An engaging World War II novel featuring diverse prose styles about a man in search of spiritual peace and the granddaughter...

THE FAR SHORE

A woman leaves her dreary office life behind in search of her grandfather and his fortune.

This debut novel from veteran screenwriter Scheuring is an ambitious, sprawling literary project split between World War II and contemporary times. In the present day, Lily Allen, an overweight office drone with a penchant for Coors Light and Klondike bars, spends her days in quiet desperation, waiting for something to shake up her life. Bruce Sherwood, an heir finder, knocks on her door to do just that. She stands to inherit $16 million from her grandfather Gray Allen. The catch: Gray went missing in action during World War II, and she must track down his remains to prove he is dead in order to inherit. So Lily, with moral and financial support from Bruce, begins an adventure across the globe to find out what became of her grandfather. From the moment this mission begins, the tale becomes Gray’s story more than Lily’s. Scheuring initially leads the reader to think Gray is a violent, malevolent man during an extraordinary (indeed, almost impossible, historically speaking) journey through the Normandy invasion, the fall of Berlin, the Pacific theater, a Japanese internment camp, and the Nagasaki bombing. In a surprising turn, Lily discovers that her grandfather became some kind of quasi-Buddhist, living like a hermit in Malaysia. Gray’s saga is like a World War II fusion of Siddhartha and Apocalypse Now, with a protagonist hunting a character who found enlightenment in the darkness of war. Lily learns about Gray’s war experiences through a series of letters, interviews, and fortuitous finds. Scheuring uses each leg of Gray’s odyssey to dabble in different narrative styles: epistolary, extended monologue, stream of consciousness. The author writes in some styles better than others. Lily’s Joycean meandering would have benefitted from some extensive trimming. Scheuring’s prose about the war in the Pacific, however, is vibrant, if often digressive (“Strange thing it is to have hillsides fire at you. You return fire, but you feel like you’re fighting the earth itself”). The author displays an obvious knack for writing about battles, and the book should please military fiction fans.

An engaging World War II novel featuring diverse prose styles about a man in search of spiritual peace and the granddaughter who needs to find him.

Pub Date: March 7, 2017

ISBN: N/A

Page Count: 443

Publisher: One Light Road

Review Posted Online: Feb. 27, 2017

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

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DEVOLUTION

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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Despite some distractions, there’s an irresistible charm to Owens’ first foray into nature-infused romantic fiction.

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WHERE THE CRAWDADS SING

A wild child’s isolated, dirt-poor upbringing in a Southern coastal wilderness fails to shield her from heartbreak or an accusation of murder.

“The Marsh Girl,” “swamp trash”—Catherine “Kya” Clark is a figure of mystery and prejudice in the remote North Carolina coastal community of Barkley Cove in the 1950s and '60s. Abandoned by a mother no longer able to endure her drunken husband’s beatings and then by her four siblings, Kya grows up in the careless, sometimes-savage company of her father, who eventually disappears, too. Alone, virtually or actually, from age 6, Kya learns both to be self-sufficient and to find solace and company in her fertile natural surroundings. Owens (Secrets of the Savanna, 2006, etc.), the accomplished co-author of several nonfiction books on wildlife, is at her best reflecting Kya’s fascination with the birds, insects, dappled light, and shifting tides of the marshes. The girl’s collections of shells and feathers, her communion with the gulls, her exploration of the wetlands are evoked in lyrical phrasing which only occasionally tips into excess. But as the child turns teenager and is befriended by local boy Tate Walker, who teaches her to read, the novel settles into a less magical, more predictable pattern. Interspersed with Kya’s coming-of-age is the 1969 murder investigation arising from the discovery of a man’s body in the marsh. The victim is Chase Andrews, “star quarterback and town hot shot,” who was once Kya’s lover. In the eyes of a pair of semicomic local police officers, Kya will eventually become the chief suspect and must stand trial. By now the novel’s weaknesses have become apparent: the monochromatic characterization (good boy Tate, bad boy Chase) and implausibilities (Kya evolves into a polymath—a published writer, artist, and poet), yet the closing twist is perhaps its most memorable oddity.

Despite some distractions, there’s an irresistible charm to Owens’ first foray into nature-infused romantic fiction.

Pub Date: Aug. 14, 2018

ISBN: 978-0-7352-1909-0

Page Count: 384

Publisher: Putnam

Review Posted Online: May 15, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 2018

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