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An unwieldy epic spans generations and continents while remaining, at its core, somehow improbable.

Set mostly in the Soviet Union, this ambitious novel takes on memory, identity, and family ties.

Frankel’s (Bloodlines, 2012) third novel is a multigenerational epic that spans three continents and almost three times as many decades. It begins with one man’s impossible decision: Isaak Shtein, a Jewish Latvian refugee in South Africa, has lost his wife. He has five children. He decides to return to Latvia for help from his family. He can afford to bring with him all but two teenage sons; he plans to return to them before long. Unfortunately, World War I begins soon after Isaak arrives in Latvia. He marries his late brother’s wife and the two flee, with their combined children, to Russia. Then they make another hard decision: they’ll hide their Jewish identity and hope for a better life. The first portion of Frankel’s behemoth is narrated by Lena, Isaak’s only surviving daughter, who grows up in Stalinist Moscow, making a life for herself amid the limitations and paranoia of that society. Lena’s granddaughter, Darya, narrates the second part of the book; by marrying a cruel, sadistic man in the upper echelons of the KGB, she has endangered herself, her children, and her extended family. That’s where Steven comes in. Steven Green, the third narrator, is a descendant of one of the sons Isaak Shtein left, decades ago, in South Africa. Now a painter living in Boston, Steven has begun writing letters to his Soviet relatives. When he goes to visit them, he falls in love with Darya and, soon after, is entangled in a plot of intrigue and violence that has him in way over his head. Frankel is an engaging storyteller, and his depictions of Soviet life are interesting. But his characters are two-dimensional and his efforts to complicate them seem trite. The dialogue, which features Russian speakers spouting American idioms, is unconvincing. Worse, most of the book’s action is simply summarized, while many of the scenes he does allow us to glimpse are mundane and sometimes repetitive. A heavy round of editing may have helped but as it stands, the book is overstuffed and the ending unlikely.

An unwieldy epic spans generations and continents while remaining, at its core, somehow improbable.

Pub Date: Jan. 16, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-944884-10-9

Page Count: 471

Publisher: Dialogos

Review Posted Online: Nov. 5, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15, 2016

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Wacky plot keeps the pages turning and enduring schmaltzy romantic sequences.

Sisters work together to solve a child-abandonment case.

Ellie and Julia Cates have never been close. Julia is shy and brainy; Ellie gets by on charm and looks. Their differences must be tossed aside when a traumatized young girl wanders in from the forest into their hometown in Washington. The sisters’ professional skills are put to the test. Julia is a world-renowned child psychologist who has lost her edge. She is reeling from a case that went publicly sour. Though she was cleared of all wrongdoing, Julia’s name was tarnished, forcing her to shutter her Beverly Hills practice. Ellie Barton is the local police chief in Rain Valley, who’s never faced a tougher case. This is her chance to prove she is more than just a fading homecoming queen, but a scarcity of clues and a reluctant victim make locating the girl’s parents nearly impossible. Ellie places an SOS call to her sister; she needs an expert to rehabilitate this wild-child who has been living outside of civilization for years. Confronted with her professional demons, Julia once again has the opportunity to display her talents and salvage her reputation. Hannah (The Things We Do for Love, 2004, etc.) is at her best when writing from the girl’s perspective. The feral wolf-child keeps the reader interested long after the other, transparent characters have grown tiresome. Hannah’s torturously over-written romance passages are stale, but there are surprises in store as the sisters set about unearthing Alice’s past and creating a home for her.

Wacky plot keeps the pages turning and enduring schmaltzy romantic sequences.

Pub Date: March 1, 2006

ISBN: 0-345-46752-3

Page Count: 400

Publisher: Ballantine

Review Posted Online: June 24, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2005

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A strict report, worthy of sympathy.

A violent surfacing of adolescence (which has little in common with Tarkington's earlier, broadly comic, Seventeen) has a compulsive impact.

"Nobody big except me" is the dream world of Holden Caulfield and his first person story is down to the basic, drab English of the pre-collegiate. For Holden is now being bounced from fancy prep, and, after a vicious evening with hall- and roommates, heads for New York to try to keep his latest failure from his parents. He tries to have a wild evening (all he does is pay the check), is terrorized by the hotel elevator man and his on-call whore, has a date with a girl he likes—and hates, sees his 10 year old sister, Phoebe. He also visits a sympathetic English teacher after trying on a drunken session, and when he keeps his date with Phoebe, who turns up with her suitcase to join him on his flight, he heads home to a hospital siege. This is tender and true, and impossible, in its picture of the old hells of young boys, the lonesomeness and tentative attempts to be mature and secure, the awful block between youth and being grown-up, the fright and sickness that humans and their behavior cause the challenging, the dramatization of the big bang. It is a sorry little worm's view of the off-beat of adult pressure, of contemporary strictures and conformity, of sentiment….

A strict report, worthy of sympathy.

Pub Date: June 15, 1951

ISBN: 0316769177

Page Count: -

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: Nov. 2, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 1951

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