LEAVING

Elegantly structured and written, shimmering with feeling and truth. A triumph.

Forty years after their breakup, lovers run into each other at intermission in the opera house, and nothing will ever be the same.

Warren Jennings and Sarah Watson dated in their youth, but between the miles separating their colleges, a silly but fatal misunderstanding, and a new face on the horizon, she chose to end the relationship. By the time they reconnect, he is long married, living near Boston, a successful architect. She is divorced, a grandmother, on her own in Westchester County. After they serendipitously meet at a performance of Tosca in New York City, the error of their separation is quickly evident and they begin an affair. To them, it feels less like adultery than a course correction, likely to lead to the greater happiness of all. But as Warren will one day explain to his wife, Janet, “In an opera, the tragedy involves passion and honor,” and so it is here, with passion and honor at odds, and the irrevocable responsibilities and emotions of parenthood complicating the situation in unforeseen ways. “They’re sort of at the heart of everything now,” says Sarah, speaking of her adult children. “…We’re marginal. At sixty.” “But that’s not how I feel,” Warren replies, his whole being rekindled by the force of this unexpected, ferocious emotion. Every character and relationship in the two families is beautifully drawn, in sentences that manage to be both spare and rich at once. Also in play is the power of art to give our lives shape and meaning: Tosca, Virginia Woolf’s Mrs. Ramsay, and the paintings of the Bloomsbury Group add texture to the story. As the novel builds toward its operatic conclusion, Robinson’s profound, complex depiction of family relationships and responsibilities and the difficult choices they entail will resonate with readers in every phase of their own lives.

Elegantly structured and written, shimmering with feeling and truth. A triumph.

Pub Date: Feb. 13, 2024

ISBN: 9781324065388

Page Count: 344

Publisher: Norton

Review Posted Online: Dec. 6, 2023

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2024

THE WOMEN

A dramatic, vividly detailed reconstruction of a little-known aspect of the Vietnam War.

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

Awards & Accolades

Likes

  • Readers Vote
  • 32


Our Verdict

  • Our Verdict
  • GET IT


  • Kirkus Reviews'
    Best Books Of 2022


  • New York Times Bestseller


  • Pulitzer Prize Winner

DEMON COPPERHEAD

An angry, powerful book seething with love and outrage for a community too often stereotyped or ignored.

Awards & Accolades

Likes

  • Readers Vote
  • 32


Our Verdict

  • Our Verdict
  • GET IT


  • Kirkus Reviews'
    Best Books Of 2022


  • New York Times Bestseller


  • Pulitzer Prize Winner

Inspired by David Copperfield, Kingsolver crafts a 21st-century coming-of-age story set in America’s hard-pressed rural South.

It’s not necessary to have read Dickens’ famous novel to appreciate Kingsolver’s absorbing tale, but those who have will savor the tough-minded changes she rings on his Victorian sentimentality while affirming his stinging critique of a heartless society. Our soon-to-be orphaned narrator’s mother is a substance-abusing teenage single mom who checks out via OD on his 11th birthday, and Demon’s cynical, wised-up voice is light-years removed from David Copperfield’s earnest tone. Yet readers also see the yearning for love and wells of compassion hidden beneath his self-protective exterior. Like pretty much everyone else in Lee County, Virginia, hollowed out economically by the coal and tobacco industries, he sees himself as someone with no prospects and little worth. One of Kingsolver’s major themes, hit a little too insistently, is the contempt felt by participants in the modern capitalist economy for those rooted in older ways of life. More nuanced and emotionally engaging is Demon’s fierce attachment to his home ground, a place where he is known and supported, tested to the breaking point as the opiate epidemic engulfs it. Kingsolver’s ferocious indictment of the pharmaceutical industry, angrily stated by a local girl who has become a nurse, is in the best Dickensian tradition, and Demon gives a harrowing account of his descent into addiction with his beloved Dori (as naïve as Dickens’ Dora in her own screwed-up way). Does knowledge offer a way out of this sinkhole? A committed teacher tries to enlighten Demon’s seventh grade class about how the resource-rich countryside was pillaged and abandoned, but Kingsolver doesn’t air-brush his students’ dismissal of this history or the prejudice encountered by this African American outsider and his White wife. She is an art teacher who guides Demon toward self-expression, just as his friend Tommy provokes his dawning understanding of how their world has been shaped by outside forces and what he might be able to do about it.

An angry, powerful book seething with love and outrage for a community too often stereotyped or ignored.

Pub Date: Oct. 18, 2022

ISBN: 978-0-06-325-1922

Page Count: 560

Publisher: Harper/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: July 13, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2022

Close Quickview