Drinkard (Disobedience, 1993, etc.) has fashioned an imaginative, unique take on American history, charged with the...


Brooklyn novelist Drinkard’s latest offers a quirky look at the Revolutionary War from the vantage point of a hemp-growing New York farmer and his family, hampered by conflicting loyalties.

A fatal encounter early in the American Revolution between a British officer and Long Island hemp farmer Salt, his trigger-happy 17-year-old son, James, and their manumitted servant Drinky Crow, forces Salt to flee their home or be shot for the officer’s murder. The Brits garrison in Salt’s considerable homestead, run with an iron will by his capable, attractive wife, Molly, and her doddering Loyalist father, Ebenezer. The old man owns the place, and never liked Salt; in his old age, Ebenezer begins to mistake his daughter for his late wife. The commanding officer, Major General Michael Drayton, makes sexual advances toward Molly, who is not averse to succumbing to passion now that her rather ineffectual, cannabis-smoking husband is absent; in return, Drayton offers recalcitrant son James, secretly a reader of Paine’s Common Sense, a career as an officer. Meanwhile, Salt is pressed by pirates onto Bright Star, a vessel running contraband and directed by the tyrant Captain Marbury. Salt is given three years’ indentured service amid a motley crew of slaves, Arabs, Indians and Spaniards, and because he looks remarkably like the captain, is forced into the dangerous position of impersonating him when the crew is taken aboard the British prison ship Jersey, a development resulting in weeks of wretched conditions among the debased prisoners, scurrilous details—of buggering, nitpicking, random violence, torture—that Drinkard seems to delight in relaying; at home, James has become a British officer, and Molly is pregnant by Drayton.

Drinkard (Disobedience, 1993, etc.) has fashioned an imaginative, unique take on American history, charged with the subtleties of shifting and treacherous loyalties, and all wonderfully human.

Pub Date: Feb. 1, 2006

ISBN: 0-15-101119-2

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Harcourt

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2006

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An enjoyable, cozy novel that touches on tough topics.


A group of strangers who live near each other in London become fast friends after writing their deepest secrets in a shared notebook.

Julian Jessop, a septuagenarian artist, is bone-crushingly lonely when he starts “The Authenticity Project”—as he titles a slim green notebook—and begins its first handwritten entry questioning how well people know each other in his tiny corner of London. After 15 years on his own mourning the loss of his beloved wife, he begins the project with the aim that whoever finds the little volume when he leaves it in a cafe will share their true self with their own entry and then pass the volume on to a stranger. The second person to share their inner selves in the notebook’s pages is Monica, 37, owner of a failing cafe and a former corporate lawyer who desperately wants to have a baby. From there the story unfolds, as the volume travels to Thailand and back to London, seemingly destined to fall only into the hands of people—an alcoholic drug addict, an Australian tourist, a social media influencer/new mother, etc.—who already live clustered together geographically. This is a glossy tale where difficulties and addictions appear and are overcome, where lies are told and then forgiven, where love is sought and found, and where truths, once spoken, can set you free. Secondary characters, including an interracial gay couple, appear with their own nuanced parts in the story. The message is strong, urging readers to get off their smartphones and social media and live in the real, authentic world—no chain stores or brands allowed here—making friends and forming a real-life community and support network. And is that really a bad thing?

An enjoyable, cozy novel that touches on tough topics.

Pub Date: Feb. 4, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-9848-7861-8

Page Count: 368

Publisher: Pamela Dorman/Viking

Review Posted Online: Oct. 27, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15, 2019

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The writing is merely serviceable, and one can’t help but wish the author had found a way to present her material as...

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An unlikely love story set amid the horrors of a Nazi death camp.

Based on real people and events, this debut novel follows Lale Sokolov, a young Slovakian Jew sent to Auschwitz in 1942. There, he assumes the heinous task of tattooing incoming Jewish prisoners with the dehumanizing numbers their SS captors use to identify them. When the Tätowierer, as he is called, meets fellow prisoner Gita Furman, 17, he is immediately smitten. Eventually, the attraction becomes mutual. Lale proves himself an operator, at once cagey and courageous: As the Tätowierer, he is granted special privileges and manages to smuggle food to starving prisoners. Through female prisoners who catalog the belongings confiscated from fellow inmates, Lale gains access to jewels, which he trades to a pair of local villagers for chocolate, medicine, and other items. Meanwhile, despite overwhelming odds, Lale and Gita are able to meet privately from time to time and become lovers. In 1944, just ahead of the arrival of Russian troops, Lale and Gita separately leave the concentration camp and experience harrowingly close calls. Suffice it to say they both survive. To her credit, the author doesn’t flinch from describing the depravity of the SS in Auschwitz and the unimaginable suffering of their victims—no gauzy evasions here, as in Boy in the Striped Pajamas. She also manages to raise, if not really explore, some trickier issues—the guilt of those Jews, like the tattooist, who survived by doing the Nazis’ bidding, in a sense betraying their fellow Jews; and the complicity of those non-Jews, like the Slovaks in Lale’s hometown, who failed to come to the aid of their beleaguered countrymen.

The writing is merely serviceable, and one can’t help but wish the author had found a way to present her material as nonfiction. Still, this is a powerful, gut-wrenching tale that is hard to shake off.

Pub Date: Sept. 4, 2018

ISBN: 978-0-06-279715-5

Page Count: 272

Publisher: Harper/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: July 17, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2018

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