A heartbreakingly beautiful drama about the wages of survival.



This final installment of a historical fiction trilogy chronicles the travails of a family uprooted from its Czech home during World War II.

In 1940, Sophie Kohut’s predicament is grim. Having fled Prague, she now lives in London with her 4-year-old son, Pavel, under the constant threat of German air raids. In addition, she’s at perpetual loggerheads with her in-laws, with whom she lodges, Emil and Judit, well-intentioned but also imperious, intrusive, and endlessly judgmental. Meanwhile, Sophie’s husband, Willy, a soldier in the Czechoslovak Army-in-Exile, is stationed in Malpas. He is part of a group of “mutineers” disgruntled by their shameful mistreatment—especially Jews, like Willy, who are ostracized by the British-recognized Czech president, Edvard Beneš. The London Blitz only grows worse, and as a consequence, Emil turns to family friend George Kindell to help him relocate the Kohuts to safer territory. George agrees to orchestrate their flight to Cambridge and even promises to help Willy join the British army, but only if he will vigilantly gather information on Communist sympathizers in his ranks, especially one particularly brutal sort, Leopold Povídka. The family members are ultimately scattered despite their best efforts to remain together—Willy to serve in the British Royal Engineers, Sophie to run a cafe, and young Pavel to live with other children out in the country under the hateful tutelage of his custodian, Mrs. McAlistair. Curtis (Café Budapest, 2018, etc.) magisterially captures the toll war inevitably takes on even the strongest families, a lesson powerfully expressed by Sophie when her frustration with her disapproving in-laws reaches a tipping point: “I admit I’ve changed—just like you. I’m no longer obedient or perfectly behaved—but Willy, Pavel, and I survived. Nazis, hunger, fear, not knowing what to do next.” In addition, Pavel’s callow naiveté supplies a unique roost from which to view human degradation. Like the protagonist in Imre Kertesz’s Fatelessness, he’s totally unencumbered by ideology or historical identity and so experiences his suffering from a perch of unvarnished innocence. Curtis continues to artfully braid literary poignancy with potent historical witness in this achingly realistic tale.

A heartbreakingly beautiful drama about the wages of survival. 

Pub Date: N/A


Page Count: 465

Publisher: Kurti Publishing

Review Posted Online: Oct. 31, 2019

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


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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Kin “[find] each other’s lives inscrutable” in this rich, sharp story about the way identity is formed.

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Inseparable identical twin sisters ditch home together, and then one decides to vanish.

The talented Bennett fuels her fiction with secrets—first in her lauded debut, The Mothers (2016), and now in the assured and magnetic story of the Vignes sisters, light-skinned women parked on opposite sides of the color line. Desiree, the “fidgety twin,” and Stella, “a smart, careful girl,” make their break from stultifying rural Mallard, Louisiana, becoming 16-year-old runaways in 1954 New Orleans. The novel opens 14 years later as Desiree, fleeing a violent marriage in D.C., returns home with a different relative: her 8-year-old daughter, Jude. The gossips are agog: “In Mallard, nobody married dark....Marrying a dark man and dragging his blueblack child all over town was one step too far.” Desiree's decision seals Jude’s misery in this “colorstruck” place and propels a new generation of flight: Jude escapes on a track scholarship to UCLA. Tending bar as a side job in Beverly Hills, she catches a glimpse of her mother’s doppelgänger. Stella, ensconced in White society, is shedding her fur coat. Jude, so Black that strangers routinely stare, is unrecognizable to her aunt. All this is expertly paced, unfurling before the book is half finished; a reader can guess what is coming. Bennett is deeply engaged in the unknowability of other people and the scourge of colorism. The scene in which Stella adopts her White persona is a tour de force of doubling and confusion. It calls up Toni Morrison’s The Bluest Eye, the book's 50-year-old antecedent. Bennett's novel plays with its characters' nagging feelings of being incomplete—for the twins without each other; for Jude’s boyfriend, Reese, who is trans and seeks surgery; for their friend Barry, who performs in drag as Bianca. Bennett keeps all these plot threads thrumming and her social commentary crisp. In the second half, Jude spars with her cousin Kennedy, Stella's daughter, a spoiled actress.

Kin “[find] each other’s lives inscrutable” in this rich, sharp story about the way identity is formed.

Pub Date: June 2, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-525-53629-1

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Riverhead

Review Posted Online: March 15, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2020

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