A valuable addition to fiction about the tangled aftereffects of Vietnam on soldiers in the field.

THE REASON YOU'RE ALIVE

A veteran tries to come to terms with the traumatic experiences he had a generation earlier in Vietnam.

At the core of the novel is the voice of David Granger, a combination of Archie Bunker and Marlow of Conrad’s Heart of Darkness. When the novel opens, Granger is 68, and he’s still haunted by his experiences in Vietnam. There, he’d witnessed darkness and violence on an unimaginable scale and was complicit in that violence. His postwar life included “some crazy time in a military loony bin in Kansas,” and every day he still dresses top to toe in camouflage and carries a sidearm in an ankle holster. His wife now dead, Granger contemptuously patronizes his son, Hank, an art dealer. (His wife, an artist, had named their son Henri Rousseau Granger, but David can’t stomach the effete name.) David is casual and defensive about his prejudices, and he both recognizes and denies these prejudices in equal measure. But the narrator is not wholly unsympathetic—he had obviously deeply loved his wife, and he dotes on his 7-year-old granddaughter, Ella. After a terrible car crash that leads to the discovery of a brain tumor David attributes to his long-ago exposure to Agent Orange, he decides to “right a wrong” he committed during the war. He stole a knife from Clayton Fire Bear, a Native American who collected scalps as part of his own traumatic war experience. With the help of a buddy of his from his Vietnam days, Granger goes on a quest to find the elusive Fire Bear. The final reunion with Fire Bear, now a lawyer, is far more surprising than what Granger had expected or imagined.

A valuable addition to fiction about the tangled aftereffects of Vietnam on soldiers in the field.

Pub Date: July 4, 2017

ISBN: 978-0-06-242430-3

Page Count: 240

Publisher: Harper/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: April 18, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 2017

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Dark and unsettling, this novel’s end arrives abruptly even as readers are still moving at a breakneck speed.

THEN SHE WAS GONE

Ten years after her teenage daughter went missing, a mother begins a new relationship only to discover she can't truly move on until she answers lingering questions about the past.

Laurel Mack’s life stopped in many ways the day her 15-year-old daughter, Ellie, left the house to study at the library and never returned. She drifted away from her other two children, Hanna and Jake, and eventually she and her husband, Paul, divorced. Ten years later, Ellie’s remains and her backpack are found, though the police are unable to determine the reasons for her disappearance and death. After Ellie’s funeral, Laurel begins a relationship with Floyd, a man she meets in a cafe. She's disarmed by Floyd’s charm, but when she meets his young daughter, Poppy, Laurel is startled by her resemblance to Ellie. As the novel progresses, Laurel becomes increasingly determined to learn what happened to Ellie, especially after discovering an odd connection between Poppy’s mother and her daughter even as her relationship with Floyd is becoming more serious. Jewell’s (I Found You, 2017, etc.) latest thriller moves at a brisk pace even as she plays with narrative structure: The book is split into three sections, including a first one which alternates chapters between the time of Ellie’s disappearance and the present and a second section that begins as Laurel and Floyd meet. Both of these sections primarily focus on Laurel. In the third section, Jewell alternates narrators and moments in time: The narrator switches to alternating first-person points of view (told by Poppy’s mother and Floyd) interspersed with third-person narration of Ellie’s experiences and Laurel’s discoveries in the present. All of these devices serve to build palpable tension, but the structure also contributes to how deeply disturbing the story becomes. At times, the characters and the emotional core of the events are almost obscured by such quick maneuvering through the weighty plot.

Dark and unsettling, this novel’s end arrives abruptly even as readers are still moving at a breakneck speed.

Pub Date: April 24, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-5011-5464-5

Page Count: 368

Publisher: Atria

Review Posted Online: Feb. 6, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2018

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ANIMAL FARM

A FAIRY STORY

A modern day fable, with modern implications in a deceiving simplicity, by the author of Dickens. Dali and Others (Reynal & Hitchcock, p. 138), whose critical brilliance is well adapted to this type of satire. This tells of the revolt on a farm, against humans, when the pigs take over the intellectual superiority, training the horses, cows, sheep, etc., into acknowledging their greatness. The first hints come with the reading out of a pig who instigated the building of a windmill, so that the electric power would be theirs, the idea taken over by Napoleon who becomes topman with no maybes about it. Napoleon trains the young puppies to be his guards, dickers with humans, gradually instigates a reign of terror, and breaks the final commandment against any animal walking on two legs. The old faithful followers find themselves no better off for food and work than they were when man ruled them, learn their final disgrace when they see Napoleon and Squealer carousing with their enemies... A basic statement of the evils of dictatorship in that it not only corrupts the leaders, but deadens the intelligence and awareness of those led so that tyranny is inevitable. Mr. Orwell's animals exist in their own right, with a narrative as individual as it is apt in political parody.

Pub Date: Aug. 26, 1946

ISBN: 0452277507

Page Count: 114

Publisher: Harcourt, Brace

Review Posted Online: Nov. 2, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 1946

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