An often warm, if tonally inconsistent, work about finding inspiration where one least expects it.


In Broome’s debut novel, a nonreligious young woman falls for a charismatic fundamentalist.

Nikki Lowe has been a public school biology teacher in Jackson, Mississippi, for three years, but she’s looking forward to a welcome change of pace: At summer’s end, she’ll start teaching literature at a small university. Her one remaining obligation is to attend a science education seminar, and although her friends tease her that she might meet the man of her dreams there, she laughs it off: “She wasn’t on the rebound after a wrenching breakup. She was neutral, which was to say, she was happy being alone.” However, she ends up meeting a handsome, poetry-quoting man named Cory Thomas at the conference. They hit it off wonderfully during subsequent dates, even after Nikki, who’s not religious, learns that Cory is a devout Christian. “What if he asks me to go to church?” she asks herself, coming to the conclusion that she can “just go through the motions like everyone else.” Things are complicated by the fact that Nikki just recently fought a long battle at her old school with a creationist faculty member who was told that “creationism is not science. It’s faith-based, and it belongs in church, not the state-supported classroom.” One of Nikki’s friends even says that “Christianity hates knowledge. Always has.” However, she sets aside her reservations when Cory invites her to become a nature counselor at Silverbridge, a summer camp that he runs for Christian girls. Nonetheless, plenty of drama ensues.

“I suppose the best description of someone like me is secular humanist, but I don't say that with a great degree of certainty,” Nikki tells the friendly family of Silverbridge’s groundskeeper. “I reserve the right to be spiritual. I love mystery.” Broome does a fine job of providing such mystery for her, and making it believable; he also convincingly portrays the protagonist’s subtle spiritual awakenings during her brief time at Silverbridge, as she teaches a group of young girls and learns about their problems and dreams. The book’s opening feints toward a fairly simple Christian-conversion plot quickly give way to something much more intriguing, as Nikki discovers darkness at Silverbridge. Broome has a smoothly natural narrative voice and a talent for conveying characters with a minimum of fuss and a maximum of believability. Even comparatively minor players—the friend who looks after Nikki’s dog while she’s away, the live-in girlfriend of Nikki’s aunt—are effectively brought to life. Intriguingly, Cory is the only character who never quite seems to ignite, but Nikki herself is such a well-turned figure that this fact isn’t sufficient to sink the book’s latter sections. Some of what unfolds in the second half of the book, which includes shocking violence, verges on excessive melodrama; indeed, that melodrama is a large part of what makes Cory unconvincing as a character. However, the story of Nikki’s development more than compensates for this, making for a compelling reading experience.

An often warm, if tonally inconsistent, work about finding inspiration where one least expects it.

Pub Date: Jan. 4, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-65546-659-5

Page Count: 490

Publisher: Self

Review Posted Online: Oct. 3, 2020

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Unlike baseball, basketball has contributed little to world literature. Call this Exhibit A.


Legal eagle and mystery maven Grisham shifts gears with a novel about roundball.

What possessed Grisham to stop writing about murder in the Spanish moss–dripping milieus of the Deep South is anyone’s guess, and why he elected to write about basketball, one might imagine, speaks to some deep passion for the game. The depth of that love doesn’t quite emerge in these pages, flat of affect, told almost as if a by-the-numbers biography of an actual player. As it is, Grisham invents an all-too-believable hero in Samuel Sooleymon, who plays his way out of South Sudan, a nation wrought by sectarian violence—Sooley is a Dinka, Grisham instructs, of “the largest ethnic class in the country,” pitted against other ethnic groups—and mired in poverty despite the relative opulence of the capital city of Juba, with its “tall buildings, vibrancy, and well-dressed people.” A hard-charging but heart-of-gold coach changes his life when he arrives at the university there, having been dismissed earlier as a “nonshooting guard.” Soon enough Sooley is sinking three-pointers with alarming precision, which lands him a spot on an American college team. Much of the later portion of Grisham’s novel bounces between Sooley’s on-court exploits, jaw-dropping as they are, and his efforts to bring his embattled family, now refugees from civil war, to join him in the U.S.; explains Grisham, again, “Beatrice and her children were Dinka, the largest tribe in South Sudan, and their strongman was supposedly in control of most of the country,” though evidently not the part where they lived. Alas, Sooley, beloved of all, bound for a glorious career in the NBA, falls into the bad company that sudden wealth and fame can bring, and it all comes crashing down in a morality play that has only the virtue of bringing this tired narrative to an end.

Unlike baseball, basketball has contributed little to world literature. Call this Exhibit A.

Pub Date: April 27, 2021

ISBN: 978-0-385-54768-0

Page Count: 368

Publisher: Doubleday

Review Posted Online: March 3, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2021

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The most comforting of comfort-food reading—with a few chills for fun.

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Roberts sticks to formula in this romantic thriller—which should please fans and newcomers alike.

The only daughter of a woman with a wildly successful fitness company, 7-year-old Adrian Rizzo is used to traveling with her mother for videos and photo shoots, the child star of the brand. But everything changes one night when a man breaks into their house, confronts her mother for destroying his marriage, and then dies in a fall down the stairs. Adrian spends the summer with her beloved grandparents, enjoying the idyllic pace of small-town life and making some strong connections. Several years later, teenage Adrian gains the confidence to start her own business with the help of some high school misfits who become her best friends. Fast-forward a few years: Adrian’s grandmother dies in an accident followed by the death of a friend's wife. Adrian decides to move in with her grandfather and to finally make a home. As frequently happens in Roberts’ novels, Adrian's friends all end up living nearby, and they create a loyal, loving network that sees them all through marriage, birth, loss, success, and the other touchstones of maturity. In the background lurks a threat, though: For years, Adrian has been receiving disturbing letters signed only "The Poet," and they begin to arrive more frequently. Adrian’s perfect, messy, successful life—and blossoming relationship—may be in danger from this psychopath, but her friends and family will be there to support and protect her to the happiest of endings. If you're a fan of Roberts’ thrillers, the structure of this novel will bring few surprises, but the familiarity is comforting. Roberts’ strength has always been her ability to create likable, complex characters, and this crew is even more appealing than most—they are never whiny in insecurity or snobbish in success; rather, they provide unwavering support for each other’s ups and downs.

The most comforting of comfort-food reading—with a few chills for fun.

Pub Date: May 25, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-2502-7293-5

Page Count: 448

Publisher: St. Martin's

Review Posted Online: Jan. 27, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2021

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