by Myrl Coulter ‧ RELEASE DATE: N/A
Riveting family saga with themes of female empowerment creatively tied to tarot lore.
Awards & Accolades
In parallel narratives spanning a century, a woman and her great-grandmother grapple with generational trauma through their interpretations of a tarot deck.
The narrative begins with a traumatic scene of sexual assault. The survivor is Wanda Justice, a 17-year-old girl raised by her single mother in small-town Alberta, Canada. She burns down the abandoned church where the rape took place, enacting the novel’s title for the first of many times. Cut to 1916 in Scotland, where another sexual assault occurs, this time of Sheena Firth. As a result of the assault, Sheena becomes pregnant with Sadie, Wanda’s great-grandmother. Jumping forward to 1999, Wanda struggles with the aftermath of her own assault. The novel also charts Sadie’s travels as she makes her way from the farm where her mother was raised in Scotland to her present-day home in Canada. Both Wanda and Sadie are comforted by the introduction of tarot into their lives. Using their intuitive powers, they’re able to self-reflect on their decisions and prepare for coming difficulties. For example, the cards alert each of them to future problems with the men in their lives. The novel is entrenched in tarot lore; the 22 chapters correspond to the cards of the major arcana, the named cards in a standard tarot deck (the Empress, the Fool, etc.). Representing the trauma and resilience passed down from Sheena to each of her descendants, the women pass a tarot deck from mother to daughter. Coulter provides each character with a distinct voice, preventing confusion despite shifting chronology. Although the linking of Sheena’s trauma to that of her descendants is occasionally heavy-handed, as when Sadie says that Sheena’s “trauma belongs to all of us,” still the theme of women empowering women makes for a timely, poignant novel with shades of Delia Owens’ Where the Crawdads Sing (2018) and Miriam Toews’ Women Talking (2018).Riveting family saga with themes of female empowerment creatively tied to tarot lore.
Pub Date: N/A
Page Count: 299
Review Posted Online: March 30, 2023
Review Program: Kirkus Indie
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by Susan Mallery ‧ RELEASE DATE: May 31, 2022
A book begging to be read on the beach, with the sun warming the sand and salt in the air: pure escapism.
Three woman who join together to rent a large space along the beach in Los Angeles for their stores—a gift shop, a bakery, and a bookstore—become fast friends as they each experience the highs, and lows, of love.
Bree is a friendly but standoffish bookstore owner who keeps everyone she knows at arm’s length, from guys she meets in bars to her friends. Mikki is a settled-in-her-routines divorced mother of two, happily a mom, gift-shop owner, and co-parent with her ex-husband, Perry. And Ashley is a young, very-much-in-love bakery owner specializing in muffins who devotes herself to giving back to the community through a nonprofit that helps community members develop skills and find jobs. When the women meet drooling over a boardwalk storefront that none of them can afford on her own, a plan is hatched to divide the space in three, and a friendship—and business partnership—is born. An impromptu celebration on the beach at sunset with champagne becomes a weekly touchpoint to their lives as they learn more about each other and themselves. Their friendship blossoms as they help each other, offering support, hard truths, and loving backup. Author Mallery has created a delightful story of friendship between three women that also offers a variety of love stories as they fall in love, make mistakes, and figure out how to be the best—albeit still flawed—versions of themselves. The men are similarly flawed and human. While the story comes down clearly on the side of all-encompassing love, Mallery has struck a careful balance: There is just enough sex to be spicy, just enough swearing to be naughty, and just enough heartbreak to avoid being cloying.A book begging to be read on the beach, with the sun warming the sand and salt in the air: pure escapism.
Pub Date: May 31, 2022
Page Count: 352
Publisher: Harlequin MIRA
Review Posted Online: March 15, 2022
Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2022
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by Lauren Groff ‧ RELEASE DATE: Sept. 12, 2023
The writing is inspired, the imaginative power near mystic, but some will wish for more plot.
This historical fever dream of a novel follows the flight of a servant girl through the Colonial American wilderness, red in tooth and claw.
As in her last novel, Matrix (2021), Groff’s imaginative journey into a distant time and place is powered by a thrumming engine of language and rhythm. “She had chosen to flee, and in so choosing, she had left behind her everything she had, her roof, her home, her country, her language, the only family she had ever known, the child Bess, who had been born into her care when she was herself a small child of four years or so, her innocence, her understanding of who she was, her dreams of who she might one day be if only she could survive this starving time." Those onrushing sentences will follow the girl, “sixteen or seventeen or perhaps eighteen years of age,” through the wilderness surrounding the desperate colony, driven by famine and plague into barbarism, through the territory of “the powhatan and pamunkey” to what she hopes will be “the settlements of frenchmen, canada,” a place she once saw pointed out on a map. The focus is on the terrors of survival, the exigencies of starvation, the challenges of locomotion, the miseries of a body wounded, infected, and pushed beyond its limit. What plot there is centers on learning the reason for her flight and how it will end, but the book must be read primarily for its sentences and the light it shines on the place of humans in the order of the world. Whether she is eating baby birds and stealing the fluff from the mother’s nest to line her boots, having a little tea party with her meager trove of possessions, temporarily living inside a tree trunk that comes with a pantry full of grubs (spiders prove less tasty), or finally coming to rest in a way neither she nor we can foresee, immersion in the girl’s experience provides a virtual vacation from civilization that readers may find deeply satisfying.The writing is inspired, the imaginative power near mystic, but some will wish for more plot.
Pub Date: Sept. 12, 2023
Page Count: 272
Review Posted Online: June 8, 2023
Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2023
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