A dramatically engrossing and thoughtful novel.

DOVETAILS IN TALL GRASS

Tensions between Dakota people and White settlers cascade into violent confrontation in this debut historical drama set during the Civil War.

Oenikika is only 16 years old but self-assuredly knows that she wants to become a healer—a respected role in her Dakota society. However, she frets that her father, Chief Little Crow, is ready to sacrifice everything they have in exchange for gold from the White man and a life confined to a reservation—a mortifying, diminished existence for a proudly nomadic people. To make matters worse, the White people almost immediately break their promises, leaving the Native Americans in a dangerously precarious predicament, and ready to go to war. As Oenikika bluntly puts it, “The white traders had lied and lied again….The Great White Father failed in his promises. A chief could not respect such a foe, a coward who hides behind a piece of paper.” Specks also chronicles the situation from the perspective of White settler Emma Heard, also 16, who feels stifled by her small-town existence and yearns to become a schoolteacher. Emma’s and Oenikika’s lives fatefully intertwine as the story descends into cataclysmic violence—a grim outcome that the author details with great emotional power and restraint. The two women also both have a connection to Stephen Riggs, a missionary whom Emma sees as a romantic possibility and Oenikika, as an unwanted interloper. The narrative’s split into dueling points of view makes for a simultaneously panoramic and sensitive portrayal of a terrible situation, and Specks forgoes facile judgments and formulaic conclusions in favor of complexity. The author’s story is inspired by true historical events and, in some instances, draws directly from archived documents. The end result is a startling, nuanced amalgam of past events and impressive, delicate literary creation.

A dramatically engrossing and thoughtful novel.

Pub Date: Aug. 24, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-68-463093-6

Page Count: 328

Publisher: SparkPress

Review Posted Online: June 8, 2021

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Funny, sad, astute, occasionally creepy, and slyly irresistible.

APPLES NEVER FALL

Australian novelist Moriarty combines domestic realism and noirish mystery in this story about the events surrounding a 69-year-old Sydney woman’s disappearance.

Joy and Stan Delaney met as champion tennis players more than 50 years ago and ran a well-regarded tennis academy until their recent retirement. Their long, complicated marriage has been filled with perhaps as much passion for the game of tennis as for each other or their children. When Joy disappears on Feb. 14, 2020 (note the date), the last text she sends to her now-grown kids—bohemian Amy, passive Logan, flashy Troy, and migraine-suffering Brooke—is too garbled by autocorrect to decipher and stubborn Stan refuses to accept that there might be a problem. But days pass and Joy remains missing and uncharacteristically silent. As worrisome details come to light, the police become involved. The structure follows the pattern of Big Little Lies (2014) by setting up a mystery and then jumping months into the past to unravel it. Here, Moriarty returns to the day a stranger named Savannah turned up bleeding on the Delaneys’ doorstep and Joy welcomed her to stay for an extended visit. Who is Savannah? Whether she’s innocent, scamming, or something else remains unclear on many levels. Moriarty is a master of ambiguity and also of the small, telling detail like a tossed tennis racket or the repeated appearance of apple crumble. Starting with the abandoned bike that's found by a passing motorist on the first page, the evidence that accumulates around what happened to Joy constantly challenges the reader both to notice which minor details (and characters) matter and to distinguish between red herrings and buried clues. The ultimate reveal is satisfying, if troubling. But Moriarty’s main focus, which she approaches from countless familiar and unexpected angles, is the mystery of family and what it means to be a parent, child, or sibling in the Delaney family—or in any family, for that matter.

Funny, sad, astute, occasionally creepy, and slyly irresistible.

Pub Date: Sept. 14, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-250-22025-7

Page Count: 480

Publisher: Henry Holt

Review Posted Online: June 16, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2021

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A novel of capacious intelligence and plenty of page-turning emotional drama.

BEAUTIFUL WORLD, WHERE ARE YOU

Two erudite Irishwomen struggle with romance against the backdrop of the Trump/Brexit years.

Eileen and Alice have been friends since their university days. Now in their late 20s, Eileen works as an editorial assistant at a literary magazine in Dublin. Alice is a famous novelist recovering from a psychiatric hospitalization and staying in a large empty rectory on the west coast of Ireland. Since Alice’s breakdown, the two have kept in touch primarily through lengthy emails that alternate between recounting their romantic lives and working through their angst about the current social and political climate. (In one of these letters, Eileen laments that the introduction of plastic has ruined humanity’s aesthetic calibration and in the next paragraph, she’s eager to know if Alice is sleeping with the new man she’s met.) Eileen has spent many years entangled in an occasionally intimate friendship with her teenage crush, a slightly older man named Simon who is a devout Catholic and who works in the Irish Parliament as an assistant. As Eileen and Simon’s relationship becomes more complicated, Alice meets Felix, a warehouse worker who is unsure what to make of her fame and aloofness. In many ways, this book, a work of both philosophy and romantic tragicomedy about the ways people love and hurt one another, is exactly the type of book one would expect Rooney to write out of the political environment of the past few years. But just because the novel is so characteristic of Rooney doesn’t take anything away from its considerable power. As Alice herself puts it, “Humanity on the cusp of extinction [and] here I am writing another email about sex and friendship. What else is there to live for?”

A novel of capacious intelligence and plenty of page-turning emotional drama.

Pub Date: Sept. 7, 2021

ISBN: 978-0-374-60260-4

Page Count: 368

Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux

Review Posted Online: June 16, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2021

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