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CUYAHOGA

An improbable, downright preposterous yarn ably spun and a great entertainment for a time in need of laughter.

A rambling shaggy dog tale of the frontier that, 200-odd years ago, lay just across the Appalachians.

In the winter of 1828, chronicles native son Beatty, Cleveland lay on the eastern shore of the Cuyahoga River while on the bluff opposite lay the wild territory called Ohio City. Its champion is a Paul Bunyan–esque character called Big Son, “his shoulders wide as ox yokes,” who “drank a barrel of whiskey and belched fire….Ate a thousand pan cakes and asked for seconds. Drained swamps and cut roads etc. More feats than I have got numbers to count up.” So relates his younger brother, Medium Son, who lives in Big’s shadow and recounts his many adventures and misadventures while living some of his own, unfolding in a narrative reminiscent of Thomas Berger’s Little Big Man and Charles Portis’ The Dog of the South, both parodic and earnest. The other residents of Ohio City are legendary in their own rights, including grizzled Revolutionary War veterans, swaggerers and swindlers, rival titans, and a certain John Appleseed Chapman, who “dressed in such rags that you could see through to his privates” and is exceedingly careless of both personal hygiene and ordinary decency. Meed, as the younger brother is known, records his brother’s Herculean deeds in every weather—“He somehow took sick with the hog cholera himself and puked enough to drown a horse,” he relates, which he allows is a lesser feat than the usual boulder-tossing and element-wrassling that fills his pages. The lighthearted tale takes a serious turn when Big builds a messy bridge across a river that, says Meed, “is mostly water with some dirt and fishes mixed in,” a bridge that lets settlers swarm like fleas on the far shore and sets a plot in motion to undo Big’s creation, adding mayhem to a narrative that constantly threatens to spin out of control but that Beatty guides to a satisfying, surprising end.

An improbable, downright preposterous yarn ably spun and a great entertainment for a time in need of laughter.

Pub Date: Oct. 6, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-982155-55-1

Page Count: 272

Publisher: Scribner

Review Posted Online: July 13, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2020

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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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HOME IS WHERE THE BODIES ARE

Answers are hard to come by in this twisting tale designed to trick and delight.

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Three siblings on very different paths learn that their family home may be haunted by secrets.

Eldest daughter Beth is alone with her fading mother as she takes her final breath and says something about Beth’s long-departed brother and sister, who may not have disappeared forever. Beth is still reeling from the loss of her mother when her estranged siblings show up. Michael, the youngest, hasn’t been home since their father’s disappearance seven years ago. In the meantime, he’s outgrown his siblings, trading his share of the family troubles for a high-paying job in San Jose. Nicole, the middle child, has been overpowered by addiction and prioritized tuning out reality over any sense of responsibility, much to Beth’s disgust. Though their mother’s death marks an ending for the family, it’s also a beginning, as the three siblings realize when they find a disturbing videotape among their parents’ belongings. The video, from 1999, sheds suspicion on their father’s disappearance, linking it to a long-unsolved neighborhood mystery. Was it just a series of unfortunate circumstances that broke the family apart, or does something more sinister underlie the sadness they’ve all found in life? In chapters that rotate among the family’s first-person narratives, the siblings take turns digging up stories and secrets in their search for solace.

Answers are hard to come by in this twisting tale designed to trick and delight.

Pub Date: April 30, 2024

ISBN: 9798212182843

Page Count: 270

Publisher: Blackstone

Review Posted Online: Feb. 3, 2024

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2024

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