An earnest and often engaging story about loss and family.

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EVA'S DAUGHTERS

Joseph’s debut novel tells the story of an elderly couple seeking closure on the tragedies of their lives.

On New York’s Long Island in 1996, Holocaust survivors Eva and Max Stern are about to celebrate their 50th wedding anniversary. They want to get their entire extended family together, including their granddaughter, Amber; their estranged daughter, Beth; and their Israeli relative Ilan Stern, who’s just moved to America to attend the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. They even post advertisements in various countries throughout Europe in the hopes of tracking down any surviving relatives. The action then flashes back to Hungary in the 1940s, where Eva, 17 and pregnant, goes into hiding and gives birth before she’s separated from her child and sent to Auschwitz. Meanwhile, Max, a violinist whose dreams were shattered by anti-Semitism, ends up in the same camp with his family. He’s soon left with only his cousin, Sam, with whom he makes a survival pact. Max and Eva manage to survive the war, and they later meet in a displaced-persons camp, marry, and immigrate to America, where they struggle to build a new life together after losing almost everything. Back in 1996, as the loose ends of the couple’s lives are tied up, can they regain what they thought was lost? Joseph’s prose is measured and expressive, as when the Sterns receive their first introduction to New York, “where people laughed at perplexing jokes…..Where left-over food was tossed thoughtlessly into garbage cans, and lights burned twenty-four hours in tall buildings, even at night when people slept.” The book straddles several genres—it’s a novel of the Holocaust and of the immigrant experience, as well as a family saga—but it manages to feel intimate and contained, despite its length. The execution is uneven at times, however. Specifically, the story might have benefited from more character interiority; readers may sometimes feel as if they’re watching Eva, Max, and the others moving around on a set, instead of experiencing the characters’ emotional lives as they live them. Still, the narrative remains compelling enough to keep readers turning pages.

An earnest and often engaging story about loss and family.

Pub Date: N/A

ISBN: N/A

Page Count: 437

Publisher: Kurti Publishing

Review Posted Online: Oct. 3, 2018

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A tasty, if not always tasteful, tale of supernatural mayhem that fans of King and Crichton alike will enjoy.

DEVOLUTION

Are we not men? We are—well, ask Bigfoot, as Brooks does in this delightful yarn, following on his bestseller World War Z (2006).

A zombie apocalypse is one thing. A volcanic eruption is quite another, for, as the journalist who does a framing voice-over narration for Brooks’ latest puts it, when Mount Rainier popped its cork, “it was the psychological aspect, the hyperbole-fueled hysteria that had ended up killing the most people.” Maybe, but the sasquatches whom the volcano displaced contributed to the statistics, too, if only out of self-defense. Brooks places the epicenter of the Bigfoot war in a high-tech hideaway populated by the kind of people you might find in a Jurassic Park franchise: the schmo who doesn’t know how to do much of anything but tries anyway, the well-intentioned bleeding heart, the know-it-all intellectual who turns out to know the wrong things, the immigrant with a tough backstory and an instinct for survival. Indeed, the novel does double duty as a survival manual, packed full of good advice—for instance, try not to get wounded, for “injury turns you from a giver to a taker. Taking up our resources, our time to care for you.” Brooks presents a case for making room for Bigfoot in the world while peppering his narrative with timely social criticism about bad behavior on the human side of the conflict: The explosion of Rainier might have been better forecast had the president not slashed the budget of the U.S. Geological Survey, leading to “immediate suspension of the National Volcano Early Warning System,” and there’s always someone around looking to monetize the natural disaster and the sasquatch-y onslaught that follows. Brooks is a pro at building suspense even if it plays out in some rather spectacularly yucky episodes, one involving a short spear that takes its name from “the sucking sound of pulling it out of the dead man’s heart and lungs.” Grossness aside, it puts you right there on the scene.

A tasty, if not always tasteful, tale of supernatural mayhem that fans of King and Crichton alike will enjoy.

Pub Date: June 16, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-9848-2678-7

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Del Rey/Ballantine

Review Posted Online: Feb. 10, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2020

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Kin “[find] each other’s lives inscrutable” in this rich, sharp story about the way identity is formed.

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THE VANISHING HALF

Inseparable identical twin sisters ditch home together, and then one decides to vanish.

The talented Bennett fuels her fiction with secrets—first in her lauded debut, The Mothers (2016), and now in the assured and magnetic story of the Vignes sisters, light-skinned women parked on opposite sides of the color line. Desiree, the “fidgety twin,” and Stella, “a smart, careful girl,” make their break from stultifying rural Mallard, Louisiana, becoming 16-year-old runaways in 1954 New Orleans. The novel opens 14 years later as Desiree, fleeing a violent marriage in D.C., returns home with a different relative: her 8-year-old daughter, Jude. The gossips are agog: “In Mallard, nobody married dark....Marrying a dark man and dragging his blueblack child all over town was one step too far.” Desiree's decision seals Jude’s misery in this “colorstruck” place and propels a new generation of flight: Jude escapes on a track scholarship to UCLA. Tending bar as a side job in Beverly Hills, she catches a glimpse of her mother’s doppelgänger. Stella, ensconced in white society, is shedding her fur coat. Jude, so black that strangers routinely stare, is unrecognizable to her aunt. All this is expertly paced, unfurling before the book is half finished; a reader can guess what is coming. Bennett is deeply engaged in the unknowability of other people and the scourge of colorism. The scene in which Stella adopts her white persona is a tour de force of doubling and confusion. It calls up Toni Morrison’s The Bluest Eye, the book's 50-year-old antecedent. Bennett's novel plays with its characters' nagging feelings of being incomplete—for the twins without each other; for Jude’s boyfriend, Reese, who is trans and seeks surgery; for their friend Barry, who performs in drag as Bianca. Bennett keeps all these plot threads thrumming and her social commentary crisp. In the second half, Jude spars with her cousin Kennedy, Stella's daughter, a spoiled actress.

Kin “[find] each other’s lives inscrutable” in this rich, sharp story about the way identity is formed.

Pub Date: June 2, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-525-53629-1

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Riverhead

Review Posted Online: March 15, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2020

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