An often engaging, lightly fictionalized life of America’s first saint.

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GOD’S MESSENGER: THE ASTOUNDING ACHIEVE-MENTS OF MOTHER CABRINI

A NOVEL BASED ON THE LIFE OF MOTHER CABRINI

A dramatization of the life of the much-beloved 19th-century saint Mother Frances X. Cabrini.

Gregory’s debut novel tells Cabrini’s life story, starting with her girlhood in the 1860s in the northern Italian town of Sant’Angelo Lodigiano and the deaths of her parents in 1870. She took religious vows some years later, founded the Missionary Sisters of the Sacred Heart, and arrived in the United States in 1889. As the story goes on, Cabrini and her fellow sisters go on to found dozens of missions and hospitals, mostly with the aim of aiding poor and destitute children, including many from the flood of Italian immigrants hitting major American cities toward the end of the 19th century. Pope Pius XII canonized Cabrini in 1946, and she became the patron saint of immigrants. All these events, of course, naturally lend themselves to hagiography, but Gregory largely and refreshingly resists that temptation. Her version of Cabrini is a winningly human creation with a kind heart, a sharp mind, and a mordant sense of humor. That said, the narrative sometimes reads more like an encyclopedia entry than a work of immersive fiction (“She was in America, where, now at age fifty-four, she demonstrated her skills as a shrewd and successful businesswoman”). But the book’s gentle fictional touches— fleshing out quotes from real-life letters as dialogue, indulging in vivid descriptions of scenery—compensate for its drier patches, and it wonderfully portrays Cabrini’s cheerful pluck and courage. Indeed, Gregory seems to appreciate the more worldly aspects of her main character, who stares down corrupt realtors or cowardly city officials with an irresistible moral clarity. Cabrini’s many devotees around the world will likely love the author’s work here.

An often engaging, lightly fictionalized life of America’s first saint.

Pub Date: Jan. 11, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-947431-02-7

Page Count: 204

Publisher: Barbera Foundation

Review Posted Online: Aug. 1, 2018

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A touching family drama that effectively explores the negative impact of stress on fragile relationships.

A WEEK AT THE SHORE

A middle-aged woman returns to her childhood home to care for her ailing father, confronting many painful secrets from her past.

When Mallory Aldiss gets a call from a long-ago boyfriend telling her that her elderly father has been gallivanting around town with a gun in his hand, Mallory decides it’s time to return to the small Rhode Island town that she’s been avoiding for more than a decade. Mallory’s precocious 13-year-old daughter, Joy, is thrilled that she'll get to meet her grandfather at long last, and an aunt, too, and she'll finally see the place where her mother grew up. When they arrive in Bay Bluff, it’s barely a few hours before Mallory bumps into her old flame, Jack, the only man she’s ever really loved. Gone is the rebellious young person she remembers, and in his place stands a compassionate, accomplished adult. As they try to reconnect, Mallory realizes that the same obstacle that pushed them apart decades earlier is still standing in their way: Jack blames Mallory’s father for his mother’s death. No one knows exactly how Jack’s mother died, but Jack thinks a love affair between her and Mallory’s father had something to do with it. As Jack and Mallory chase down answers, Mallory also tries to repair her rocky relationships with her two sisters and determine why her father has always been so hard on her. Told entirely from Mallory’s perspective, the novel has a haunting, nostalgic quality. Despite the complex and overlapping layers to the history of Bay Bluff and its inhabitants, the book at times trudges too slowly through Mallory’s meanderings down Memory Lane. Even so, Delinsky sometimes manages to pick up the pace, and in those moments the beauty and nuance of this complicated family tale shine through. Readers who don’t mind skimming past details that do little to advance the plot may find that the juicier nuggets and realistically rendered human connections are worth the effort.

A touching family drama that effectively explores the negative impact of stress on fragile relationships.

Pub Date: May 19, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-250-11951-3

Page Count: 416

Publisher: St. Martin's

Review Posted Online: March 2, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2020

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A love letter to the power of books and friendship.

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THE GIVER OF STARS

Women become horseback librarians in 1930s Kentucky and face challenges from the landscape, the weather, and the men around them.

Alice thought marrying attractive American Bennett Van Cleve would be her ticket out of her stifling life in England. But when she and Bennett settle in Baileyville, Kentucky, she realizes that her life consists of nothing more than staying in their giant house all day and getting yelled at by his unpleasant father, who owns a coal mine. She’s just about to resign herself to a life of boredom when an opportunity presents itself in the form of a traveling horseback library—an initiative from Eleanor Roosevelt meant to counteract the devastating effects of the Depression by focusing on literacy and learning. Much to the dismay of her husband and father-in-law, Alice signs up and soon learns the ropes from the library’s leader, Margery. Margery doesn’t care what anyone thinks of her, rejects marriage, and would rather be on horseback than in a kitchen. And even though all this makes Margery a town pariah, Alice quickly grows to like her. Along with several other women (including one black woman, Sophia, whose employment causes controversy in a town that doesn’t believe black and white people should be allowed to use the same library), Margery and Alice supply magazines, Bible stories, and copies of books like Little Women to the largely poor residents who live in remote areas. Alice spends long days in terrible weather on horseback, but she finally feels happy in her new life in Kentucky, even as her marriage to Bennett is failing. But her powerful father-in-law doesn’t care for Alice’s job or Margery’s lifestyle, and he’ll stop at nothing to shut their library down. Basing her novel on the true story of the Pack Horse Library Project established by the Works Progress Administration in the 1930s, Moyes (Still Me, 2018, etc.) brings an often forgotten slice of history to life. She writes about Kentucky with lush descriptions of the landscape and tender respect for the townspeople, most of whom are poor, uneducated, and grateful for the chance to learn. Although Alice and Margery both have their own romances, the true power of the story is in the bonds between the women of the library. They may have different backgrounds, but their commitment to helping the people of Baileyville brings them together.

A love letter to the power of books and friendship.

Pub Date: Oct. 8, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-399-56248-8

Page Count: 400

Publisher: Pamela Dorman/Viking

Review Posted Online: July 1, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2019

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