A vivid and unusual era and setting help this wartime love story stand out.

UNCERTAIN LUCK

In this novel, a young woman searches for her missing father in Tokyo—only to fall in love with an American soldier on leave from the Vietnam War.

It is 1969, and even Japan has not escaped the Vietnam War controversy. Emiko Ozeki’s father, Hiroji, has disappeared in Tokyo while aiding young people protesting the conflict. Those in her small, snowy town of Kitayama already consider him a jōhatsu, or one of the “evaporated people”—folks so overwhelmed by the pressures of society and families they simply leave their lives behind. When Emiko’s mother dies, she goes to Tokyo to track down her father, but with little money and few leads, she finds herself among many of the city’s less savory characters, from serving girls instructed to “talk cute” by their yakuza bosses to criminal imperialists and glue-sniffing delinquents. But she also meets Juan, an American GI from Puerto Rico who has been sent to Japan on medical leave after being injured while fighting in Vietnam. He reminds her of her father, and they fall swiftly in love. But they can stay together only if they leave Japan, Juan going AWOL and Emiko abandoning her hunt for Hiroji. Or they can put off their love until Juan’s service in the war is over, leaving their future in fate’s uncertain hands. Keech’s book presents a post–World War II Tokyo that is no longer in lockstep with America, with New Left, anti-war movements like the Beheiren offering readers a view of Japan in the 1970s many may not have considered. Emiko is a strong, independent, and clever protagonist, using her wits to try to find her father and outsmart the radicals and criminals on the edges of this new, harsher world outside Kitayama. But the story struggles when it leaves Japan, as the setting and dangers faced by Juan in Vietnam never come to life quite like the streets and trains of Tokyo do. The war-torn jungles seem less frightening than, say, Emiko’s imperialist boss or the gangster she winds up owing money. Thankfully, this digression only accounts for a small portion of the novel. And though wartime romances are obviously not rare, the historical and political impacts of Vietnam on Japan as depicted here make for unique challenges for a charming pair of lovers.

A vivid and unusual era and setting help this wartime love story stand out.

Pub Date: Oct. 1, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-73305-249-8

Page Count: 324

Publisher: Real Nice Books

Review Posted Online: Oct. 27, 2020

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For devoted Hannah fans in search of a good cry.

THE FOUR WINDS

The miseries of the Depression and Dust Bowl years shape the destiny of a Texas family.

“Hope is a coin I carry: an American penny, given to me by a man I came to love. There were times in my journey when I felt as if that penny and the hope it represented were the only things that kept me going.” We meet Elsa Wolcott in Dalhart, Texas, in 1921, on the eve of her 25th birthday, and wind up with her in California in 1936 in a saga of almost unrelieved woe. Despised by her shallow parents and sisters for being sickly and unattractive—“too tall, too thin, too pale, too unsure of herself”—Elsa escapes their cruelty when a single night of abandon leads to pregnancy and forced marriage to the son of Italian immigrant farmers. Though she finds some joy working the land, tending the animals, and learning her way around Mama Rose's kitchen, her marriage is never happy, the pleasures of early motherhood are brief, and soon the disastrous droughts of the 1930s drive all the farmers of the area to despair and starvation. Elsa's search for a better life for her children takes them out west to California, where things turn out to be even worse. While she never overcomes her low self-esteem about her looks, Elsa displays an iron core of character and courage as she faces dust storms, floods, hunger riots, homelessness, poverty, the misery of migrant labor, bigotry, union busting, violent goons, and more. The pedantic aims of the novel are hard to ignore as Hannah embodies her history lesson in what feels like a series of sepia-toned postcards depicting melodramatic scenes and clichéd emotions.

For devoted Hannah fans in search of a good cry.

Pub Date: Feb. 9, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-2501-7860-2

Page Count: 464

Publisher: St. Martin's

Review Posted Online: Nov. 18, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2020

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A whimsical fantasy about learning what’s important in life.

THE MIDNIGHT LIBRARY

An unhappy woman who tries to commit suicide finds herself in a mysterious library that allows her to explore new lives.

How far would you go to address every regret you ever had? That’s the question at the heart of Haig’s latest novel, which imagines the plane between life and death as a vast library filled with books detailing every existence a person could have. Thrust into this mysterious way station is Nora Seed, a depressed and desperate woman estranged from her family and friends. Nora has just lost her job, and her cat is dead. Believing she has no reason to go on, she writes a farewell note and takes an overdose of antidepressants. But instead of waking up in heaven, hell, or eternal nothingness, she finds herself in a library filled with books that offer her a chance to experience an infinite number of new lives. Guided by Mrs. Elm, her former school librarian, she can pull a book from the shelf and enter a new existence—as a country pub owner with her ex-boyfriend, as a researcher on an Arctic island, as a rock star singing in stadiums full of screaming fans. But how will she know which life will make her happy? This book isn't heavy on hows; you won’t need an advanced degree in quantum physics or string theory to follow its simple yet fantastical logic. Predicting the path Nora will ultimately choose isn’t difficult, either. Haig treats the subject of suicide with a light touch, and the book’s playful tone will be welcome to readers who like their fantasies sweet if a little too forgettable.

A whimsical fantasy about learning what’s important in life.

Pub Date: Sept. 29, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-52-555947-4

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Viking

Review Posted Online: July 14, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2020

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