OLD GOD’S TIME

An eloquent, affecting take on pedophilia.

This complex quasi-mystery centers on a former cop’s reckoning with the damage caused by sexually abusive priests.

The narrator is Tom Kettle, a 66-year-old widower living in Dalkey, Ireland. He’s nine months into retirement from a decorated career with the Dublin police when two Garda officers ask him to look at reports from an old unsolved murder case he worked on years earlier. A priest under investigation for pedophilia has made disturbing accusations regarding the murderer. Kettle, whose wife and two adult children suffered brutal deaths in the previous 10 years, is already coping with too many memories, unwanted and otherwise. Much of the narrative is a very accessible stream of consciousness. Even as Kettle's mind drifts, he also must deal with the hard realities that arise from police procedure, like evidence gathering, interviews at headquarters, and the suspicions of his former boss. The unsolved case crucially turns his thoughts to the first night of his honeymoon and his wife’s “sorrowful revelations” of childhood abuse: “The rapes, the bloody priests.” It’s her abuser who was murdered. The novel avoids any pat responses to questions of crime and punishment, although even the dutiful cop in Kettle leans toward rough justice where the young are involved. Barry is a resourceful Irish writer with a gift for empathy and lyrical prose. Many of his novels weave Irish immigrants into the broader tapestry of global history in the past two centuries. But Kettle’s story hinges on domestic events, on years of priests’ sexual abuse of children in Ireland. Barry’s tight focus on one retired lawman and the ghosts bedeviling him provides a compelling sense of the misery the Catholic Church knew it was causing and failed to salve.

An eloquent, affecting take on pedophilia.

Pub Date: March 14, 2023

ISBN: 9780593296103

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Penguin

Review Posted Online: Jan. 11, 2023

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2023

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

GIRL ABROAD

A spicy novel that’s a must-read for fans of a British accent.

A rock star’s daughter decides to study abroad in search of her own experiences, finding romance and intrigue along the way.

For 19-year-old Abbey Bly, having a rock star for a father isn’t as glamorous as it seems. For one thing, she shares her name with Abbey Road, and for another, the only version of the famous Gunner Bly she knows is the helicopter parent she lives with in Nashville. Hoping to find her way outside her father’s sphere of influence, Abbey decides to spend a semester in London studying European history at Pembridge University. Promising to keep her father updated on every aspect of life abroad, Abbey heads to her shared apartment expecting to find three female roommates…only to find that she’s actually living with three men. Afraid that Gunner will order her home, Abbey decides to keep Lee, Jack, and Jamie’s gender a secret (lucky their names sound androgynous!) and sets her sights on adventure. While working on a research project about a mysterious painting and adapting to Britain’s drinking culture, Abbey finds time to explore a little romance despite her housemates’ strict no-fraternizing rule. First there’s Jack, a commitment-phobic Australian hottie who can’t seem to stay away from Abbey; then there’s Nate, a sexy bassist who keeps forgetting he’s taken. Toying with nonexclusive relationships and exploring her sexuality, Abbey can’t help but feel excited about all the experience she’s gaining, but has she really, truly found herself? Kennedy’s novel is a page-turner—who wouldn’t want to travel to a foreign country and meet interested potential lovers down the hall? Abbey is a relatable character who yearns to stand outside her father’s shadow, and though the love triangle is a focal point, it never outshines the heroine’s growth.

A spicy novel that’s a must-read for fans of a British accent.

Pub Date: Feb. 13, 2024

ISBN: 9781728299792

Page Count: 432

Publisher: Bloom Books

Review Posted Online: Dec. 16, 2023

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2024

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