by Owen Duffy ‧ RELEASE DATE: June 30, 2020
A richly atmospheric, character-driven wilderness thriller.
A disparate group of people encounter unexpected peril in the mountains in this historical novel.
Duffy, the author of The Artichoke Queen (2015), opens his new story in 1946. Francine Lilley is a divorced woman who’s made a long, tedious train voyage from New York City to tiny Braxton, Wyoming, where she’s bought a run-down dude ranch, The Flying U, and intends to reinvent her life by making a go of the place. Also intent on remaking her life is Jessica Quick, who’s come to live with her sister after enduring a broken love affair and a miscarriage, both of which have driven her into a destructive pattern of heavy drinking. Jessica takes a job as cook and general helper at The Flying U, working for the boss of the place, Ed McCann, and hoping someday to be allowed to lead a group of hunters and tourists on a trek into the backcountry around Cutthroat Lake. The novel’s opening third depicts Francine and Jessica’s slow acclimation process and introduces various complications; for example, a group of high-spirited New York friends come to visit Francine and see the Wild West, and a young war veteran named Sonny Trace introduces himself to both Jessica and Francine, the latter of whom thinks that he looks like a gunslinger, “even if the only gunslinger she’d ever seen was in a Hollywood film.” When Ed leads an expedition to the lake that encounters an aggressive grizzly bear, things take a tragic turn.
Duffy’s storytelling is deceptively laconic; by the time Ed’s expedition sets out, readers will be fully invested in the major characters and their various, clashing worlds. The dramatic addition of an almost supernaturally malevolent bear to the proceedings just makes the overall story more compelling. The author makes a wise narrative choice to pull the reader out of the company’s immediate peril and instead focus on Jessica and Sonny as they track them and grow increasingly worried; the suspense is skillfully handled and refreshingly melded with the growing personal attraction between the two latter characters. Duffy adopts a pleasing, quasi-folkloric tone in some of his narration, which fits well with the wild setting; at one point, for example, he stoically writes about a past bear-attack victim: “It had been so cold the man had barely bled, and by the time his fellow hunters got to him, they found him sitting on a log singing a trail song, his bloody exposed teeth whistling in the breeze.” The author carefully manages the pacing in the book’s second half, although some readers may balk at the behavior of the monster grizzly, which sometimes seems more like the shark in Peter Benchley’s Jaws than anything that hikers are likely to encounter in real life. Nonetheless, the human characters are well drawn throughout, and the tension of the climax is so adroitly handled that readers won’t be able to put the book down. Fans of C.J. Box’s and Paul Doiron’s work will likely find this book appealing.A richly atmospheric, character-driven wilderness thriller.
Pub Date: June 30, 2020
Page Count: 232
Publisher: Livingston Press
Review Posted Online: April 30, 2020
Review Program: Kirkus Indie
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by Barbara Kingsolver ‧ RELEASE DATE: Oct. 18, 2022
An angry, powerful book seething with love and outrage for a community too often stereotyped or ignored.
Awards & Accolades
Best Books Of 2022
New York Times Bestseller
Pulitzer Prize Winner
Inspired by David Copperfield, Kingsolver crafts a 21st-century coming-of-age story set in America’s hard-pressed rural South.
It’s not necessary to have read Dickens’ famous novel to appreciate Kingsolver’s absorbing tale, but those who have will savor the tough-minded changes she rings on his Victorian sentimentality while affirming his stinging critique of a heartless society. Our soon-to-be orphaned narrator’s mother is a substance-abusing teenage single mom who checks out via OD on his 11th birthday, and Demon’s cynical, wised-up voice is light-years removed from David Copperfield’s earnest tone. Yet readers also see the yearning for love and wells of compassion hidden beneath his self-protective exterior. Like pretty much everyone else in Lee County, Virginia, hollowed out economically by the coal and tobacco industries, he sees himself as someone with no prospects and little worth. One of Kingsolver’s major themes, hit a little too insistently, is the contempt felt by participants in the modern capitalist economy for those rooted in older ways of life. More nuanced and emotionally engaging is Demon’s fierce attachment to his home ground, a place where he is known and supported, tested to the breaking point as the opiate epidemic engulfs it. Kingsolver’s ferocious indictment of the pharmaceutical industry, angrily stated by a local girl who has become a nurse, is in the best Dickensian tradition, and Demon gives a harrowing account of his descent into addiction with his beloved Dori (as naïve as Dickens’ Dora in her own screwed-up way). Does knowledge offer a way out of this sinkhole? A committed teacher tries to enlighten Demon’s seventh grade class about how the resource-rich countryside was pillaged and abandoned, but Kingsolver doesn’t air-brush his students’ dismissal of this history or the prejudice encountered by this African American outsider and his White wife. She is an art teacher who guides Demon toward self-expression, just as his friend Tommy provokes his dawning understanding of how their world has been shaped by outside forces and what he might be able to do about it.An angry, powerful book seething with love and outrage for a community too often stereotyped or ignored.
Pub Date: Oct. 18, 2022
Page Count: 560
Review Posted Online: July 13, 2022
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2022
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by Nathan Hill ‧ RELEASE DATE: Sept. 26, 2023
A warmhearted satire that chronicles our “perfectly, stupidly, dreadfully elegant” accommodations to life.
A bittersweet novel of love gained, lost, and regained over the course of decades.
“They stare across the alley, into dark apartments, and they don’t know it, but they’re staring at each other.” It’s not an outtake from Hitchcock’s Rear Window but instead the wistful longings of two lonely people. Jack Baker, newly arrived in Chicago from Kansas in the 1990s, is a talented photographer who bristles when practical-minded people ask him what his work is about—to say nothing of why he works with Polaroids, which, a hipster friend reminds him, “are mass-produced, instant, cheap, impermanent.” Yes, and that’s the point, for though Jack comes from the windblown prairie, he’s pretty avant-garde. Elizabeth Augustine is a quadruple major at DePaul, “five majors if you count theater, which I have no talent for but enjoy nonetheless,” and exactly the woman Jack hoped he would meet. Life proceeds: That arty hipster becomes a real estate mogul who plants them in a development very much outside their price range until Elizabeth pulls down the big bucks from the psychological research firm that gives Hill’s latest its simple title. “Basically they were a watchdog group, a subcontractor for the FDA and FTC, sniffing out bullshit,” Hill writes, but Elizabeth, scraping by while Jack pulls down pennies as an adjunct professor, discovers that there’s hay to be made creating bullshit rather than exposing it—making airplane seats narrower, for instance, and then selling once normal-sized seats at a premium. Hill romps through our soufflélike culture with a nice sendup of academic literature and broad jabs at memes ranging from organic food (“one-hundred-percent bioavailable”) to progressive parenting, open marriage, and cult behavior (“Elizabeth knew...that the thing that most effectively strengthened and deepened delusions was being surrounded by people who shared the same delusions”) while delivering a story that suggests that while love may not conquer all, it makes a good start.A warmhearted satire that chronicles our “perfectly, stupidly, dreadfully elegant” accommodations to life.
Pub Date: Sept. 26, 2023
Page Count: 624
Review Posted Online: June 21, 2023
Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2023
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