An American tragedy treated coarsely in history books receives an invigorating new account.



A debut historical novel re-examines the Fort Mims Massacre.

In 1813, 14-year-old Prudence is the youngest daughter of Samuel and Hannah Mims. They own a plantation in the Tensaw delta, near Mobile, Alabama, which—not yet a state—is in Mississippi territory. One day, Prudence and two of her brothers, David and Alex, await a ferry that will take the family to Fort Stoddert to visit their sister Henrietta, who is married to Maj. Benjamin Smoot. When they arrive, the fort is sweltering, and Hannah determines that it is no place for her pregnant daughter to deliver her third child. She convinces Smoot, a martinet who’s aloof to his wife’s needs, to let Henrietta travel to the more comfortable Mobile area for the baby’s arrival. Weeks later, when Henrietta and her family near the plantation for a much anticipated reprieve from traveling, they discover that Maj. Daniel Beasley has set up the Mississippi militia on the Mims property. Beasley hopes to confront Creek Red Stick warriors, who have raided and burned farms and supposedly want to start a slave revolt. Samuel finds the idea preposterous, knowing after years of amicable relations with the Creek tribe that the greedy, land-grabbing United States government is responsible for any violence. Now the Mims family must suffer food shortages, spoiled water, and drunken military commanders who may or may not be able to protect them from a Creek assault. Parten, descended from Prudence, uses her family history to craft this tense saga and bring “a little humanity back to the legend” of the Fort Mims Massacre. Readers are correct to assume that a novel set on a plantation about vengeful Native Americans is going to prove a difficult emotional journey, especially for the teenage narrator. The first African-American readers meet is Jacob Miller, a ferry operator and freed man who is friends with Samuel. But the first use of the word “slave” is followed by the disquieting line “I always hoped that our way of life would last forever.” Thankfully, as Prudence’s interior life is explored—as a girl who is often an afterthought and nuisance to her brothers—her naïveté regarding the family’s financial situation melts away. She learns that “Papa made an effort to buy whole families who were born in this country.” Nevertheless, the notion of “good slaveholders” always “seemed like an oxymoron.” History buffs should love Parten’s transporting depiction of the era, which evokes the Mississippi Delta as a place populated by those who didn’t necessarily want to join the United States. Despite the narrative’s march toward brutality—which is only described in the Afterword—tenderness is the author’s tone of choice (“All the grace and beauty my mother imported to this place had vanished because of forces that were beyond anyone’s control”). And like any successful historical novel, the work will impart readers with a craving to learn more about the events.

An American tragedy treated coarsely in history books receives an invigorating new account.

Pub Date: N/A


Page Count: 276

Publisher: Dog Ear Publisher

Review Posted Online: May 16, 2018

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A tasty, if not always tasteful, tale of supernatural mayhem that fans of King and Crichton alike will enjoy.


Are we not men? We are—well, ask Bigfoot, as Brooks does in this delightful yarn, following on his bestseller World War Z (2006).

A zombie apocalypse is one thing. A volcanic eruption is quite another, for, as the journalist who does a framing voice-over narration for Brooks’ latest puts it, when Mount Rainier popped its cork, “it was the psychological aspect, the hyperbole-fueled hysteria that had ended up killing the most people.” Maybe, but the sasquatches whom the volcano displaced contributed to the statistics, too, if only out of self-defense. Brooks places the epicenter of the Bigfoot war in a high-tech hideaway populated by the kind of people you might find in a Jurassic Park franchise: the schmo who doesn’t know how to do much of anything but tries anyway, the well-intentioned bleeding heart, the know-it-all intellectual who turns out to know the wrong things, the immigrant with a tough backstory and an instinct for survival. Indeed, the novel does double duty as a survival manual, packed full of good advice—for instance, try not to get wounded, for “injury turns you from a giver to a taker. Taking up our resources, our time to care for you.” Brooks presents a case for making room for Bigfoot in the world while peppering his narrative with timely social criticism about bad behavior on the human side of the conflict: The explosion of Rainier might have been better forecast had the president not slashed the budget of the U.S. Geological Survey, leading to “immediate suspension of the National Volcano Early Warning System,” and there’s always someone around looking to monetize the natural disaster and the sasquatch-y onslaught that follows. Brooks is a pro at building suspense even if it plays out in some rather spectacularly yucky episodes, one involving a short spear that takes its name from “the sucking sound of pulling it out of the dead man’s heart and lungs.” Grossness aside, it puts you right there on the scene.

A tasty, if not always tasteful, tale of supernatural mayhem that fans of King and Crichton alike will enjoy.

Pub Date: June 16, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-9848-2678-7

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Del Rey/Ballantine

Review Posted Online: Feb. 10, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2020

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Dark and unsettling, this novel’s end arrives abruptly even as readers are still moving at a breakneck speed.


Ten years after her teenage daughter went missing, a mother begins a new relationship only to discover she can't truly move on until she answers lingering questions about the past.

Laurel Mack’s life stopped in many ways the day her 15-year-old daughter, Ellie, left the house to study at the library and never returned. She drifted away from her other two children, Hanna and Jake, and eventually she and her husband, Paul, divorced. Ten years later, Ellie’s remains and her backpack are found, though the police are unable to determine the reasons for her disappearance and death. After Ellie’s funeral, Laurel begins a relationship with Floyd, a man she meets in a cafe. She's disarmed by Floyd’s charm, but when she meets his young daughter, Poppy, Laurel is startled by her resemblance to Ellie. As the novel progresses, Laurel becomes increasingly determined to learn what happened to Ellie, especially after discovering an odd connection between Poppy’s mother and her daughter even as her relationship with Floyd is becoming more serious. Jewell’s (I Found You, 2017, etc.) latest thriller moves at a brisk pace even as she plays with narrative structure: The book is split into three sections, including a first one which alternates chapters between the time of Ellie’s disappearance and the present and a second section that begins as Laurel and Floyd meet. Both of these sections primarily focus on Laurel. In the third section, Jewell alternates narrators and moments in time: The narrator switches to alternating first-person points of view (told by Poppy’s mother and Floyd) interspersed with third-person narration of Ellie’s experiences and Laurel’s discoveries in the present. All of these devices serve to build palpable tension, but the structure also contributes to how deeply disturbing the story becomes. At times, the characters and the emotional core of the events are almost obscured by such quick maneuvering through the weighty plot.

Dark and unsettling, this novel’s end arrives abruptly even as readers are still moving at a breakneck speed.

Pub Date: April 24, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-5011-5464-5

Page Count: 368

Publisher: Atria

Review Posted Online: Feb. 6, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2018

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