An engrossing and informative postwar tale with an abundance of intriguing characters.

HARD OF HEALING

From the Ingrid's Wars series , Vol. 2

This second volume of a trilogy continues the saga of a fictional aristocrat as she confronts the chaotic aftermath of World War II.

It is October 1944; the Germans have been pushed out of France; and the Nazi-backed Vichy government has fallen. World War II has ended here in Duchamp, along the Swiss border. But the wounds are still open and festering. Ingrid deVochard Fellner and Dieter Van der Kreuzier are living together in her home, the place where she sexually “entertained” Nazi officers while she hid a constant stream of Jewish refugees in her basement. She and Dieter worked together in the French Resistance. Now, they begin the long and painful task of rebuilding their lives. Ingrid tells readers that she still loves Dieter, “but now I realize we are too shattered in body and soul to celebrate our ‘victory.’ ” Dieter, once a powerful leader of the underground, is blind, the result of a vicious beating after having been arrested by the “Milice, the French Paramilitary Police…created under Vichy leader Pierre Laval.” Ingrid bears her own scars. Right after the liberation, the townspeople of Duchamp, not knowing that Ingrid was in the Resistance, attacked her as a Nazi collaborator, shaving her head and putting her on trial. Although vindicated, she is still the subject of town gossip. In need of a new place to heal, Ingrid heads north in June 1945 to volunteer at a displaced persons camp—“Freiheim”—on the German border in Alsace. Freiheim serves as Book 2’s inflection point, the place where new characters will intersect with the established cast, expanding Ingrid’s cobbled-together family and helping to carry the narrative to 1964. Ingrid is Libby’s (The Resistance Between Us, 2017) articulate, in-the-moment narrator of this compelling tale, which is filled with chilling historical details, many of them revealed through the protagonist’s interviews with European refugees and concentration camp survivors. They arrive at Freiheim broken, locked in the terrors of the past few years, with no hopes for the future. The most poignant and narratively pivotal of these survivors is 11-year-old Maurice Lebenkern. Maurice, who has lost his entire family, will prove to be the vehicle for Dieter’s gradual emotional recovery. Ingrid’s journey is more complex than Dieter’s. She is wrestling with both anger and her guilt for having shot and killed an SS officer in her basement, even though it was in self-defense. The author deftly raises a number of social and political issues in this volume, including the gradual postwar emancipation of Frenchwomen (who did not receive the vote until 1944) and the anti-Semitism that still simmers in Europe (Jewish refugees are assigned to a separate barracks for their own protection). But the bulk of the narrative is relationship driven and heavily emotional. In addition to the complex romance between Dieter and Ingrid, there are several love stories among the more important secondary characters that are engaging, albeit sometimes bordering on melodrama. And Ingrid’s constant mental meanderings and angst in her search for inner peace at times becomes exhausting. Still, with vivid prose and a riveting subject, the story is addictive. Libby’s annotated “Informal Appendix” is a useful linguistic, geographical, historical, and political supplement.

An engrossing and informative postwar tale with an abundance of intriguing characters.

Pub Date: N/A

ISBN: N/A

Page Count: -

Publisher: Mistral Editions

Review Posted Online: Jan. 22, 2020

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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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Dark and unsettling, this novel’s end arrives abruptly even as readers are still moving at a breakneck speed.

THEN SHE WAS GONE

Ten years after her teenage daughter went missing, a mother begins a new relationship only to discover she can't truly move on until she answers lingering questions about the past.

Laurel Mack’s life stopped in many ways the day her 15-year-old daughter, Ellie, left the house to study at the library and never returned. She drifted away from her other two children, Hanna and Jake, and eventually she and her husband, Paul, divorced. Ten years later, Ellie’s remains and her backpack are found, though the police are unable to determine the reasons for her disappearance and death. After Ellie’s funeral, Laurel begins a relationship with Floyd, a man she meets in a cafe. She's disarmed by Floyd’s charm, but when she meets his young daughter, Poppy, Laurel is startled by her resemblance to Ellie. As the novel progresses, Laurel becomes increasingly determined to learn what happened to Ellie, especially after discovering an odd connection between Poppy’s mother and her daughter even as her relationship with Floyd is becoming more serious. Jewell’s (I Found You, 2017, etc.) latest thriller moves at a brisk pace even as she plays with narrative structure: The book is split into three sections, including a first one which alternates chapters between the time of Ellie’s disappearance and the present and a second section that begins as Laurel and Floyd meet. Both of these sections primarily focus on Laurel. In the third section, Jewell alternates narrators and moments in time: The narrator switches to alternating first-person points of view (told by Poppy’s mother and Floyd) interspersed with third-person narration of Ellie’s experiences and Laurel’s discoveries in the present. All of these devices serve to build palpable tension, but the structure also contributes to how deeply disturbing the story becomes. At times, the characters and the emotional core of the events are almost obscured by such quick maneuvering through the weighty plot.

Dark and unsettling, this novel’s end arrives abruptly even as readers are still moving at a breakneck speed.

Pub Date: April 24, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-5011-5464-5

Page Count: 368

Publisher: Atria

Review Posted Online: Feb. 6, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2018

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