In this luminous, revelatory study on the connection between person and place, Keni knits a delicate tale of an entangled...

ESPERANZA STREET

The clash between corrupt developers “lining each other’s pockets” and the residents of the bustling seaport village of Puerto, in the Philippines, serves as the backdrop for a tender coming-of-age story in this contemplative debut novel.

Joseph Santos, a 15-year-old houseboy at Mary Morelos’ boardinghouse, tells the story of Esperanza Street, “one of the oldest streets in Puerto,” where “everyone knew who was more interested in their brother’s wife than their own, or who’d lied about their son’s school grades, or sold their neighbor’s dog,” during a six-month period in 1981. This engrossing novel illuminates the lives of Esperanza’s working-class citizens in chapters resembling high-resolution photographs, with Joseph’s keen eye as the lens. While Joseph confronts the “barkada boys,” who threaten anyone opposing Esperanza’s imminent gentrification, explores his feelings for the midwife’s daughter, and longs for the attention of his proud though distant father, he seeks comfort in books. “I think now that I read with the hope something would finally arrive that would illuminate everything, a single piece of knowledge that would show me how my life was meant to unfold.” As the residents of Esperanza Street rally to protest the transformation of their beloved barrio, Keni nimbly unspools Joseph’s struggle to make peace with his history and heredity, his childhood street that “lulled us all with its apparent constancy,” and his journey to adulthood.

In this luminous, revelatory study on the connection between person and place, Keni knits a delicate tale of an entangled and endangered community.

Pub Date: Feb. 3, 2015

ISBN: 978-1-908276-48-3

Page Count: 326

Publisher: & Other Stories

Review Posted Online: Nov. 16, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2014

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A knowing, loving evocation of people trying to survive with their personalities and traditions intact.

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    Best Books Of 2020

  • New York Times Bestseller

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  • Pulitzer Prize Winner

THE NIGHT WATCHMAN

In this unhurried, kaleidoscopic story, the efforts of Native Americans to save their lands from being taken away by the U.S. government in the early 1950s come intimately, vividly to life.

Erdrich’s grandfather Patrick Gourneau was part of the first generation born on the Turtle Mountain Reservation in North Dakota. As the chairman of the Turtle Mountain Band of Chippewa in the mid-1950s, he had to use all the political savvy he could muster to dissuade Utah Sen. Arthur V. Watkins (whom Erdrich calls a “pompous racist” in her afterword) from reneging on long-held treaties between Native Americans and the federal government. Erdrich's grandfather is the inspiration for her novel’s protagonist, Thomas Wazhushk, the night watchman of the title. He gets his last name from the muskrat, "the lowly, hardworking, water-loving rodent," and Thomas is a hard worker himself: In between his rounds at a local factory, at first uncertain he can really help his tribe, he organizes its members and writes letters to politicians, "these official men with their satisfied soft faces," opposing Watkins' efforts at "terminating" their reservation. Erdrich reveals Thomas' character at night when he's alone; still reliable and self-sacrificing, he becomes more human, like the night he locks himself out of the factory, almost freezes to death, and encounters a vision of beings, "filmy and brightly indistinct," descending from the stars, including Jesus Christ, who "looked just like the others." Patrice Paranteau is Thomas' niece, and she’s saddled with a raging alcoholic father and financial responsibility for her mother and brother. Her sister, Vera, deserts the reservation for Minneapolis; in the novel’s most suspenseful episode, Patrice boldly leaves home for the first time to find her sister, although all signs point to a bad outcome for Vera. Patrice grows up quickly as she navigates the city’s underbelly. Although the stakes for the residents of Turtle Mountain will be apocalyptic if their tribe is terminated, the novel is more an affectionate sketchbook of the personalities living at Turtle Mountain than a tightly plotted arc that moves from initial desperation to political triumph. Thomas’ boyhood friend Roderick returns as a ghost who troubles Thomas in his night rounds, for example; Patrice sleeps close to a bear and is vastly changed; two young men battle for Patrice’s heart.

A knowing, loving evocation of people trying to survive with their personalities and traditions intact.

Pub Date: March 3, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-06-267118-9

Page Count: 448

Publisher: Harper/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Dec. 23, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2020

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A magnificent achievement: a novel that is, by turns, both optimistic and fatalistic, idealistic without being naïve.

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  • Kirkus Reviews'
    Best Books Of 2018

  • New York Times Bestseller

  • Pulitzer Prize Winner

THE OVERSTORY

Powers’ (Orfeo, 2014, etc.) 12th novel is a masterpiece of operatic proportions, involving nine central characters and more than half a century of American life.

In this work, Powers takes on the subject of nature, or our relationship to nature, as filtered through the lens of environmental activism, although at its heart the book is after more existential concerns. As is the case with much of Powers’ fiction, it takes shape slowly—first in a pastiche of narratives establishing the characters (a psychologist, an undergraduate who died briefly but was revived, a paraplegic computer game designer, a homeless vet), and then in the kaleidoscopic ways these individuals come together and break apart. “We all travel the Milky Way together, trees and men,” Powers writes, quoting the naturalist John Muir. “In every walk with nature one receives far more than he seeks.” The idea is important because what Powers means to explore is a sense of how we become who we are, individually and collectively, and our responsibility to the planet and to ourselves. Nick, for instance, continues a project begun by his grandfather to take repeated photographs of a single chestnut tree, “one a month for seventy-six years.” Pat, a visionary botanist, discovers how trees communicate with one another only to be discredited and then, a generation later, reaffirmed. What links the characters is survival—the survival of both trees and human beings. The bulk of the action unfolds during the timber wars of the late 1990s, as the characters coalesce on the Pacific coast to save old-growth sequoia from logging concerns. For Powers, however, political or environmental activism becomes a filter through which to consider the connectedness of all things—not only the human lives he portrays in often painfully intricate dimensions, but also the biosphere, both virtual and natural. “The world starts here,” Powers insists. “This is the merest beginning. Life can do anything. You have no idea.”

A magnificent achievement: a novel that is, by turns, both optimistic and fatalistic, idealistic without being naïve.

Pub Date: April 3, 2018

ISBN: 978-0-393-63552-2

Page Count: 512

Publisher: Norton

Review Posted Online: Jan. 23, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2018

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