A quietly lyrical novel of an American family.

THE LONE BLOND

In this debut family saga, Moeller tells the story of a man sent on a mission into his family’s past by his estranged, dying father.

Thirty-six-year-old Art Romero researches neuropsychology at a college in Boston. He hasn’t seen his family, back in Albuquerque, for the last 17 years. He’s currently dating a woman named Sandra, but he’s afraid to commit to their relationship, as he was with all of his previous girlfriends. After he gets a message from his sister that their father, Al, is sick, Art debates whether he should go home to New Mexico to see him. It turns out that he’s dealing with quite a bit of emotional baggage. “You can do what you want,” his psychiatrist tells him when he asks her for advice. “If you go, it might be like a research project, except you’ll be involved.” Romero does end up going, but he doesn’t receive a warm welcome. His mother and sister regard him with suspicion, in part because he’s the only member of his Mexican-American family who passes for white in his daily life. But his dying father has a special request. He wants Art to contact his mother—Art’s grandmother—who has some secret information about the family’s origins in Mexico. Art’s mother, meanwhile, is afraid that when Al dies, his money will go to someone other than her—possibly her in-laws. To fulfill his father’s wishes, Art goes to El Paso, Texas, and Chihuahua, Mexico, taking photos, meeting relatives, and retracing his family’s history back to pre-revolutionary Mexico, which his branch fled long ago. Along the way, he tries to determine what his father was trying to come to terms with—and figure what’s driving himself to help his dad in that quest. Moeller’s prose is simple and elegant throughout this novel, constructing subtle observations that often blossom into images of surprising beauty: “I put the disc into the projector and up pop the color graphs of the brain. If we have souls this is where they live—in these reds, blues, and yellows that are like an impressionist painting. ‘Here’s the perfect brain,’ I say. ‘Three pounds of convoluted matter.’ ” The hypnotic rhythms of the language help to pull the reader through the deliberately paced plot, often creating moments of mystery and tension where, in the hands of a lesser writer, they simply wouldn’t exist. She also probes the complexities of race in the American Southwest—including the notion of passing, and the impact that can have on one’s identity. Not every reader will appreciate this novel’s style, however; the revelations come quite slowly and are not particularly breathtaking, and Art’s brand of brooding masculinity, while familiar, isn’t all that relatable. Even so, Moeller offers a thoughtful story that takes a close look at how specific events and personalities can shape a family’s dynamic for generations, and at how one’s personal ambitions can be shaped or hindered by those of one’s parents.

A quietly lyrical novel of an American family.

Pub Date: N/A

ISBN: N/A

Page Count: 269

Publisher: Kurti Publishing

Review Posted Online: Jan. 31, 2019

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A tasty, if not always tasteful, tale of supernatural mayhem that fans of King and Crichton alike will enjoy.

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DEVOLUTION

Are we not men? We are—well, ask Bigfoot, as Brooks does in this delightful yarn, following on his bestseller World War Z (2006).

A zombie apocalypse is one thing. A volcanic eruption is quite another, for, as the journalist who does a framing voice-over narration for Brooks’ latest puts it, when Mount Rainier popped its cork, “it was the psychological aspect, the hyperbole-fueled hysteria that had ended up killing the most people.” Maybe, but the sasquatches whom the volcano displaced contributed to the statistics, too, if only out of self-defense. Brooks places the epicenter of the Bigfoot war in a high-tech hideaway populated by the kind of people you might find in a Jurassic Park franchise: the schmo who doesn’t know how to do much of anything but tries anyway, the well-intentioned bleeding heart, the know-it-all intellectual who turns out to know the wrong things, the immigrant with a tough backstory and an instinct for survival. Indeed, the novel does double duty as a survival manual, packed full of good advice—for instance, try not to get wounded, for “injury turns you from a giver to a taker. Taking up our resources, our time to care for you.” Brooks presents a case for making room for Bigfoot in the world while peppering his narrative with timely social criticism about bad behavior on the human side of the conflict: The explosion of Rainier might have been better forecast had the president not slashed the budget of the U.S. Geological Survey, leading to “immediate suspension of the National Volcano Early Warning System,” and there’s always someone around looking to monetize the natural disaster and the sasquatch-y onslaught that follows. Brooks is a pro at building suspense even if it plays out in some rather spectacularly yucky episodes, one involving a short spear that takes its name from “the sucking sound of pulling it out of the dead man’s heart and lungs.” Grossness aside, it puts you right there on the scene.

A tasty, if not always tasteful, tale of supernatural mayhem that fans of King and Crichton alike will enjoy.

Pub Date: June 16, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-9848-2678-7

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Del Rey/Ballantine

Review Posted Online: Feb. 10, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2020

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Despite some distractions, there’s an irresistible charm to Owens’ first foray into nature-infused romantic fiction.

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WHERE THE CRAWDADS SING

A wild child’s isolated, dirt-poor upbringing in a Southern coastal wilderness fails to shield her from heartbreak or an accusation of murder.

“The Marsh Girl,” “swamp trash”—Catherine “Kya” Clark is a figure of mystery and prejudice in the remote North Carolina coastal community of Barkley Cove in the 1950s and '60s. Abandoned by a mother no longer able to endure her drunken husband’s beatings and then by her four siblings, Kya grows up in the careless, sometimes-savage company of her father, who eventually disappears, too. Alone, virtually or actually, from age 6, Kya learns both to be self-sufficient and to find solace and company in her fertile natural surroundings. Owens (Secrets of the Savanna, 2006, etc.), the accomplished co-author of several nonfiction books on wildlife, is at her best reflecting Kya’s fascination with the birds, insects, dappled light, and shifting tides of the marshes. The girl’s collections of shells and feathers, her communion with the gulls, her exploration of the wetlands are evoked in lyrical phrasing which only occasionally tips into excess. But as the child turns teenager and is befriended by local boy Tate Walker, who teaches her to read, the novel settles into a less magical, more predictable pattern. Interspersed with Kya’s coming-of-age is the 1969 murder investigation arising from the discovery of a man’s body in the marsh. The victim is Chase Andrews, “star quarterback and town hot shot,” who was once Kya’s lover. In the eyes of a pair of semicomic local police officers, Kya will eventually become the chief suspect and must stand trial. By now the novel’s weaknesses have become apparent: the monochromatic characterization (good boy Tate, bad boy Chase) and implausibilities (Kya evolves into a polymath—a published writer, artist, and poet), yet the closing twist is perhaps its most memorable oddity.

Despite some distractions, there’s an irresistible charm to Owens’ first foray into nature-infused romantic fiction.

Pub Date: Aug. 14, 2018

ISBN: 978-0-7352-1909-0

Page Count: 384

Publisher: Putnam

Review Posted Online: May 15, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 2018

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