A moving, melancholy story about history, hatred, and the never-ending battle between tolerance and bigotry.

THE INFIDEL NEXT DOOR

Mitra’s sprawling debut novel set in 1989 tells of a Hindu priest who tries to re-establish a temple in conflict-ridden Kashmir and of some of his Muslim neighbors.

“A few memories stay as silent shadows in our lives to haunt us for generations,” this book begins. Indeed, the past weighs on Aditya, a young Hindu priest from Benares, India, as well as on three Kashmiri Muslims: Anwar; his sister, Zeba; and his friend Javed. Aditya is an advocate for the rights of outcasts, although his father tells him that people from the untouchable caste don’t “have feelings and won’t understand gratitude.” As a young man, he’s persuaded by his mentor to go to Kashmir to reopen a Hindu temple that was destroyed by Muslims centuries earlier. Anwar, the son of the imam of a mosque next to the temple ruins, is growing increasingly militant despite his father’s and Javed’s calls for peace and tolerance. But Aditya’s arrival sets the plot in motion; his restoration of the temple angers local Muslims and also irritates the local police, who must keep order. When Zeba develops an obvious crush on Aditya, anger turns to fury, and as a tide of ethnic cleansing rises, the temple is burned and an injured Aditya must flee. Anwar comes to regret his role in the violence, which soon turns on fellow Muslims who aren’t considered radical enough. The accounts of brutality, though not gratuitous, are often difficult to read. But as Mitra unsparingly depicts the crimes committed by Kashmiri Muslims against Hindus, he effectively argues against radicalism in all religions. The characters are sympathetic, and their depictions convey many intricacies of a culture that will likely be unfamiliar to many Americans; that said, a little more background information might have been helpful. As the plot moves toward its conclusion, readers will likely agree with Aditya when he says that “Memory is our only tool against the falsification of history.” Despite all the terrible events depicted in this story, its ending is still faintly hopeful.

A moving, melancholy story about history, hatred, and the never-ending battle between tolerance and bigotry.

Pub Date: N/A

ISBN: N/A

Page Count: -

Publisher: Dog Ear Publisher

Review Posted Online: Feb. 18, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2017

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Miller makes Homer pertinent to women facing 21st-century monsters.

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CIRCE

A retelling of ancient Greek lore gives exhilarating voice to a witch.

“Monsters are a boon for gods. Imagine all the prayers.” So says Circe, a sly, petulant, and finally commanding voice that narrates the entirety of Miller’s dazzling second novel. The writer returns to Homer, the wellspring that led her to an Orange Prize for The Song of Achilles (2012). This time, she dips into The Odyssey for the legend of Circe, a nymph who turns Odysseus’ crew of men into pigs. The novel, with its distinctive feminist tang, starts with the sentence: “When I was born, the name for what I was did not exist.” Readers will relish following the puzzle of this unpromising daughter of the sun god Helios and his wife, Perse, who had negligible use for their child. It takes banishment to the island Aeaea for Circe to sense her calling as a sorceress: “I will not be like a bird bred in a cage, I thought, too dull to fly even when the door stands open. I stepped into those woods and my life began.” This lonely, scorned figure learns herbs and potions, surrounds herself with lions, and, in a heart-stopping chapter, outwits the monster Scylla to propel Daedalus and his boat to safety. She makes lovers of Hermes and then two mortal men. She midwifes the birth of the Minotaur on Crete and performs her own C-section. And as she grows in power, she muses that “not even Odysseus could talk his way past [her] witchcraft. He had talked his way past the witch instead.” Circe’s fascination with mortals becomes the book’s marrow and delivers its thrilling ending. All the while, the supernatural sits intriguingly alongside “the tonic of ordinary things.” A few passages coil toward melodrama, and one inelegant line after a rape seems jarringly modern, but the spell holds fast. Expect Miller’s readership to mushroom like one of Circe’s spells.

Miller makes Homer pertinent to women facing 21st-century monsters.

Pub Date: April 10, 2018

ISBN: 978-0-316-55634-7

Page Count: 400

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: Jan. 23, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2018

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The characters are paper thin, the plot twists mostly telegraphed, but the betting here is that the Baldacci army will once...

DELIVER US FROM EVIL

In Baldacci’s 19th (True Blue, 2009, etc.), boy and girl monster-hunters meet cute.

Evan Waller, aka Fadir Kuchin, aka “the Butcher of Kiev,” aka “the Ukrainian psychopath,” is one of those deep-dyed villains a certain kind of fiction can’t do without. Serving with distinction as part of the Soviet Union’s KGB, he joyfully and indiscriminately killed thousands. Now, many years later, posing as a successful businessman, he’s vacationing in Provence where, unbeknownst to him, two separate clandestine operations are being mounted by people who do not regard him with favor. Reggie Campion—28 and gorgeous—spearheads the first, an ad hoc group of monster-hunting vigilantes. Studly, tall Shaw (no first name supplied) is point guard for a rival team, shadowy enough to leave the matter of its origin ambiguous. While their respective teams reconnoiter and jockey for position, studly boy meets gorgeous girl. Monster-hunters are famous for having trust issues, but clearly these are drawn to each other in the time-honored Hollywood fashion. Shaw saves Reggie’s life. She returns the favor. The attraction deepens and heats up to the point where team-members on both sides grow unsettled by the loss of focus, singularly inopportune since, as monsters go, Waller rises to the second coming of Caligula—ample testimony furnished by a six-page, unsparingly detailed torture scene. In the end, the stalkers strike, bullets fly, screams curdle the blood, love has its innings and a monster does what a monster’s got to do.

The characters are paper thin, the plot twists mostly telegraphed, but the betting here is that the Baldacci army will once again show the stuff it’s made of.

Pub Date: April 20, 2010

ISBN: 978-0-446-56408-3

Page Count: 416

Publisher: Avon A/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Feb. 4, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2010

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