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STOCKHOLM

A seriously funny take on death and dying.

When renowned Israeli economist Avishay dies at home alone of an apparent heart attack, his four best friends, like him almost 70, conspire to conceal his death for a week to keep him in the running for a Nobel Prize.

Avishay is a strong contender for the honor but needs to be alive when the Nobel committee makes its decision. Yehuda, who has lived in Avishay’s shadow despite becoming rich as a young man from his invention of a kitchen bag opener, proposes the scheme to keep him “alive.” How would they want Avishay remembered, he poses: as “a nice, divorced professor of economics who had a few friends who liked him” or “a man who will be immortalized”? Not to mention a man whose foreword to Yehuda’s yet unpublished book would ensure its success if it bore the Nobel imprint? Everyone has personal gains in mind. Zohara, a single, struggling ghostwriter who has been having an affair with the womanizing Avishay for 20 years, concocts a plan to grab a big share of the Nobel prize money by claiming she was his common-law wife. Keeping the death a secret proves as hairy as it is complicated, especially after an electric bicyclist runs over the dead body during an exasperating attempt to transfer it. As much as the book—the basis for a popular Israeli TV series—thrives on dark slapstick humor, it’s no Weekend at Avishay’s. Yedlin, a master at tone, grounds the antic comedy in reflections on aging, friendship, parenthood, life as “one big effort to compensate for feelings of inferiority,” and “sadness, more sadness, respectable sadness, unsatisfying sadness, mature sadness.” In the end, the absence of real mourning on anyone’s part can be read as an embrace of life beyond death or a reflection of the shells in which many people live.

A seriously funny take on death and dying.

Pub Date: Nov. 14, 2023

ISBN: 9780063310810

Page Count: 320

Publisher: HarperVia

Review Posted Online: Aug. 12, 2023

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2023

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THE WOMEN

A dramatic, vividly detailed reconstruction of a little-known aspect of the Vietnam War.

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A young woman’s experience as a nurse in Vietnam casts a deep shadow over her life.

When we learn that the farewell party in the opening scene is for Frances “Frankie” McGrath’s older brother—“a golden boy, a wild child who could make the hardest heart soften”—who is leaving to serve in Vietnam in 1966, we feel pretty certain that poor Finley McGrath is marked for death. Still, it’s a surprise when the fateful doorbell rings less than 20 pages later. His death inspires his sister to enlist as an Army nurse, and this turn of events is just the beginning of a roller coaster of a plot that’s impressive and engrossing if at times a bit formulaic. Hannah renders the experiences of the young women who served in Vietnam in all-encompassing detail. The first half of the book, set in gore-drenched hospital wards, mildewed dorm rooms, and boozy officers’ clubs, is an exciting read, tracking the transformation of virginal, uptight Frankie into a crack surgical nurse and woman of the world. Her tensely platonic romance with a married surgeon ends when his broken, unbreathing body is airlifted out by helicopter; she throws her pent-up passion into a wild affair with a soldier who happens to be her dead brother’s best friend. In the second part of the book, after the war, Frankie seems to experience every possible bad break. A drawback of the story is that none of the secondary characters in her life are fully three-dimensional: Her dismissive, chauvinistic father and tight-lipped, pill-popping mother, her fellow nurses, and her various love interests are more plot devices than people. You’ll wish you could have gone to Vegas and placed a bet on the ending—while it’s against all the odds, you’ll see it coming from a mile away.

A dramatic, vividly detailed reconstruction of a little-known aspect of the Vietnam War.

Pub Date: Feb. 6, 2024

ISBN: 9781250178633

Page Count: 480

Publisher: St. Martin's

Review Posted Online: Nov. 4, 2023

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2023

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LONG ISLAND

A moving portrait of rueful middle age and the failure to connect.

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An acclaimed novelist revisits the central characters of his best-known work.

At the end of Brooklyn (2009), Eilis Lacey departed Ireland for the second and final time—headed back to New York and the Italian American husband she had secretly married after first traveling there for work. In her hometown of Enniscorthy, she left behind Jim Farrell, a young man she’d fallen in love with during her visit, and the inevitable gossip about her conduct. Tóibín’s 11th novel introduces readers to Eilis 20 years later, in 1976, still married to Tony Fiorello and living in the titular suburbia with their two teenage children. But Eilis’ seemingly placid existence is disturbed when a stranger confronts her, accusing Tony of having an affair with his wife—now pregnant—and threatening to leave the baby on their doorstep. “She’d known men like this in Ireland,” Tóibín writes. “Should one of them discover that their wife had been unfaithful and was pregnant as a result, they would not have the baby in the house.” This shock sends Eilis back to Enniscorthy for a visit—or perhaps a longer stay. (Eilis’ motives are as inscrutable as ever, even to herself.) She finds the never-married Jim managing his late father’s pub; unbeknownst to Eilis (and the town), he’s become involved with her widowed friend Nancy, who struggles to maintain the family chip shop. Eilis herself appears different to her old friends: “Something had happened to her in America,” Nancy concludes. Although the novel begins with a soap-operatic confrontation—and ends with a dramatic denouement, as Eilis’ fate is determined in a plot twist worthy of Edith Wharton—the author is a master of quiet, restrained prose, calmly observing the mores and mindsets of provincial Ireland, not much changed from the 1950s.

A moving portrait of rueful middle age and the failure to connect.

Pub Date: May 7, 2024

ISBN: 9781476785110

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Scribner

Review Posted Online: Feb. 3, 2024

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2024

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