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THE DOOR-MAN

A scientifically intriguing, dramatic, and challenging read.

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A historical novel that traces three generations of a New York family involved in a paleontological discovery.  

In 1917, there was a great celebration to honor the opening of the Central Park Reservoir, which received its water from a dammed lake that flooded the Catskills village of Gilboa. Wheelwright’s novel begins in 1993, when the city is decommissioning that same reservoir. Piedmont Livingston Kinsolver III is studying the park from his perch as a doorman at the St. Urban, a luxurious apartment building on Central Park West. He took the position in order to observe the actions of two St. Urban families—the Van Pelts and the DeAngeluses—and several employees at the nearby American Museum of Natural History, all of whom are historically connected to Gilboa. Kinsolver has some family secrets and scores to settle that are also connected to his Gilboa roots. The story rotates back and forth between the 1990s-set tale and the stories of two past generations of Kinsolver’s family. Running concurrent to the twisty tale of family sins is the complicated discussion of the fossils of the “Gilboa Tree,” remnants of an ancient forest believed to date back to the Devonian Period, 350 to 400 million years ago. There’s also an engaging subplot involving the amphibious lungfish—a creature that’s very similar to its Devonian ancestor—that has mysteriously appeared in the reservoir in the ’90s. Kinsolver is the first-person narrator of his own plotline and the third-person narrator of a historical saga that’s so complicated and full of characters and tangled relationships that readers will need great patience to keep track of them all despite the opening lineage chart. Overall, however, Wheelwright is a thoughtful, meticulous writer with a fondness for elegant, if rather lengthy, sentences, and his novel offers melancholic, philosophical musings on the frailties of one of Earth’s other successful species: Homo sapiens.

A scientifically intriguing, dramatic, and challenging read.

Pub Date: Jan. 31, 2022

ISBN: 978-1-953236-47-0

Page Count: 388

Publisher: Fomite

Review Posted Online: March 10, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 2022

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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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ALL FOURS

This tender, strange treatise on getting out from the “prefab structures” of a conventional life is quintessentially July.

A woman set to embark on a cross-country road trip instead drives to a nearby motel and becomes obsessed with a local man.

According to Harris, the husband of the narrator of July’s novel, everyone in life is either a Parker or a Driver. “Drivers,” Harris says, “are able to maintain awareness and engagement even when life is boring.” The narrator knows she’s a Parker, someone who needs “a discrete task that seems impossible, something…for which they might receive applause.” For the narrator, a “semi-famous” bisexual woman in her mid-40s living in Los Angeles, this task is her art; it’s only by haphazard chance that she’s fallen into a traditional straight marriage and motherhood. When the narrator needs to be in New York for work, she decides on a solo road trip as a way of forcing herself to be more of a metaphorical Driver. She makes it all of 30 minutes when, for reasons she doesn’t quite understand, she pulls over in Monrovia. After encountering a man who wipes her windows at a gas station and then chats with her at the local diner, she checks in to a motel, where she begins an all-consuming intimacy with him. For the first time in her life, she feels truly present. But she can only pretend to travel so long before she must go home and figure out how to live the rest of a life that she—that any woman in midlife—has no map for. July’s novel is a characteristically witty, startlingly intimate take on Dante’s “In the middle of life’s journey, I found myself in a dark wood”—if the dark wood were the WebMD site for menopause and a cheap room at the Excelsior Motel.

This tender, strange treatise on getting out from the “prefab structures” of a conventional life is quintessentially July.

Pub Date: May 14, 2024

ISBN: 9780593190265

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Riverhead

Review Posted Online: Feb. 3, 2024

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2024

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