and begins to wander, experiencing the timelessness of Italy. Although in this instance, that timelessness is literal. Not long after Katy’s arrival, a younger version of Carol appears. The two strike up a friendship, and Katy leans into this unexpected—and inexplicable—time with her mother. She also leans into a potential are-they-or-aren’t-they-going-to-do-it romance with Adam, another guest at the hotel. This is a story about how Katy tries to discover who she is as a person and what she wants once she is away from her mother’s wide-ranging opinions and expertise and her husband’s love, calmness, and happiness with routine. What Katy finds is that her mother isn’t who she thought she was, but then again, neither is she.

An unconventional love story that embraces people’s flaws and selfishness as part of what makes them human.

Pub Date: March 1, 2022

ISBN: 978-1-9821-6681-6

Page Count: 272

Publisher: Atria

Review Posted Online: Dec. 14, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2022

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THINGS FALL APART

This book sings with the terrible silence of dead civilizations in which once there was valor.

Written with quiet dignity that builds to a climax of tragic force, this book about the dissolution of an African tribe, its traditions, and values, represents a welcome departure from the familiar "Me, white brother" genre.

Written by a Nigerian African trained in missionary schools, this novel tells quietly the story of a brave man, Okonkwo, whose life has absolute validity in terms of his culture, and who exercises his prerogative as a warrior, father, and husband with unflinching single mindedness. But into the complex Nigerian village filters the teachings of strangers, teachings so alien to the tribe, that resistance is impossible. One must distinguish a force to be able to oppose it, and to most, the talk of Christian salvation is no more than the babbling of incoherent children. Still, with his guns and persistence, the white man, amoeba-like, gradually absorbs the native culture and in despair, Okonkwo, unable to withstand the corrosion of what he, alone, understands to be the life force of his people, hangs himself. In the formlessness of the dying culture, it is the missionary who takes note of the event, reminding himself to give Okonkwo's gesture a line or two in his work, The Pacification of the Primitive Tribes of the Lower Niger.

This book sings with the terrible silence of dead civilizations in which once there was valor.

Pub Date: Jan. 23, 1958

ISBN: 0385474547

Page Count: 207

Publisher: McDowell, Obolensky

Review Posted Online: April 23, 2013

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 1958

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