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VOICES IN THE DEAD HOUSE

From the American Novels series , Vol. 9

A haunting novel that offers candid portraits of literary legends.

Lock’s latest novel reckons honestly with the legacies of two beloved writers.

Lock’s American Novels cycle of books has, since its inception, covered a wide amount of stylistic ground, from the surreal to the philosophical. While a few of the supporting characters in this book overlap with some of Lock’s earlier works, the bulk of it focuses on a few months in the lives of Walt Whitman and Louisa May Alcott, during a period when both were helping wounded Civil War soldiers convalesce. Through the writers’ proximity to the effects of war, Lock depicts both as grappling with their feelings on racial equality and the legacy of slavery in the United States. Each has a distinctive approach, with Alcott wondering whether her commitment to abolition is enough and the famously contradictory Whitman’s transcendentalist reveries occasionally interrupted by his use of bluntly racist language. What makes the novel, particularly its Whitman-centric first half, so gripping is the way in which Lock depicts Whitman’s inner conflict—sometimes offensive, sometimes empathic, and sometimes wounded when he’s called out for his hypocrisy. The legacy of John Brown looms over both Alcott and Whitman, offering an example of someone who turned his ideals into unambiguous actions. Lock also maintains distinctive narrative styles for each of his two narrators, with Alcott’s section memorably beginning with her calling Whitman “a shameless ass” and Whitman himself prone to more poetic reveries, as when he ponders the human cost of war: “I think there is a grand regiment of the dead, which is enlisting men and boys, white and black, from every corner of the nation.”

A haunting novel that offers candid portraits of literary legends.

Pub Date: July 5, 2022

ISBN: 978-1-954276-01-7

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Bellevue Literary Press

Review Posted Online: April 12, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 2022

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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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IT STARTS WITH US

Through palpable tension balanced with glimmers of hope, Hoover beautifully captures the heartbreak and joy of starting over.

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The sequel to It Ends With Us (2016) shows the aftermath of domestic violence through the eyes of a single mother.

Lily Bloom is still running a flower shop; her abusive ex-husband, Ryle Kincaid, is still a surgeon. But now they’re co-parenting a daughter, Emerson, who's almost a year old. Lily won’t send Emerson to her father’s house overnight until she’s old enough to talk—“So she can tell me if something happens”—but she doesn’t want to fight for full custody lest it become an expensive legal drama or, worse, a physical fight. When Lily runs into Atlas Corrigan, a childhood friend who also came from an abusive family, she hopes their friendship can blossom into love. (For new readers, their history unfolds in heartfelt diary entries that Lily addresses to Finding Nemo star Ellen DeGeneres as she considers how Atlas was a calming presence during her turbulent childhood.) Atlas, who is single and running a restaurant, feels the same way. But even though she’s divorced, Lily isn’t exactly free. Behind Ryle’s veneer of civility are his jealousy and resentment. Lily has to plan her dates carefully to avoid a confrontation. Meanwhile, Atlas’ mother returns with shocking news. In between, Lily and Atlas steal away for romantic moments that are even sweeter for their authenticity as Lily struggles with child care, breastfeeding, and running a business while trying to find time for herself.

Through palpable tension balanced with glimmers of hope, Hoover beautifully captures the heartbreak and joy of starting over.

Pub Date: Oct. 18, 2022

ISBN: 978-1-668-00122-6

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Atria

Review Posted Online: July 26, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2022

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