Laced with humor, often ribald and iconoclastic, this is an insightful tale of pain and love, a story of a quest for...

OUR LADY OF ALICE BHATTI

In Hanif’s (A Case of Exploding Mangoes, 2008) second literary effort, Alice Bhatti lives in a land where “most of life’s arguments…got settled by doing various things to a woman’s body.”

Alice is a young nurse, a Christian, in Muslim Pakistan. Alice is a Choohra, an untouchable. Alice is also a graduate of Borstal Jail for Women and Children. That's because outspoken Alice made an easy target at the end of her nursing training when blame needed to be affixed for a botched operation. Sentence complete, with the help of sympathetic but ineffectual Dr. Jamus Pereira, Alice has secured a nursing position at Sacred Heart Hospital for All Ailments near French Colony, Karachi’s Christian slum. Outsider and renegade, openhearted and cynical, Alice is a strikingly memorable character. Willing to help teenaged Noor nurse his cancer-filled mother, Alice is equally willing to defend herself by razor-nicking the male member of the family of a privileged patient. Hanif’s setting is spot on: Karachi as Karachi-Western-misperceived, squalor and discrimination perfectly logical alongside the “Gentlemen’s Squad,” an off-the-books police operation rough-riding through interrogations that produce dead witnesses. Alice is soon courted and married by Teddy Butt, a waxed-hairless, steroid-consuming body-builder and latent misogynist, who “provides valet parking for the angels of death” as the squad’s combination errand boy and clean-up man. Much of the first two-thirds of the novel is focused on the artful setting and the deepening of character development, and then Alice, praying “in the heat of demented devotion,” resuscitates an apparently stillborn boy. Alice is certain there are scientific reasons for the baby springing to life, but rumors of miracles soon fly around the hospital and out among the want-to-be-patients languishing under a courtyard tree called Old Doctor. It is there too that Alice rests to await her destiny.

Laced with humor, often ribald and iconoclastic, this is an insightful tale of pain and love, a story of a quest for humanity and grace in a desperate, chaotic society. 

Pub Date: May 31, 2012

ISBN: 978-0-307-95831-0

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Knopf

Review Posted Online: April 3, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2012

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Despite some distractions, there’s an irresistible charm to Owens’ first foray into nature-infused romantic fiction.

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WHERE THE CRAWDADS SING

A wild child’s isolated, dirt-poor upbringing in a Southern coastal wilderness fails to shield her from heartbreak or an accusation of murder.

“The Marsh Girl,” “swamp trash”—Catherine “Kya” Clark is a figure of mystery and prejudice in the remote North Carolina coastal community of Barkley Cove in the 1950s and '60s. Abandoned by a mother no longer able to endure her drunken husband’s beatings and then by her four siblings, Kya grows up in the careless, sometimes-savage company of her father, who eventually disappears, too. Alone, virtually or actually, from age 6, Kya learns both to be self-sufficient and to find solace and company in her fertile natural surroundings. Owens (Secrets of the Savanna, 2006, etc.), the accomplished co-author of several nonfiction books on wildlife, is at her best reflecting Kya’s fascination with the birds, insects, dappled light, and shifting tides of the marshes. The girl’s collections of shells and feathers, her communion with the gulls, her exploration of the wetlands are evoked in lyrical phrasing which only occasionally tips into excess. But as the child turns teenager and is befriended by local boy Tate Walker, who teaches her to read, the novel settles into a less magical, more predictable pattern. Interspersed with Kya’s coming-of-age is the 1969 murder investigation arising from the discovery of a man’s body in the marsh. The victim is Chase Andrews, “star quarterback and town hot shot,” who was once Kya’s lover. In the eyes of a pair of semicomic local police officers, Kya will eventually become the chief suspect and must stand trial. By now the novel’s weaknesses have become apparent: the monochromatic characterization (good boy Tate, bad boy Chase) and implausibilities (Kya evolves into a polymath—a published writer, artist, and poet), yet the closing twist is perhaps its most memorable oddity.

Despite some distractions, there’s an irresistible charm to Owens’ first foray into nature-infused romantic fiction.

Pub Date: Aug. 14, 2018

ISBN: 978-0-7352-1909-0

Page Count: 384

Publisher: Putnam

Review Posted Online: May 15, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 2018

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Relentlessly suspenseful and unexpectedly timely: just the thing for Dick Cheney’s bedside reading wherever he’s keeping...

WITHOUT FAIL

From the Jack Reacher series , Vol. 6

When the newly elected Vice President’s life is threatened, the Secret Service runs to nomadic soldier-of-fortune Jack Reacher (Echo Burning, 2001, etc.) in this razor-sharp update of The Day of the Jackal and In the Line of Fire that’s begging to be filmed.

Why Reacher? Because M.E. Froelich, head of the VP’s protection team, was once a colleague and lover of his late brother Joe, who’d impressed her with tales of Jack’s derring-do as an Army MP. Now Froelich and her Brooks Brothers–tailored boss Stuyvesant have been receiving a series of anonymous messages threatening the life of North Dakota Senator/Vice President–elect Brook Armstrong. Since the threats may be coming from within the Secret Service’s own ranks—if they aren’t, it’s hard to see how they’ve been getting delivered—they can’t afford an internal investigation. Hence the call to Reacher, who wastes no time in hooking up with his old friend Frances Neagley, another Army vet turned private eye, first to see whether he can figure out a way to assassinate Armstrong, then to head off whoever else is trying. It’s Reacher’s matter-of-fact gift to think of everything, from the most likely position a sniper would assume at Armstrong’s Thanksgiving visit to a homeless shelter to the telltale punctuation of one of the threats, and to pluck helpers from the tiny cast who can fill the remaining gaps because they aren’t idiots or stooges. And it’s Child’s gift to keep tightening the screws, even when nothing’s happening except the arrival of a series of unsigned letters, and to convey a sense of the blank impossibility of guarding any public figure from danger day after highly exposed day, and the dedication and heroism of the agents who take on this daunting job.

Relentlessly suspenseful and unexpectedly timely: just the thing for Dick Cheney’s bedside reading wherever he’s keeping himself these days.

Pub Date: May 1, 2001

ISBN: 0-399-14861-2

Page Count: 384

Publisher: Putnam

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2002

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