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FENDER HEAD

An engaging, unusual fugitive tale mixing bloodshed and quirky humor with a provocative ending.

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A novel traces the life of a World War II German soldier who escapes from a prisoner-of-war camp on Michigan’s Upper Peninsula, eventually assuming an alias and becoming a career officer in the American military.

McEvilla’s prologue lays out the key elements of the plotline, telling readers up front where the story will go and signaling that a secret remains after the final page is read. The narrative then details the strange adventures of a man trying to blend into a country and culture he had once vowed to defeat. In January 1945, 20-something Lothar Laumer, a former paratrooper with sworn allegiance to Hitler, has one goal—to get out of a Michigan POW camp and reach his half brother in Milwaukee. He and two camp mates escape via a tunnel and begin trudging through subzero temperatures and a snowstorm. Laumer spots a service station manned by an attendant refueling a car. Leaving his two compatriots on the road, Laumer kills the attendant by smashing his head with a rock, steals the car, and leaves his fellow escapees to fend for themselves. He is now not only a runaway POW, but also a murderer. During the next two days, Laumer acquires a gun, loses his car in a landslide, and winds up traveling miles on a pair of skis. At a highway intersection, he is struck by a car driven by Emma, a blond woman who brings him back to her isolated cabin in the woods. McEvilla has assigned himself the task of keeping readers interested in an unlikable protagonist who is excited by violence and danger. The author succeeds by burdening Laumer with an obsessive fear of being caught, challenging him with the difficulties of learning American colloquialisms (most of which amusingly involve baseball), and placing him in a situation in which he is totally dominated by a powerful, fiercely independent, and eccentric woman. Their ensuing relationship is the most tender part of the novel and results in the gradual conversion of Laumer into Sgt. Vincent Vanderjack, aka “The Dutchman,” who serves in the American military.

An engaging, unusual fugitive tale mixing bloodshed and quirky humor with a provocative ending.

Pub Date: Feb. 17, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-95-480402-9

Page Count: 301

Publisher: Global Publishing Group LLC

Review Posted Online: April 29, 2021

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  • New York Times Bestseller

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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.

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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