An emotional, visceral exploration of desire.

BLACKJACK 22

MODERN POETRY

A sensual meditation on the nature of love in prose poetry form.

Robert Deshaies’ collection of modern poetry starts on a steamy note between two lovers: “You caress me as your curves rhythmically move with synchronous motion of your words.” In subsequent poems, the narrators wonder if they will find love again, if they have reached their breaking point, and if love is stronger than hate. They warn, “I need you, but I won’t be your forever.” On their birthday, they run into a one-night stand. In another poem, they describe the agony of sobering up: “As I lie in the corner, cradled, I shiver and squirm like a fly plucked of its wings, helpless.” The dark side of the narrator’s passion is their anger. It plagues them, and “at times the monster needs to be set free.” The narrator rails against a man named Frank, for whom “brutality was your only way to get out.” Ultimately, however, the author, a self-described “hopeless romantic,” returns to love. In an afterword, he urges readers to “try to love, for without it, we are immoral and desolate creatures living a life void of happiness.” Deshaies’ language is visceral, evident in phrases like “you bite and gnaw at my flesh,” and “Her glance bites me, a snake wandering the unknown field.” He poignantly describes his feelings, like disappointment, in apt, although sometimes clichéd, metaphors: “I expected a garden when you only grew a flower.” But the reader has little sense of who the “I” speaking throughout is or who the “you” addressed in these poems is; the reader feels they are peeking into a stranger’s diary. Scene-setting is scant, leaving the reader a bit unmoored. The poems are interspersed with stunning black-and-white nude photographs by Joseph Deshaies and black-and-white illustrations by Dawnmarie Deshaies.

An emotional, visceral exploration of desire. (afterword, author bio)

Pub Date: June 4, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-64654-561-2

Page Count: 76

Publisher: Fulton Books

Review Posted Online: Feb. 12, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2021

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If novelists are auditioning to play God, Hilderbrand gets the part.

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GOLDEN GIRL

From the greenroom of the afterlife—make that Benjamin Moore "Parsley Snips" green—a newly dead Nantucket novelist watches life unfold without her.

In her 27th novel, Hilderbrand gives herself an alter ego—beloved beach-novel author Vivian Howe—sends her out for a morning jog, and immediately kills her off. A hit-and-run driver leaves Vivi dead by the side of the road, where her son's best friend discovers her body—or was he responsible for the accident? Vivi doesn't know, nor does she know yet that her daughter Willa is pregnant, or that her daughter Carson is having a terribly ill-advised affair, or that her son, Leo, has a gnawing secret, or that her ex is getting tired of the girl he dumped her for. She will discover all this and more as she watches one last summer on Nantucket play out under the tutelage of Martha, her "Person," who receives her in the boho-chic waiting room of the Beyond. Hermès-scarved Martha explains that Vivi will have three nudges—three chances to change the course of events on Earth and prevent her bereaved loved ones from making life-altering mistakes. She will also get to watch the publication of what will be her last novel, titled Golden Girl, natch, and learn the answers to two questions: Will the secret about her own life she buried in this novel come to light (who cares, really—she's dead now), and will it hit No. 1 on the New York Times bestseller list (now there's an interesting question). She'll also get to see that one of her biggest wrongs is posthumously righted and that her kids have learned her most important lesson. As Willa says to Carson, "You know how she treats the characters in her books? She gives them flaws, she portrays them doing horrible things—but the reader loves them anyway. Because Mom loves them. Because they’re human.”

If novelists are auditioning to play God, Hilderbrand gets the part.

Pub Date: June 1, 2021

ISBN: 978-0-31642008-2

Page Count: 384

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: May 5, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2021

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Unlike baseball, basketball has contributed little to world literature. Call this Exhibit A.

SOOLEY

Legal eagle and mystery maven Grisham shifts gears with a novel about roundball.

What possessed Grisham to stop writing about murder in the Spanish moss–dripping milieus of the Deep South is anyone’s guess, and why he elected to write about basketball, one might imagine, speaks to some deep passion for the game. The depth of that love doesn’t quite emerge in these pages, flat of affect, told almost as if a by-the-numbers biography of an actual player. As it is, Grisham invents an all-too-believable hero in Samuel Sooleymon, who plays his way out of South Sudan, a nation wrought by sectarian violence—Sooley is a Dinka, Grisham instructs, of “the largest ethnic class in the country,” pitted against other ethnic groups—and mired in poverty despite the relative opulence of the capital city of Juba, with its “tall buildings, vibrancy, and well-dressed people.” A hard-charging but heart-of-gold coach changes his life when he arrives at the university there, having been dismissed earlier as a “nonshooting guard.” Soon enough Sooley is sinking three-pointers with alarming precision, which lands him a spot on an American college team. Much of the later portion of Grisham’s novel bounces between Sooley’s on-court exploits, jaw-dropping as they are, and his efforts to bring his embattled family, now refugees from civil war, to join him in the U.S.; explains Grisham, again, “Beatrice and her children were Dinka, the largest tribe in South Sudan, and their strongman was supposedly in control of most of the country,” though evidently not the part where they lived. Alas, Sooley, beloved of all, bound for a glorious career in the NBA, falls into the bad company that sudden wealth and fame can bring, and it all comes crashing down in a morality play that has only the virtue of bringing this tired narrative to an end.

Unlike baseball, basketball has contributed little to world literature. Call this Exhibit A.

Pub Date: April 27, 2021

ISBN: 978-0-385-54768-0

Page Count: 368

Publisher: Doubleday

Review Posted Online: March 3, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2021

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