A man long accused of fabricating a book of Holocaust poems reveals deeper and more complicated secrets in this absorbing...

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A Stone for Bread

A graduate student uncovers the truth behind a scandal that ended a university teacher’s career.

In this new novel from Herin (Absolution, 2007), enterprising graduate student Rachel Singer decides in 1997 to talk to disgraced North Carolina poet and former Duke University professor Henry Beam. She’s intent on learning what really happened 34 years earlier, when Beam published a group of poems that he claimed were written by a prisoner in the Nazi concentration camp Mauthausen in Austria. Critics jumped on the book, A Stone for Bread, accusing Beam of inventing the whole collection and effectively driving him into seclusion. With little coaxing from Rachel, Beam begins telling his story, recounted in skillfully handled jump-cuts between past and present. He tells her about the year he spent in Paris, the love affair he had with a woman named Eugénie, and the intellectual alliance he made with a passionate French political agitator named Renard Marcotte. And gradually, he tells her about the man named René, the source of the Stone for Bread poems (and the focal point of his own point-of-view thread running throughout the book). Over the course of their interviews, Beam drops his guard around Rachel, and she in turn personalizes her interest, although she’s slow to abandon her caution about what she’s hearing (“He was a writer after all. Could she trust anything he told her?”). Herin’s carefully constructed narrative steadily builds in tension as its separate storylines accelerate and pull together; the reader learns more about the surprisingly heady time Beam spent in France with Eugénie and the pitched back and forth of his encounters with Renard. At one point, Beam tells Rachel: “Passion is that way in us, one-third God, two-thirds devil.” As Beam’s feelings for Rachel deepen, clues begin accumulating about a mystery in Rachel’s own past. In this last thread, there might be a touch too much contrivance for some readers, but the compelling book’s dramatic structure is carried with such eloquence and earnestness that its author can pull off the occasional plot convenience. The series of climactic revelations is expertly done.

A man long accused of fabricating a book of Holocaust poems reveals deeper and more complicated secrets in this absorbing novel. 

Pub Date: Oct. 31, 2015

ISBN: 978-1-60489-157-7

Page Count: 299

Publisher: Livingston Press

Review Posted Online: Dec. 24, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2016

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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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Absolutely enthralling. Read it.

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NORMAL PEOPLE

A young Irish couple gets together, splits up, gets together, splits up—sorry, can't tell you how it ends!

Irish writer Rooney has made a trans-Atlantic splash since publishing her first novel, Conversations With Friends, in 2017. Her second has already won the Costa Novel Award, among other honors, since it was published in Ireland and Britain last year. In outline it's a simple story, but Rooney tells it with bravura intelligence, wit, and delicacy. Connell Waldron and Marianne Sheridan are classmates in the small Irish town of Carricklea, where his mother works for her family as a cleaner. It's 2011, after the financial crisis, which hovers around the edges of the book like a ghost. Connell is popular in school, good at soccer, and nice; Marianne is strange and friendless. They're the smartest kids in their class, and they forge an intimacy when Connell picks his mother up from Marianne's house. Soon they're having sex, but Connell doesn't want anyone to know and Marianne doesn't mind; either she really doesn't care, or it's all she thinks she deserves. Or both. Though one time when she's forced into a social situation with some of their classmates, she briefly fantasizes about what would happen if she revealed their connection: "How much terrifying and bewildering status would accrue to her in this one moment, how destabilising it would be, how destructive." When they both move to Dublin for Trinity College, their positions are swapped: Marianne now seems electric and in-demand while Connell feels adrift in this unfamiliar environment. Rooney's genius lies in her ability to track her characters' subtle shifts in power, both within themselves and in relation to each other, and the ways they do and don't know each other; they both feel most like themselves when they're together, but they still have disastrous failures of communication. "Sorry about last night," Marianne says to Connell in February 2012. Then Rooney elaborates: "She tries to pronounce this in a way that communicates several things: apology, painful embarrassment, some additional pained embarrassment that serves to ironise and dilute the painful kind, a sense that she knows she will be forgiven or is already, a desire not to 'make a big deal.' " Then: "Forget about it, he says." Rooney precisely articulates everything that's going on below the surface; there's humor and insight here as well as the pleasure of getting to know two prickly, complicated people as they try to figure out who they are and who they want to become.

Absolutely enthralling. Read it.

Pub Date: April 16, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-984-82217-8

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Hogarth

Review Posted Online: Feb. 18, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2019

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