This strange story about strange stories, told with intelligence and humor, lingers in the mind like a dream.

THE INVENTION OF ANA

A would-be writer from Copenhagen meets a performance artist from Romania and becomes obsessed with her tragic, surreal life story.

As the unnamed narrator explains in the first pages of this novel, already nominated for a “best debut” prize in the author’s native Denmark, he met Ana Ivan shortly after he arrived in New York. He’d come over to work as an intern for his brother, a successful gallerist, and that night was helping out at a Brooklyn art festival. Anna immediately began telling him a story from her past, about a game she'd played with her father as a child during the endless, boring power cuts of the Ceau?escu regime. They made dots on a paper at random, then stared at the dots until a picture emerged. This is a metaphor for the novel as a whole, the dots being stories from Ana’s life, this being the first of many. The next time he sees Ana, she tells him about a time she pretended she had a stomachache to avoid going to school and ended up dead for two minutes during an unnecessary appendectomy. “Why aren’t you writing it down?” she asks impatiently. “It was only the first chapter.” Her plan, it seems, is for him to become her amanuensis, writing “the whole true tale” of her life, a story she suggests may have bestseller potential. Though he finds the situation “implausible”—“how often, after all, do you meet a random woman and end up being asked to write her life story?”—he has no stories of his own. After all, he’s “just an intern—white and middle-class and male to boot.” And so, her story becomes his story. Much of it revolves around Ana's father, a math prodigy who committed suicide for reasons that were obscure until she herself became a mathematician and began to investigate her parents’ past. The bizarre tragedy they suffered had many long-range consequences, including Ana's convictions that she is cursed and that she can travel through time.

This strange story about strange stories, told with intelligence and humor, lingers in the mind like a dream.

Pub Date: Feb. 13, 2018

ISBN: 978-0-06-267907-9

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Custom House/Morrow

Review Posted Online: Nov. 13, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2017

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Doerr captures the sights and sounds of wartime and focuses, refreshingly, on the innate goodness of his major characters.

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  • New York Times Bestseller

  • Pulitzer Prize Winner

  • National Book Award Finalist

ALL THE LIGHT WE CANNOT SEE

Doerr presents us with two intricate stories, both of which take place during World War II; late in the novel, inevitably, they intersect.

In August 1944, Marie-Laure LeBlanc is a blind 16-year-old living in the walled port city of Saint-Malo in Brittany and hoping to escape the effects of Allied bombing. D-Day took place two months earlier, and Cherbourg, Caen and Rennes have already been liberated. She’s taken refuge in this city with her great-uncle Etienne, at first a fairly frightening figure to her. Marie-Laure’s father was a locksmith and craftsman who made scale models of cities that Marie-Laure studied so she could travel around on her own. He also crafted clever and intricate boxes, within which treasures could be hidden. Parallel to the story of Marie-Laure we meet Werner and Jutta Pfennig, a brother and sister, both orphans who have been raised in the Children’s House outside Essen, in Germany. Through flashbacks we learn that Werner had been a curious and bright child who developed an obsession with radio transmitters and receivers, both in their infancies during this period. Eventually, Werner goes to a select technical school and then, at 18, into the Wehrmacht, where his technical aptitudes are recognized and he’s put on a team trying to track down illegal radio transmissions. Etienne and Marie-Laure are responsible for some of these transmissions, but Werner is intrigued since what she’s broadcasting is innocent—she shares her passion for Jules Verne by reading aloud 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea. A further subplot involves Marie-Laure’s father’s having hidden a valuable diamond, one being tracked down by Reinhold von Rumpel, a relentless German sergeant-major.

Doerr captures the sights and sounds of wartime and focuses, refreshingly, on the innate goodness of his major characters.

Pub Date: May 6, 2014

ISBN: 978-1-4767-4658-6

Page Count: 448

Publisher: Scribner

Review Posted Online: March 6, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2014

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Wingate sheds light on a shameful true story of child exploitation but is less successful in engaging readers in her...

BEFORE WE WERE YOURS

Avery Stafford, a lawyer, descendant of two prominent Southern families and daughter of a distinguished senator, discovers a family secret that alters her perspective on heritage.

Wingate (Sisters, 2016, etc.) shifts the story in her latest novel between present and past as Avery uncovers evidence that her Grandma Judy was a victim of the Tennessee Children’s Home Society and is related to a woman Avery and her father meet when he visits a nursing home. Although Avery is living at home to help her parents through her father’s cancer treatment, she is also being groomed for her own political career. Readers learn that investigating her family’s past is not part of Avery's scripted existence, but Wingate's attempts to make her seem torn about this are never fully developed, and descriptions of her chemistry with a man she meets as she's searching are also unconvincing. Sections describing the real-life orphanage director Georgia Tann, who stole poor children, mistreated them, and placed them for adoption with wealthy clients—including Joan Crawford and June Allyson—are more vivid, as are passages about Grandma Judy and her siblings. Wingate’s fans and readers who enjoy family dramas will find enough to entertain them, and book clubs may enjoy dissecting the relationship and historical issues in the book.

Wingate sheds light on a shameful true story of child exploitation but is less successful in engaging readers in her fictional characters' lives.

Pub Date: June 6, 2017

ISBN: 978-0-425-28468-1

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Ballantine

Review Posted Online: March 21, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2017

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