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

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet

While the love triangle is interesting, perhaps most compelling is the story of one woman's single-minded pursuit of her...

LITTLE GODS

Love and ambition clash in a novel depicting China's turbulent 1980s.

Jin's debut is at heart a mystery, as a young Chinese American woman returns to China to try to understand her recently deceased mother's decisions and to find her biological father. Liya grew up with a single mother, the brilliant but troubled physicist Su Lan, who refused to talk about Liya's missing father. Mother and daughter grew increasingly estranged as Su Lan obsessed over her theoretical research. Complicating Liya's search for truth is the fact she was born in Beijing on June 4, 1989, the very night of the government crackdown on the protesters at Tiananmen Square. Su Lan changed Liya's birth year on her papers to obscure this fact in America. The reader is meant to wonder if Liya's father perhaps died during the crackdown. However, this is not a novel about the idealism of the student reform movement or even the decisions behind the government's use of lethal force. Instead Jin focuses on the personalities of three students: the young Su Lan as well as Zhang Bo and Li Yongzong, two of her high school classmates who were rivals for her affection. The novel shifts point of view and jumps back and forth in time, obscuring vital pieces of information from the reader in order to prolong the mystery. Not all the plot contrivances make sense, but Su Lan is a fascinating character of a type rarely seen in fiction, an ambitious woman whose intellect and drive allow her to envision changing the very nature of time. The title refers to the thoughts of a nurse, musing about the similarities that she sees between the Tiananmen student demonstrators and the Red Guards of the Cultural Revolution: "A hunger for revolution, any Great Revolution, whatever it stands for, so long as where you stand is behind its angry fist. Little gods, she thinks."

While the love triangle is interesting, perhaps most compelling is the story of one woman's single-minded pursuit of her ambition.

Pub Date: Jan. 14, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-06-293595-3

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Custom House/Morrow

Review Posted Online: Oct. 28, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15, 2019

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet

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

Our Verdict

  • Our Verdict
  • GET IT

Google Rating

  • google rating
  • google rating
  • google rating
  • google rating
  • google rating
  • Kirkus Reviews'
    Best Books Of 2014

  • New York Times Bestseller

  • National Book Award Finalist

  • Pulitzer Prize Winner

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

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet
more