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A Stone for Bread

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 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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SEEING RED

As the plot grows more complicated, it also sheds believability, leaving sex and witty banter to carry the day.

Brown (Mean Streak, 2014, etc.) ticks off the boxes that elevate her books to the bestseller lists in this sexy romantic thriller set in Texas.

Rock-jawed hero with a dark past: check. Strong-willed, beautiful woman who resists his charms: check. A Whitman’s Sampler of bad guys: check. And finally, a convoluted and not always plausible plot: check. In this latest outing, readers meet TV journalist Kerra Bailey, whose family was torn apart years ago by a hotel bombing that killed 197 people in Dallas. Just in time for the 25th anniversary, Kerra scores an interview with the notoriously private Maj. Trapper, who saved her life, among others, when he emerged from the blast to lead the survivors out of danger. There's an iconic, prizewinning photo of the major carrying a little girl from the wreckage, but the child has never been identified—until now, when Kerra goes public with the information that it was her. Just after they finish filming the interview in his home, the major is shot, and an injured Kerra escapes in the confusion. The major’s son, disgraced Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives agent John Trapper—a name M*A*S*H fans will appreciate—steps in, igniting a chain of events that leads to murder, intrigue, betrayal, and a series of dark revelations. As with most of Brown’s heroes and heroines, there’s palpable sexual tension between Trapper, whose taut rear occupies ample literary real estate, and Kerra, who when dealing with Trapper feels “like he’d lightly scratched her just below her bellybutton” when he’s not making her “pleasure points throb.” The complex plot plays out in a round of reveals that don’t always make a lot of sense, but that’s not why Brown’s fans read her books. They check in for the witty, pitch-perfect dialogue and fluid writing. A master of her genre, Brown knows how to please her most ardent readers but relies too often on the same basic formula from novel to novel.

As the plot grows more complicated, it also sheds believability, leaving sex and witty banter to carry the day.

Pub Date: Aug. 15, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-4555-7210-6

Page Count: 432

Publisher: Grand Central Publishing

Review Posted Online: July 3, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2017

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ON MYSTIC LAKE

Hannah, after eight paperbacks, abandons her successful time-travelers for a hardcover life of kitchen-sink romance. Everyone must have got the Olympic Peninsula memo for this spring because, as of this reading, authors Hannah, Nora Roberts, and JoAnn Ross have all placed their newest romances in or near the Quinault rain forest. Here, 40ish Annie Colwater, returns to Washington State after her husband, high-powered Los Angeles lawyer Blake, tells her he’s found another (younger) woman and wants a divorce. Although a Stanford graduate, Annie has known only a life of perfect wifedom: matching Blake’s ties to his suits and cooking meals from Gourmet magazine. What is she to do with her shattered life? Well, she returns to dad’s house in the small town of Mystic, cuts off all her hair (for a different look), and goes to work as a nanny for lawman Nick Delacroix, whose wife has committed suicide, whose young daughter Izzy refuses to speak, and who himself has descended into despair and alcoholism. Annie spruces up Nick’s home on Mystic Lake and sends “Izzy-bear” back into speech mode. And, after Nick begins attending AA meetings, she and he become lovers. Still, when Annie learns that she’s pregnant not with Nick’s but with Blake’s child, she heads back to her empty life in the Malibu Colony. The baby arrives prematurely, and mean-spirited Blake doesn’t even stick around to support his wife. At this point, it’s perfectly clear to Annie—and the reader—that she’s justified in taking her newborn daughter and driving back north. Hannah’s characters indulge in so many stages of the weeps, from glassy eyes to flat-out sobs, that tear ducts are almost bound to stay dry. (First printing of 100,000; first serial to Good Housekeeping; Literary Guild/Doubleday book club selections)

Pub Date: March 31, 1999

ISBN: 0-609-60249-7

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Crown

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 1999

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