Initially slow but enjoyable and more complex than its more madcap shenanigans would suggest.

BATURI

A rash decision thrusts a young British volunteer into the middle of a Nigerian military coup in a debut novel inspired by the author’s own time in Africa.

Twenty-four-year-old Matthew Ferguson is a math teacher in the small town of Hadejia in the northern sector of Nigeria in the 1980s. He’s been in the country for 18 months, working with the British Voluntary Service Overseas, and he’s begun to acclimate to its climate, food, and culture. However, he’s not comfortable with the seemingly built-in “respect” he’s accorded, solely for being a “baturi” (white man). Readers meet him just before he dismisses his training-college class for a three-week school vacation. He’s emotionally in flux; his girlfriend back home has ended their relationship, and he’s struggling with doubts over whether he’s imparting anything useful to his students. He’s also ambivalent about an impending visit with friends during a planned trip to Bama, near the Cameroon border, because he’s broke. It’s during this journey—which is derailed before he ever reaches Bama—that Matthew gets himself into more trouble than even his active imagination could have envisioned, as he finds himself in the midst of an attempted revolution. What follows is an improbable two-week adventure that offers moments of great exhilaration (including a car chase that will remind readers of scenes from the 1968 film Bullitt), close calls, and plenty of angst. For good measure, there’s also a budding romance with an attractive Canadian woman named Chantel. The story may be on the far edge of credulity, but it’s fun. Those who come to the narrative seeking merely excitement, however, will need patience, as the action doesn’t begin until about two-fifths through the book. Still, the early sections contain some of the most evocative passages, and they lay the groundwork for the real focus of the story, which is the people of Hadejia and the lessons of true friendship. By the time things really start to get rolling, readers will be well-acquainted with the main characters and the terrain they travel. In narrator Matthew, Stephen creates a likable, self-effacing protagonist who ably imparts the warmth and generosity of the people he meets as well as the poverty, corruption, and constant heat of Northern Nigeria: “I could feel rivulets of sweat growing under my hair. Sweat began to trickle down my chest and down my face. Drops began to drip from the end of my nose.” Every walk he takes is an opportunity to reveal something about a country on the precipice of financial collapse: “I reached the mournful site of an unfinished town gate. Like so many things in Nigeria, it had failed to reach completion before its finance reached exhaustion.” Matthew’s fun-loving British helicopter pilot buddy, Bob, provides a good foil for the novel’s more reticent hero, and the Nigerian carpenter Koli is so touching and steadfast that readers will remember him long after they turn the final page.

Initially slow but enjoyable and more complex than its more madcap shenanigans would suggest.

Pub Date: Oct. 23, 2014

ISBN: N/A

Page Count: 249

Publisher: Matador

Review Posted Online: Aug. 7, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2017

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Packed with riveting drama and painful truths, this book powerfully illustrates the devastation of abuse—and the strength of...

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IT ENDS WITH US

Hoover’s (November 9, 2015, etc.) latest tackles the difficult subject of domestic violence with romantic tenderness and emotional heft.

At first glance, the couple is edgy but cute: Lily Bloom runs a flower shop for people who hate flowers; Ryle Kincaid is a surgeon who says he never wants to get married or have kids. They meet on a rooftop in Boston on the night Ryle loses a patient and Lily attends her abusive father’s funeral. The provocative opening takes a dark turn when Lily receives a warning about Ryle’s intentions from his sister, who becomes Lily’s employee and close friend. Lily swears she’ll never end up in another abusive home, but when Ryle starts to show all the same warning signs that her mother ignored, Lily learns just how hard it is to say goodbye. When Ryle is not in the throes of a jealous rage, his redeeming qualities return, and Lily can justify his behavior: “I think we needed what happened on the stairwell to happen so that I would know his past and we’d be able to work on it together,” she tells herself. Lily marries Ryle hoping the good will outweigh the bad, and the mother-daughter dynamics evolve beautifully as Lily reflects on her childhood with fresh eyes. Diary entries fancifully addressed to TV host Ellen DeGeneres serve as flashbacks to Lily’s teenage years, when she met her first love, Atlas Corrigan, a homeless boy she found squatting in a neighbor’s house. When Atlas turns up in Boston, now a successful chef, he begs Lily to leave Ryle. Despite the better option right in front of her, an unexpected complication forces Lily to cut ties with Atlas, confront Ryle, and try to end the cycle of abuse before it’s too late. The relationships are portrayed with compassion and honesty, and the author’s note at the end that explains Hoover’s personal connection to the subject matter is a must-read.

Packed with riveting drama and painful truths, this book powerfully illustrates the devastation of abuse—and the strength of the survivors.

Pub Date: Aug. 2, 2016

ISBN: 978-1-5011-1036-8

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Atria

Review Posted Online: May 31, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2016

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

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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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