In a battle of Japanese settings, wondrous mountains win big over bustling cities.

THE EASY LIFE IN KAMUSARI

A withdrawn boy from Yokohama, just out of high school, comes of age after his parents enroll him in a forestry training program in a remote mountain village.

Stripped of his cellphone, which his colorful supervisor happily tosses down the mountainside, and lost without other modern conveniences, 18-year-old Yuki Hirano initially feels trapped in his new setting. Hopeless at all things arborist, with the cuts and bruises—and bruised pride—to show for it, he desperately wants to go back home. But pulled in by the natural wonders of the environment, the easygoing nature and quirkiness of the closeknit villagers, and his attraction to a pretty, motorcycle-riding schoolteacher named Nao, he awakens to deep values he has never encountered in the big city. He develops into a skilled forester, the better to draw Nao away from the married lumber company owner with whom she is infatuated. The novel builds to the semicentennial Oyamazumi-san festival in which Yuki is part of a crew tasked with cutting down the largest tree at the top of Mount Kamusari and safely guiding it down to the river. The first book in a new series by the author of The Great Passage (2011) seems aimed at a young audience. Miura spends a lot of time lightly educating her readers on the pungent glories of the mountains, the do's and don'ts of tending to the forest and the environmental rewards of doing so: "Cutting down timber, using it, continually planting more—that's how we take care of the woodlands." Yuki's breathless first-person narration is straight out of Japanese anime (albeit with off-color language), as are scenes in which characters are "spirited away." But fans of all ages should enjoy the author's blend of the traditional and the contemporary.

In a battle of Japanese settings, wondrous mountains win big over bustling cities.

Pub Date: Nov. 2, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-5420-2715-1

Page Count: 208

Publisher: Amazon Crossing

Review Posted Online: Sept. 15, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1, 2021

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An exhilarating ride through Americana.

THE LINCOLN HIGHWAY

Newly released from a work farm in 1950s Kansas, where he served 18 months for involuntary manslaughter, 18-year-old Emmett Watson hits the road with his little brother, Billy, following the death of their father and the foreclosure of their Nebraska farm.

They leave to escape angry townspeople who believe Emmett got off easy, having caused the fatal fall of a taunting local boy by punching him in the nose. The whip-smart Billy, who exhibits OCD–like symptoms, convinces Emmett to drive them to San Francisco to reunite with their mother, who left town eight years ago. He insists she's there, based on postcards she sent before completely disappearing from their lives. But when Emmett's prized red Studebaker is "borrowed" by two rambunctious, New York–bound escapees from the juvie facility he just left, Emmett takes after them via freight train with Billy in tow. Billy befriends a Black veteran named Ulysses who's been riding the rails nonstop since returning home from World War II to find his wife and baby boy gone. A modern picaresque with a host of characters, competing points of view, wandering narratives, and teasing chapter endings, Towles' third novel is even more entertaining than his much-acclaimed A Gentleman in Moscow (2016). You can quibble with one or two plot turns, but there's no resisting moments such as Billy's encounter, high up in the Empire State Building in the middle of the night, with professor Abacus Abernathe, whose Compendium of Heroes, Adventurers, and Other Intrepid Travelers he's read 24 times. A remarkable blend of sweetness and doom, Towles' novel is packed with revelations about the American myth, the art of storytelling, and the unrelenting pull of history.

An exhilarating ride through Americana.

Pub Date: Oct. 5, 2021

ISBN: 978-0-73-522235-9

Page Count: 592

Publisher: Viking

Review Posted Online: June 22, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2021

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As the pieces of this magical literary puzzle snap together, a flicker of hope is sparked for our benighted world.

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CLOUD CUCKOO LAND

An ancient Greek manuscript connects humanity's past, present, and future.

Stranger, whoever you are, open this to learn what will amaze you” wrote Antonius Diogenes at the end of the first century C.E.—and millennia later, Pulitzer Prize winner Doerr is his fitting heir. Around Diogenes' manuscript, "Cloud Cuckoo Land"—the author did exist, but the text is invented—Doerr builds a community of readers and nature lovers that transcends the boundaries of time and space. The protagonist of the original story is Aethon, a shepherd whose dream of escaping to a paradise in the sky leads to a wild series of adventures in the bodies of beast, fish, and fowl. Aethon's story is first found by Anna in 15th-century Constantinople; though a failure as an apprentice seamstress, she's learned ancient Greek from an elderly scholar. Omeir, a country boy of the same period, is rejected by the world for his cleft lip—but forms the deepest of connections with his beautiful oxen, Moonlight and Tree. In the 1950s, Zeno Ninis, a troubled ex–GI in Lakeport, Idaho, finds peace in working on a translation of Diogenes' recently recovered manuscript. In 2020, 86-year-old Zeno helps a group of youngsters put the story on as a play at the Lakeport Public Library—unaware that an eco-terrorist is planting a bomb in the building during dress rehearsal. (This happens in the first pages of the book and continues ticking away throughout.) On a spaceship called the Argos bound for Beta Oph2 in Mission Year 65, a teenage girl named Konstance is sequestered in a sealed room with a computer named Sybil. How could she possibly encounter Zeno's translation? This is just one of the many narrative miracles worked by the author as he brings a first-century story to its conclusion in 2146.

As the pieces of this magical literary puzzle snap together, a flicker of hope is sparked for our benighted world.

Pub Date: Sept. 28, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-982168-43-8

Page Count: 656

Publisher: Scribner

Review Posted Online: June 29, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2021

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