A captivating survival story alternates with a less satisfying look at a midlife crisis in this promising first novel.

KINGDOMTIDE

A bitterly unhappy forest ranger finds a purpose in her search for an old woman who might have survived disaster in this darkly humorous debut novel.

In 1986, a small plane crashes on a blue-sky day into a peak in the Bitterroot National Forest, a 1.6-million-acre wilderness straddling Montana and Idaho. The only survivor is 72-year-old Cloris Waldrip, who's on vacation with her husband of 54 years. Alone and traumatized, she’s determined to make her way home to Texas. At the start she’s a nice Methodist lady who pulls up her stockings and retrieves her handbag from the wreckage before setting off down the mountain, but her civilized layers will be peeled away by weeks, then months of harsh conditions and loneliness. Bitterroot forest ranger Debra Lewis is recently divorced (after finding out her husband had two other wives—“He’s in prison for trigamy”) and hell-bent on drinking herself to death. But finding Cloris, who she believes survived the crash, becomes her mission. Through it she meets a widowed search-and-rescue specialist named Steven Bloor and his sullen teenage daughter, Jill. Chapters recounting Cloris’ struggle to survive alternate with those describing Lewis’ search and her entanglement with the Bloors. Cloris’ chapters are by turns thrilling, poignant, and hilarious, carried along by her irresistible first-person narration. She is so matter-of-fact, wry, and indomitable it’s not hard to imagine she’s a granddaughter of True Grit’s Mattie Ross. Lewis’ part of the story is less engaging, in part because its third-person narration lacks Cloris’ winning voice. Lewis’ work life is oddly more outlandish than Cloris’ wilderness journey; so many wacky colleagues and eccentric locals jostle for space with the weird Bloor family that the Fargo-esque humor can seem strained. And Lewis’ alcoholism is so prodigious that, after she’s guzzled six or seven bottles of wine in one day, it’s hard to credit her staying conscious, much less driving mountain roads. But both she and Cloris find paths to self-discovery, and eventually some will be saved.

A captivating survival story alternates with a less satisfying look at a midlife crisis in this promising first novel.

Pub Date: Jan. 14, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-316-42010-5

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: Sept. 30, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 2019

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Relentlessly suspenseful and unexpectedly timely: just the thing for Dick Cheney’s bedside reading wherever he’s keeping...

WITHOUT FAIL

From the Jack Reacher series , Vol. 6

When the newly elected Vice President’s life is threatened, the Secret Service runs to nomadic soldier-of-fortune Jack Reacher (Echo Burning, 2001, etc.) in this razor-sharp update of The Day of the Jackal and In the Line of Fire that’s begging to be filmed.

Why Reacher? Because M.E. Froelich, head of the VP’s protection team, was once a colleague and lover of his late brother Joe, who’d impressed her with tales of Jack’s derring-do as an Army MP. Now Froelich and her Brooks Brothers–tailored boss Stuyvesant have been receiving a series of anonymous messages threatening the life of North Dakota Senator/Vice President–elect Brook Armstrong. Since the threats may be coming from within the Secret Service’s own ranks—if they aren’t, it’s hard to see how they’ve been getting delivered—they can’t afford an internal investigation. Hence the call to Reacher, who wastes no time in hooking up with his old friend Frances Neagley, another Army vet turned private eye, first to see whether he can figure out a way to assassinate Armstrong, then to head off whoever else is trying. It’s Reacher’s matter-of-fact gift to think of everything, from the most likely position a sniper would assume at Armstrong’s Thanksgiving visit to a homeless shelter to the telltale punctuation of one of the threats, and to pluck helpers from the tiny cast who can fill the remaining gaps because they aren’t idiots or stooges. And it’s Child’s gift to keep tightening the screws, even when nothing’s happening except the arrival of a series of unsigned letters, and to convey a sense of the blank impossibility of guarding any public figure from danger day after highly exposed day, and the dedication and heroism of the agents who take on this daunting job.

Relentlessly suspenseful and unexpectedly timely: just the thing for Dick Cheney’s bedside reading wherever he’s keeping himself these days.

Pub Date: May 1, 2001

ISBN: 0-399-14861-2

Page Count: 384

Publisher: Putnam

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2002

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Doerr captures the sights and sounds of wartime and focuses, refreshingly, on the innate goodness of his major characters.

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ALL THE LIGHT WE CANNOT SEE

Doerr presents us with two intricate stories, both of which take place during World War II; late in the novel, inevitably, they intersect.

In August 1944, Marie-Laure LeBlanc is a blind 16-year-old living in the walled port city of Saint-Malo in Brittany and hoping to escape the effects of Allied bombing. D-Day took place two months earlier, and Cherbourg, Caen and Rennes have already been liberated. She’s taken refuge in this city with her great-uncle Etienne, at first a fairly frightening figure to her. Marie-Laure’s father was a locksmith and craftsman who made scale models of cities that Marie-Laure studied so she could travel around on her own. He also crafted clever and intricate boxes, within which treasures could be hidden. Parallel to the story of Marie-Laure we meet Werner and Jutta Pfennig, a brother and sister, both orphans who have been raised in the Children’s House outside Essen, in Germany. Through flashbacks we learn that Werner had been a curious and bright child who developed an obsession with radio transmitters and receivers, both in their infancies during this period. Eventually, Werner goes to a select technical school and then, at 18, into the Wehrmacht, where his technical aptitudes are recognized and he’s put on a team trying to track down illegal radio transmissions. Etienne and Marie-Laure are responsible for some of these transmissions, but Werner is intrigued since what she’s broadcasting is innocent—she shares her passion for Jules Verne by reading aloud 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea. A further subplot involves Marie-Laure’s father’s having hidden a valuable diamond, one being tracked down by Reinhold von Rumpel, a relentless German sergeant-major.

Doerr captures the sights and sounds of wartime and focuses, refreshingly, on the innate goodness of his major characters.

Pub Date: May 6, 2014

ISBN: 978-1-4767-4658-6

Page Count: 448

Publisher: Scribner

Review Posted Online: March 6, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2014

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