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AS THE ROOSTER CROWS EARTHIAN OKNESS INCREASES

A smart but rambling series of discussions on everything that’s wrong with the world today.

In this novel, an ordinary man gets invited to a series of conferences about saving the world.

As this “experience and research-based” book opens, a man named Henry keeps getting persistent emails from a mysterious organization fronted by Dr. Rout Logger telling him he’s been randomly selected to participate in an unusual series of meetings. These emails are offering Henry $5,000 per meeting to attend a string of group discussions about the survival and well-being of life on the planet. Henry attends the first of these meetings in Louisville, Kentucky, where he learns the leader of each session will be determined by spinning a copper rooster called “The Truther.” The organization behind these sessions is convinced that if humans don’t make “significant changes” in their “feeling, thinking, deciding, and behavior” patterns, the survival of Earth might be in jeopardy. The purpose of the gatherings is to increase human “Okness” in order to prevent this catastrophe. Stapleton kicks all of this off with a preface in which he mentions that “transactional analysis” movements like “I’m OK—You’re OK” and “Life Positions” will be central to his book. He, amazingly, also advises readers unfamiliar with such movements to look them up online. He then proceeds to lecture for 350+ pages. Only nominally is this work a novel; there are no distinct characters, no plot, and no dramatic arcs. Each “Okness” meeting kicks off with a spin of the rooster and then immediately settles into paragraph after paragraph of Stapleton himself, under the paper-thin veneer of his cast, examining “Spaceship Earth” and all the troubles besetting it, from unemployment and the erosion of the middle class to Trumpian politics and climate change. Many readers will find much of the speechifying sage and intriguing with plenty of rich, thought-provoking details. But those coming to this novel for a story will be disappointed.

A smart but rambling series of discussions on everything that’s wrong with the world today.

Pub Date: March 15, 2022

ISBN: 978-0-933594-01-2

Page Count: 356

Publisher: Effective Learning Publications

Review Posted Online: June 20, 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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LONG ISLAND

A moving portrait of rueful middle age and the failure to connect.

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An acclaimed novelist revisits the central characters of his best-known work.

At the end of Brooklyn (2009), Eilis Lacey departed Ireland for the second and final time—headed back to New York and the Italian American husband she had secretly married after first traveling there for work. In her hometown of Enniscorthy, she left behind Jim Farrell, a young man she’d fallen in love with during her visit, and the inevitable gossip about her conduct. Tóibín’s 11th novel introduces readers to Eilis 20 years later, in 1976, still married to Tony Fiorello and living in the titular suburbia with their two teenage children. But Eilis’ seemingly placid existence is disturbed when a stranger confronts her, accusing Tony of having an affair with his wife—now pregnant—and threatening to leave the baby on their doorstep. “She’d known men like this in Ireland,” Tóibín writes. “Should one of them discover that their wife had been unfaithful and was pregnant as a result, they would not have the baby in the house.” This shock sends Eilis back to Enniscorthy for a visit—or perhaps a longer stay. (Eilis’ motives are as inscrutable as ever, even to herself.) She finds the never-married Jim managing his late father’s pub; unbeknownst to Eilis (and the town), he’s become involved with her widowed friend Nancy, who struggles to maintain the family chip shop. Eilis herself appears different to her old friends: “Something had happened to her in America,” Nancy concludes. Although the novel begins with a soap-operatic confrontation—and ends with a dramatic denouement, as Eilis’ fate is determined in a plot twist worthy of Edith Wharton—the author is a master of quiet, restrained prose, calmly observing the mores and mindsets of provincial Ireland, not much changed from the 1950s.

A moving portrait of rueful middle age and the failure to connect.

Pub Date: May 7, 2024

ISBN: 9781476785110

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Scribner

Review Posted Online: Feb. 3, 2024

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2024

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