A welcome new voice in Latin American storytelling.

THE WIND THAT LAYS WASTE

Sturm und Drang on the pampas.

Argentinian fiction writer and poet Almada makes her English-language debut with a slender tale redolent of Flannery O’Connor—and, at some turns, Rod Serling. An itinerant preacher, one of those hands-on, evil-spirits-out kind, is on the road with his 16-ish daughter, her mother a long-distant memory in the rear-view mirror. The daughter, Leni, is full of doubts, sheltering herself with a music player on which she’s promised dad to “listen to Christian music, nothing else,” but instead has been catching hints of the bigger world outside. When their car breaks down, the Rev. Pearson and Leni wind up in El Gringo Brauer’s garage. If the Rev. is a fire-and-brimstone true believer, Brauer is just as dedicated an atheist: “Religion was for women and the weak,” he thinks. Meanwhile, his assistant, a motherless boy about Leni’s age named Tapioca, is proving susceptible to the preacher’s blandishments. “Now he was thinking that perhaps he should have warned the kid about the stories in the Bible,” thinks Brauer—since, after all, “It wouldn’t be so easy to get that stuff about God out of his head.” If Leni would just as soon be dancing to disco music, Tapioca is ready to follow the Rev. Pearson out of the backwater and see the world, joining the crusade. Brauer objects, naturally. Well, what are the angels of good and evil supposed to do? Wrestle with each other, of course, in an apocalyptic rainstorm of a kind that levels crops, knocks down power poles, and fries someone with righteous lightning. Almada’s story, fueled by alcohol, religious symbolism, and doubt, feels a touch incomplete; she might have given a little more space to the things that make each character tick. Still, the story packs a punch in its portraits of a man who exalts heaven and another who protests, “I don’t have time for that stuff” while confused youngsters watch and wait.

A welcome new voice in Latin American storytelling.

Pub Date: July 9, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-55597-845-7

Page Count: 136

Publisher: Graywolf

Review Posted Online: April 14, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 2019

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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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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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