An ambitious, insightful novel about two damaged people struggling to overcome their pasts.

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The Finite Woman

A complex psychological tale examines grief and unlikely redemption.

In his debut novel, Salamon charts the slow and often torturous paths taken by his two main characters through the traumatic events of their lives as their arcs gradually converge. Margaret lives in a small town outside of Madison, Wisconsin, and we watch as her young life is marked by tragedies, including a hunting trip with her father that goes horribly wrong and the deftly orchestrated scene where she walks into her home seconds after her mother’s botched suicide attempt. Alternating with these episodes told from Margaret’s point of view are scenes from the perspective of Thomas Ackerman, a successful California doctor who finds his life derailed when his beloved wife is diagnosed with inoperable cancer and quickly dies. Margaret is seeking desperately to find a way out of the life she’s enduring. Thomas (the better-realized of the two characters throughout the book’s first half) simply checks out of his own life, becoming so paralyzed with grief that his son hires a preternaturally competent caretaker named Stephen (who “looked like an accountant with a killer weekend golf game”) to take care of the household. Shattered, sleep-deprived Thomas shambles through his days as a kind of emotional zombie, and although he reflects that “tragedy can pull a family together or push them apart,” his own family life seems every bit as poised on the edge of obliteration as Margaret’s, whose sense of isolation only deepens when she becomes a single mother. Salamon displays remarkably tight control over his complicated plot, often enlivening his strong narration with memorable descriptions (to dazed Thomas, a couple of nurses glimpsed at the hospital “seemed impossibly young, as if they were continuing a game of pretend they’d started at home”). The book’s parallel stories of wounded souls converge when Thomas’ son begins to fall in love with Margaret’s daughter, at which point the drama intriguingly multiplies. Fans of the sharp-edged, character-driven novels of Carol Cassella and Chris Bohjalian will find here a promising new author to follow.

An ambitious, insightful novel about two damaged people struggling to overcome their pasts.

Pub Date: April 25, 2016

ISBN: 978-1-5078-5819-6

Page Count: 460

Publisher: CreateSpace

Review Posted Online: April 28, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 2016

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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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