An elegy to love and loss and reconciliation.

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FLAT WATER TUESDAY

Irwin debuts with movingly rendered literary fiction about love and loss, youth and maturity, ambition and its cost.

Rob Carrey is a champion. He’s won prizes propelling a single-seat racing scull with two oars. Carrey’s been recruited for a "post-graduate" high school year by the Fenton School, a posh private Connecticut academy. Carrey, a working-class boy, is alien among legacy children and intends to continue his quest for solitary medals. Instead, he’s drafted to fill a slot in the four-man racing crew. His father’s ambition is that the Fenton sojourn will earn his son entrance to an elite university. There is a second narrative thread with Carrey, in his 30s, no college degree, turned documentary filmmaker. He’s in love with Carolyn, a film editor. Carolyn was once pregnant with Carrey’s child, a baby miscarried while he filmed in Africa. Left shattered by Carrey's response, Carolyn wants to end their relationship just as Carrey confronts the suicide of one of his former racing crew. The narrative segment following young Carrey’s Fenton year is a powerful study of the muddled, stumbling steps from youth into adulthood, a time when Carrey learns "You will lose things....When you do, there will be no river to run to." Other characters shine: Connor, best of the Fenton rowers, scion of wealth, never able to fulfill his family’s ambitions, beautiful and damned in the fashion of a Hemingway hero; Ruth, coxswain, first female to drive the boat, petite, ambitious, focused, yet another boarding-school–rich-family throwaway. Irwin’s descriptions are observant and intimate—"as if the boat had found some kind of grace, like a giant bird expanding its wings." Readers become immersed in the Darwinian cruelty of the young reflected against the loneliness of a lost, jaded teacher, then confront a man finding purpose, and close the book after bathing in a deeply evocative, hope-filled conclusion.

An elegy to love and loss and reconciliation.

Pub Date: June 4, 2013

ISBN: 978-1-250-03003-0

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Dunne/St. Martin's

Review Posted Online: March 16, 2013

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2013

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An exuberant comic opera set to the music of life.

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DEACON KING KONG

The versatile and accomplished McBride (Five Carat Soul, 2017, etc.) returns with a dark urban farce crowded with misjudged signals, crippling sorrows, and unexpected epiphanies.

It's September 1969, just after Apollo 11 and Woodstock. In a season of such events, it’s just as improbable that in front of 16 witnesses occupying the crowded plaza of a Brooklyn housing project one afternoon, a hobbling, dyspeptic, and boozy old church deacon named Cuffy Jasper "Sportcoat" Lambkin should pull out a .45-caliber Luger pistol and shoot off an ear belonging to the neighborhood’s most dangerous drug dealer. The 19-year-old victim’s name is Deems Clemens, and Sportcoat had coached him to be “the best baseball player the projects had ever seen” before he became “a poison-selling murderous meathead.” Everybody in the project presumes that Sportcoat is now destined to violently join his late wife, Hettie, in the great beyond. But all kinds of seemingly disconnected people keep getting in destiny's way, whether it’s Sportcoat’s friend Pork Sausage or Potts, a world-weary but scrupulous white policeman who’s hoping to find Sportcoat fast enough to protect him from not only Deems’ vengeance, but the malevolent designs of neighborhood kingpin Butch Moon. All their destines are somehow intertwined with those of Thomas “The Elephant” Elefante, a powerful but lonely Mafia don who’s got one eye trained on the chaos set off by the shooting and another on a mysterious quest set in motion by a stranger from his crime-boss father’s past. There are also an assortment of salsa musicians, a gentle Nation of Islam convert named Soup, and even a tribe of voracious red ants that somehow immigrated to the neighborhood from Colombia and hung around for generations, all of which seems like too much stuff for any one book to handle. But as he's already shown in The Good Lord Bird (2013), McBride has a flair for fashioning comedy whose buoyant outrageousness barely conceals both a steely command of big and small narrative elements and a river-deep supply of humane intelligence.

An exuberant comic opera set to the music of life.

Pub Date: March 3, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-7352-1672-3

Page Count: 384

Publisher: Riverhead

Review Posted Online: Dec. 9, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2020

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Wingate sheds light on a shameful true story of child exploitation but is less successful in engaging readers in her...

BEFORE WE WERE YOURS

Avery Stafford, a lawyer, descendant of two prominent Southern families and daughter of a distinguished senator, discovers a family secret that alters her perspective on heritage.

Wingate (Sisters, 2016, etc.) shifts the story in her latest novel between present and past as Avery uncovers evidence that her Grandma Judy was a victim of the Tennessee Children’s Home Society and is related to a woman Avery and her father meet when he visits a nursing home. Although Avery is living at home to help her parents through her father’s cancer treatment, she is also being groomed for her own political career. Readers learn that investigating her family’s past is not part of Avery's scripted existence, but Wingate's attempts to make her seem torn about this are never fully developed, and descriptions of her chemistry with a man she meets as she's searching are also unconvincing. Sections describing the real-life orphanage director Georgia Tann, who stole poor children, mistreated them, and placed them for adoption with wealthy clients—including Joan Crawford and June Allyson—are more vivid, as are passages about Grandma Judy and her siblings. Wingate’s fans and readers who enjoy family dramas will find enough to entertain them, and book clubs may enjoy dissecting the relationship and historical issues in the book.

Wingate sheds light on a shameful true story of child exploitation but is less successful in engaging readers in her fictional characters' lives.

Pub Date: June 6, 2017

ISBN: 978-0-425-28468-1

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Ballantine

Review Posted Online: March 21, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2017

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