by Mary Abraham ‧ RELEASE DATE: May 15, 2017
An impressive tale of a fractured Southern family with richly drawn characters.
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Best Books Of 2020
A debut novel traces the fortunes of a Mississippi family from the 1890s to the 1940s.
The McMolison family of Leaf Creek consists of Bill and Kate and their children, Katherine, Hannah, and Samuel. It is Hannah, the middle child, who carries the story. Early on, Samuel, while just a toddler, is accidentally killed by his brutal, demanding father, and this begins what might be called the McMolisons’ self-inﬂicted curse. Headstrong Katherine marries Stephen Neal, a preacher whom Bill can barely tolerate. But it is the dutiful Hannah who brings on the real disaster by falling in love with Thomas Stokes, son of Bill’s friend John Stokes. Bill and John are powerful, ambitious men whose word in their families is law. Young Thomas, a student at Ole Miss, is handsome, charming, and callow; Hannah, still in high school, becomes hopelessly smitten. From their one and only carnal encounter, she gets pregnant. The two fathers quickly come up with a plan: a quiet marriage followed by a quick annulment and the adoption of the infant, preferably by a couple far away. The day before a pair from Alabama is due to arrive, Hannah ﬂees with her baby, Joseph, to Katherine and Stephen’s house in Hattiesburg. Bill swears to track them down. Meanwhile, there are family secrets to be revealed.
One would think that Abraham, a talented storyteller, has several novels under her belt, such is the level of expertise shown here. Hannah is a wonderful character who goes against all of her upbringing to defy her father (something that Thomas hasn’t the guts to do). But even more remarkable is Bill. He is a brute and a hypocrite, but perhaps the saddest thing is his rock-solid conviction that his way is the best way, the unquestionable way. He can’t begin to understand that Hannah may not want to surrender her baby so that she can preserve the family and move forward as if nothing had ever happened. (By the way, he sees nothing wrong in being unfaithful to Kate—a man has needs, after all.) Honor—deadly, corrupting honor—is all. The author offers vivid details about this troubled family and the colorful Mississippi setting. Here is a description of the mayhem as Hannah’s puppy, Lost, romps in the bracken: “Brown, shiny bugs crawled over partially rotten stumps and along secret paths under the weeds. Grasshoppers jumped in every direction to avoid Lost’s big paws, and a bevy of birds ﬂew upward from the bushes while chirping strong frustration at the intruder. The rabbits wisely and quickly moved deeper into the woods to get away from the activity.” Minute descriptions such as these are the rule, not the exception. Finally, the last chapters deliver deep satisfaction, chronicling the fates of the various players and bringing readers right up to the 1940s with a Dickensian conclusion.An impressive tale of a fractured Southern family with richly drawn characters.
Pub Date: May 15, 2017
Page Count: 353
Publisher: Greene Woods Publishing
Review Posted Online: April 2, 2020
Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 2020
Review Program: Kirkus Indie
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by Kristin Hannah ‧ RELEASE DATE: Feb. 6, 2024
A dramatic, vividly detailed reconstruction of a little-known aspect of the Vietnam War.
A young woman’s experience as a nurse in Vietnam casts a deep shadow over her life.
When we learn that the farewell party in the opening scene is for Frances “Frankie” McGrath’s older brother—“a golden boy, a wild child who could make the hardest heart soften”—who is leaving to serve in Vietnam in 1966, we feel pretty certain that poor Finley McGrath is marked for death. Still, it’s a surprise when the fateful doorbell rings less than 20 pages later. His death inspires his sister to enlist as an Army nurse, and this turn of events is just the beginning of a roller coaster of a plot that’s impressive and engrossing if at times a bit formulaic. Hannah renders the experiences of the young women who served in Vietnam in all-encompassing detail. The first half of the book, set in gore-drenched hospital wards, mildewed dorm rooms, and boozy officers’ clubs, is an exciting read, tracking the transformation of virginal, uptight Frankie into a crack surgical nurse and woman of the world. Her tensely platonic romance with a married surgeon ends when his broken, unbreathing body is airlifted out by helicopter; she throws her pent-up passion into a wild affair with a soldier who happens to be her dead brother’s best friend. In the second part of the book, after the war, Frankie seems to experience every possible bad break. A drawback of the story is that none of the secondary characters in her life are fully three-dimensional: Her dismissive, chauvinistic father and tight-lipped, pill-popping mother, her fellow nurses, and her various love interests are more plot devices than people. You’ll wish you could have gone to Vegas and placed a bet on the ending—while it’s against all the odds, you’ll see it coming from a mile away.A dramatic, vividly detailed reconstruction of a little-known aspect of the Vietnam War.
Pub Date: Feb. 6, 2024
Page Count: 480
Publisher: St. Martin's
Review Posted Online: Nov. 4, 2023
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2023
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BOOK TO SCREEN
by Barbara Kingsolver ‧ RELEASE DATE: Oct. 18, 2022
An angry, powerful book seething with love and outrage for a community too often stereotyped or ignored.
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Best Books Of 2022
New York Times Bestseller
Pulitzer Prize Winner
Inspired by David Copperfield, Kingsolver crafts a 21st-century coming-of-age story set in America’s hard-pressed rural South.
It’s not necessary to have read Dickens’ famous novel to appreciate Kingsolver’s absorbing tale, but those who have will savor the tough-minded changes she rings on his Victorian sentimentality while affirming his stinging critique of a heartless society. Our soon-to-be orphaned narrator’s mother is a substance-abusing teenage single mom who checks out via OD on his 11th birthday, and Demon’s cynical, wised-up voice is light-years removed from David Copperfield’s earnest tone. Yet readers also see the yearning for love and wells of compassion hidden beneath his self-protective exterior. Like pretty much everyone else in Lee County, Virginia, hollowed out economically by the coal and tobacco industries, he sees himself as someone with no prospects and little worth. One of Kingsolver’s major themes, hit a little too insistently, is the contempt felt by participants in the modern capitalist economy for those rooted in older ways of life. More nuanced and emotionally engaging is Demon’s fierce attachment to his home ground, a place where he is known and supported, tested to the breaking point as the opiate epidemic engulfs it. Kingsolver’s ferocious indictment of the pharmaceutical industry, angrily stated by a local girl who has become a nurse, is in the best Dickensian tradition, and Demon gives a harrowing account of his descent into addiction with his beloved Dori (as naïve as Dickens’ Dora in her own screwed-up way). Does knowledge offer a way out of this sinkhole? A committed teacher tries to enlighten Demon’s seventh grade class about how the resource-rich countryside was pillaged and abandoned, but Kingsolver doesn’t air-brush his students’ dismissal of this history or the prejudice encountered by this African American outsider and his White wife. She is an art teacher who guides Demon toward self-expression, just as his friend Tommy provokes his dawning understanding of how their world has been shaped by outside forces and what he might be able to do about it.An angry, powerful book seething with love and outrage for a community too often stereotyped or ignored.
Pub Date: Oct. 18, 2022
Page Count: 560
Review Posted Online: July 13, 2022
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2022
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