Tugs at the heartstrings while bringing into focus a too often overlooked injustice in U.S. history.


In early 1940s Los Angeles, two men’s love for each other faces a further challenge when one is sent to a Japanese-American internment camp.

This historical novel opens in 1941, before the United States has entered World War II. For Jack Henry, life continues as normal—he works in his family’s jewelry shop, studies to become a teacher, and puts off his fiancee, Sally Jenkins, about setting a wedding date. In the dusky hours, Jack wanders the park in Pershing Square, a gathering place for gay men. But one evening he meets Hiro, a handsome nisei, or second-generation immigrant from Japan, whose humor and forthrightness stir in Jack far deeper feelings than the sexual thrills of his usual anonymous hookups. During one clandestine yet intimate date on Santa Monica beach, Jack feels more like himself with Hiro than he ever has. But their bliss is short-lived, as after the bombing of Pearl Harbor, the U.S. enters the war and forces its Japanese-American citizens into internment camps. Jack turns his energies toward teaching at the Manzanar relocation camp, where he and his new love are reunited. But their relationship is now even more complicated, limited to silent glances under the watchful eyes of armed guards and 1 a.m. rendezvous in the pews of an unlocked church. Perronne’s (Men Can Do Romance, 2013, etc.) tale excels at capturing heartbreak both inside and outside of the camps. A scene of a Japanese woman choosing to break her family’s fine china rather than sell it before being taken away is as disturbing to witness as the dispirited suffering in the cold, dusty conditions of the desert prison. Considering the era, Jack and Hiro’s love is already star-crossed, and the impossibility added by the inhuman circumstances of the camps could easily have become crushing, but small moments of tenderness between the two mediate this hopelessness. The novel doesn’t lack self-awareness, with Jack probing his sudden empathy for Japanese-Americans and the prejudices they face as he wonders why it takes “us getting to know someone branded as other to view them with the humanity they deserved.”

Tugs at the heartstrings while bringing into focus a too often overlooked injustice in U.S. history.

Pub Date: Dec. 30, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-370-43374-2

Page Count: 271

Publisher: Chances Press, LLC

Review Posted Online: Feb. 7, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2018

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A deeply satisfying novel, both sensuously vivid and remarkably poignant.


Norwegian novelist Jacobsen folds a quietly powerful coming-of-age story into a rendition of daily life on one of Norway’s rural islands a hundred years ago in a novel that was shortlisted for the 2017 Man Booker International Prize.

Ingrid Barrøy, her father, Hans, mother, Maria, grandfather Martin, and slightly addled aunt Barbro are the owners and sole inhabitants of Barrøy Island, one of numerous small family-owned islands in an area of Norway barely touched by the outside world. The novel follows Ingrid from age 3 through a carefree early childhood of endless small chores, simple pleasures, and unquestioned familial love into her more ambivalent adolescence attending school off the island and becoming aware of the outside world, then finally into young womanhood when she must make difficult choices. Readers will share Ingrid’s adoration of her father, whose sense of responsibility conflicts with his romantic nature. He adores Maria, despite what he calls her “la-di-da” ways, and is devoted to Ingrid. Twice he finds work on the mainland for his sister, Barbro, but, afraid she’ll be unhappy, he brings her home both times. Rooted to the land where he farms and tied to the sea where he fishes, Hans struggles to maintain his family’s hardscrabble existence on an island where every repair is a struggle against the elements. But his efforts are Sisyphean. Life as a Barrøy on Barrøy remains precarious. Changes do occur in men’s and women’s roles, reflected in part by who gets a literal chair to sit on at meals, while world crises—a war, Sweden’s financial troubles—have unexpected impact. Yet the drama here occurs in small increments, season by season, following nature’s rhythm through deaths and births, moments of joy and deep sorrow. The translator’s decision to use roughly translated phrases in conversation—i.e., “Tha’s goen’ nohvar” for "You’re going nowhere")—slows the reading down at first but ends up drawing readers more deeply into the world of Barrøy and its prickly, intensely alive inhabitants.

A deeply satisfying novel, both sensuously vivid and remarkably poignant.

Pub Date: April 7, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-77196-319-0

Page Count: 272

Publisher: Biblioasis

Review Posted Online: Jan. 13, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2020

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A promising debut that’s awake to emotional, political, and cultural tensions across time and continents.

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A novel of sharply drawn character studies immersed in more than 250 hard, transformative years in the African-American diaspora.

Gyasi’s debut novel opens in the mid-1700s in what is now Ghana, as tribal rivalries are exploited by British and Dutch colonists and slave traders. The daughter of one tribal leader marries a British man for financial expediency, then learns that the “castle” he governs is a holding dungeon for slaves. (When she asks what’s held there, she’s told “cargo.”) The narrative soon alternates chapters between the Ghanans and their American descendants up through the present day. On either side of the Atlantic, the tale is often one of racism, degradation, and loss: a slave on an Alabama plantation is whipped “until the blood on the ground is high enough to bathe a baby”; a freedman in Baltimore fears being sent back South with the passage of the Fugitive Slave Act; a Ghanan woman is driven mad from the abuse of a missionary and her husband’s injury in a tribal war; a woman in Harlem is increasingly distanced from (and then humiliated by) her husband, who passes as white. Gyasi is a deeply empathetic writer, and each of the novel’s 14 chapters is a savvy character portrait that reveals the impact of racism from multiple perspectives. It lacks the sweep that its premise implies, though: while the characters share a bloodline, and a gold-flecked stone appears throughout the book as a symbolic connector, the novel is more a well-made linked story collection than a complex epic. Yet Gyasi plainly has the talent to pull that off: “I will be my own nation,” one woman tells a British suitor early on, and the author understands both the necessity of that defiance and how hard it is to follow through on it.

A promising debut that’s awake to emotional, political, and cultural tensions across time and continents.

Pub Date: June 7, 2016

ISBN: 978-1-101-94713-5

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Knopf

Review Posted Online: March 2, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2016

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