Despite the borderline pretentious discussions of philosophy and theology, Harrison’s elegant prose and deeply felt...

READ REVIEW

THE FIRST DAY

Irish filmmaker Harrison’s cerebral yet emotional first novel shows how a “brief moment of continuity between two lovers” can have stark and long-lasting consequences.

In 2012 Belfast, deeply religious 38-year-old car mechanic–turned-preacher Samuel Orr, a happily married father of three young sons, falls into a passionate if unlikely affair with 26-year-old Anna Stuart, a Beckett scholar at Queen’s University. Their sexual attraction burns with fervor, but Harrison also wants his readers to view the affair in philosophical terms with his references to Beckett and transgressive literary philosopher Georges Bataille. An academic intellectual with poetic leanings, Anna is drawn to the way Orr sees “no line between the sacred and the profane.” When she becomes pregnant, Orr tells his wife straightforwardly about the affair while acknowledging that he doesn’t know what he plans to do. He continues to see Anna yet remains stalwart in his faith in God and himself. Then Orr’s wife dies—whether accidentally or on purpose is left unclear—when struck by a train. Orr’s oldest son, 12-year-old Philip, begins to demonstrate a quiet fury against his father; Anna senses the boy embodies his father’s sense of guilt. When Anna’s baby, named Samuel after both Beckett and Orr, is almost a year old, Orr breaks off their relationship. Philip’s rage against his father becomes psychological warfare that culminates in violence. Cut ahead 35 years to a near, non–science-fiction future. Philip has disappeared. Anna has become an accomplished poet and married an artist. Sam Orr works at New York’s Metropolitan Museum of Art and has brought his father, Samuel, now a blind old man, from Ireland to live with him. One day Philip shows up at the museum, and the careful world Sam, a repressed gay man, has erected shatters. The three Orrs must face their capacity for faith, vengeance, and forgiveness as well as their bonds of family love.

Despite the borderline pretentious discussions of philosophy and theology, Harrison’s elegant prose and deeply felt characters create a novel with a fiercely beating heart.

Pub Date: Oct. 24, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-328-84966-3

Page Count: 224

Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt

Review Posted Online: Aug. 6, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2017

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet

A strongly felt, if not terribly gripping, sendoff for a Turow favorite nearly 35 years after his appearance in Presumed...

Our Verdict

  • Our Verdict
  • GET IT

  • New York Times Bestseller

  • IndieBound Bestseller

THE LAST TRIAL

Trying his final case at 85, celebrated criminal defense lawyer Sandy Stern defends a Nobel-winning doctor and longtime friend whose cancer wonder drug saved Stern's life but subsequently led to the deaths of others.

Federal prosecutors are charging the eminent doctor, Kiril Pafko, with murder, fraud, and insider trading. An Argentine émigré like Stern, Pafko is no angel. His counselor is certain he sold stock in the company that produced the drug, g-Livia, before users' deaths were reported. The 78-year-old Nobelist is a serial adulterer whose former and current lovers have strong ties to the case. Working for one final time alongside his daughter and proficient legal partner, Marta, who has announced she will close the firm and retire along with her father following the case, Stern must deal not only with "senior moments" before Chief Judge Sonya "Sonny" Klonsky, but also his physical frailty. While taking a deep dive into the ups and downs of a complicated big-time trial, Turow (Testimony, 2017, etc.) crafts a love letter to his profession through his elegiac appreciation of Stern, who has appeared in all his Kindle County novels. The grandly mannered attorney (his favorite response is "Just so") has dedicated himself to the law at great personal cost. But had he not spent so much of his life inside courtrooms, "He never would have known himself." With its bland prosecutors, frequent focus on technical details like "double-blind clinical trials," and lack of real surprises, the novel likely will disappoint some fans of legal thrillers. But this smoothly efficient book gains timely depth through its discussion of thorny moral issues raised by a drug that can extend a cancer sufferer's life expectancy at the risk of suddenly ending it.

A strongly felt, if not terribly gripping, sendoff for a Turow favorite nearly 35 years after his appearance in Presumed Innocent.

Pub Date: May 12, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-5387-4813-8

Page Count: 448

Publisher: Grand Central Publishing

Review Posted Online: Feb. 10, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2020

Did you like this book?

With humor and insight, Straub creates a family worth rooting for.

ALL ADULTS HERE

When Astrid Strick witnesses a school bus run over a longtime acquaintance of hers—Barbara Baker, a woman she doesn't like very much—it's only the beginning of the shake-ups to come in her life and the lives of those she loves.

Astrid has been tootling along contentedly in the Hudson Valley town of Clapham, New York, a 68-year-old widow with three grown children. After many years of singlehood since her husband died, she's been quietly seeing Birdie Gonzalez, her hairdresser, for the past two years, and after Barbara's death she determines to tell her children about the relationship: "There was no time to waste, not in this life. There were always more school buses." Elliot, her oldest, who's in real estate, lives in Clapham with his wife, Wendy, who's Chinese American, and their twins toddlers, Aidan and Zachary, who are "such hellions that only a fool would willingly ask for more." Astrid's daughter, Porter, owns a nearby farm producing artisanal goat cheese and has just gotten pregnant through a sperm bank while having an affair with her married high school boyfriend. Nicky, the youngest Strick, is disconcertingly famous for having appeared in an era-defining movie when he was younger and now lives in Brooklyn with his French wife, Juliette, and their daughter, Cecelia, who's being shipped up to live with Astrid for a while after her friend got mixed up with a pedophile she met online. As always, Straub (Modern Lovers, 2016, etc.) draws her characters warmly, making them appealing in their self-centeredness and generosity, their insecurity and hope. The cast is realistically diverse, though in most ways it's fairly superficial; the fact that Birdie is Latina or Porter's obstetrician is African American doesn't have much impact on the story or their characters. Cecelia's new friend, August, wants to make the transition to Robin; that storyline gets more attention, with the two middle schoolers supporting each other through challenging times. The Stricks worry about work, money, sex, and gossip; Straub has a sharp eye for her characters' foibles and the details of their liberal, upper-middle-class milieu.

With humor and insight, Straub creates a family worth rooting for.

Pub Date: May 5, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-59463-469-7

Page Count: 368

Publisher: Riverhead

Review Posted Online: Feb. 10, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2020

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet
more