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WHAT WE GIVE, WHAT WE TAKE

A NOVEL

A very fine novel about a mother’s love and a son’s survival.

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A woman and her son live with bad judgment, bad company, and bad breaks in Triant’s latest novel.

Fay is a water tank escape artist with a sketchy touring show called “Amazing Humans.” She and her teenage son, Dickie, aka Pete Smith, and her loser boyfriend, Johnson, are scraping by in Key West. A letter from her friend Ginny says that the Amazing Humans act has a gig at a rehab place in Vietnam, where there is big money to be made. Off Fay goes, and of course there is no big money to be made, and Vietnam is a dangerous hellhole. She is desperate to get back home, where she has left her son in the dubious care of Johnson. Chuck, her obsessive lover and the owner of Amazing Humans, will not let her break her yearlong contract. But break it she does when a white phosphorous, or “Willie Pete,” device explodes and she winds up back in the States, alive but hideously disfigured and desperate to find Dickie. Meanwhile Dickie flees Key West, winds up in New York City, and eventually makes a sort-of life for himself in Provincetown on Cape Cod with his friend Spin, who has AIDS. Having known only trailers in his youth, Dickie longs for a home that’s not on wheels. Fay, in her transactional world, always comes out on the short end of transactions. In this novel from the author of The Treehouse(2018), the symbolism comes through loud and clear: Fay is an escape artist who can’t escape her circumstances, and Dickie was left with a disability from early polio after his mother rejected the vaccine. Those who expect a feel-good novel to come from all this will be disappointed. But they will be captured by very good writing and wonderful portraits of Fay and Dickie, who eventually achieves one of his dreams—and who, in the last line of the book, reveals something that suggests that he may finally be escaping from his mother’s water tank.

A very fine novel about a mother’s love and a son’s survival.

Pub Date: April 12, 2022

ISBN: 978-1-64742-405-3

Page Count: -

Publisher: She Writes Press

Review Posted Online: Jan. 12, 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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HOME IS WHERE THE BODIES ARE

Answers are hard to come by in this twisting tale designed to trick and delight.

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Three siblings on very different paths learn that their family home may be haunted by secrets.

Eldest daughter Beth is alone with her fading mother as she takes her final breath and says something about Beth’s long-departed brother and sister, who may not have disappeared forever. Beth is still reeling from the loss of her mother when her estranged siblings show up. Michael, the youngest, hasn’t been home since their father’s disappearance seven years ago. In the meantime, he’s outgrown his siblings, trading his share of the family troubles for a high-paying job in San Jose. Nicole, the middle child, has been overpowered by addiction and prioritized tuning out reality over any sense of responsibility, much to Beth’s disgust. Though their mother’s death marks an ending for the family, it’s also a beginning, as the three siblings realize when they find a disturbing videotape among their parents’ belongings. The video, from 1999, sheds suspicion on their father’s disappearance, linking it to a long-unsolved neighborhood mystery. Was it just a series of unfortunate circumstances that broke the family apart, or does something more sinister underlie the sadness they’ve all found in life? In chapters that rotate among the family’s first-person narratives, the siblings take turns digging up stories and secrets in their search for solace.

Answers are hard to come by in this twisting tale designed to trick and delight.

Pub Date: April 30, 2024

ISBN: 9798212182843

Page Count: 270

Publisher: Blackstone

Review Posted Online: Feb. 3, 2024

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2024

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