Elegant and empathetic, a book impossible to put down.

THE LOVED ONES

A gorgeous multigenerational saga of love and race, loss and belonging, Chung’s (Long for This World, 2010) latest follows the intertwining lives of two very different families in Washington, D.C.

Charles Frederick Douglass Lee, the young African-American patriarch of his biracial family, husband of Alice, father of Veda (9, beautiful) and Benny (6, difficult), is doing for his family what his own father couldn’t, or wouldn’t. As a young soldier stationed in Korea, Charles met Alice, fresh out of the Peace Corps and avoiding medical school at home. Alice got pregnant; Charles proposed, determined to “put his head down, do right, and make a family.” And so they have built a life together, stable if not easy. Then Alice returns to work after years at home, and the family (Alice, really—Charles “didn’t believe in babysitters”) hires Hannah Lee, the stoic 13-year-old daughter of Korean immigrants, to look after the kids. In Hannah, Charles finds unlikely kinship, and the two develop a silent understanding, powerful, unspoken, and deeply intimate. “Hannah had no name for her watchfulness toward Charles, and thus she treasured it all the more,” writes Chung. The watchfulness is mutual. But when tragedy strikes, Charles and Hannah are at once ripped apart and forever bound together, and the Lees—all of them—are forced to renegotiate their relationships with each other and with themselves. Quietly expansive, the novel moves between the stories of the two families, alternating glimpses of the past with the present: Hannah’s parents’ forbidden courtship in Korea and a doomed family trip back to the Hadong countryside 10 years later; Alice’s early adulthood and the night she met Charles. Every last one of Chung’s characters is wholly alive and breathtakingly human, but it’s her portrait of teenage Hannah—always complicated, never romanticized—that makes the novel such a heart-wrenching pleasure.

Elegant and empathetic, a book impossible to put down.

Pub Date: Oct. 18, 2016

ISBN: 978-0-9847648-4-6

Page Count: 272

Publisher: Relegation Books

Review Posted Online: Aug. 23, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2016

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Dark and unsettling, this novel’s end arrives abruptly even as readers are still moving at a breakneck speed.

THEN SHE WAS GONE

Ten years after her teenage daughter went missing, a mother begins a new relationship only to discover she can't truly move on until she answers lingering questions about the past.

Laurel Mack’s life stopped in many ways the day her 15-year-old daughter, Ellie, left the house to study at the library and never returned. She drifted away from her other two children, Hanna and Jake, and eventually she and her husband, Paul, divorced. Ten years later, Ellie’s remains and her backpack are found, though the police are unable to determine the reasons for her disappearance and death. After Ellie’s funeral, Laurel begins a relationship with Floyd, a man she meets in a cafe. She's disarmed by Floyd’s charm, but when she meets his young daughter, Poppy, Laurel is startled by her resemblance to Ellie. As the novel progresses, Laurel becomes increasingly determined to learn what happened to Ellie, especially after discovering an odd connection between Poppy’s mother and her daughter even as her relationship with Floyd is becoming more serious. Jewell’s (I Found You, 2017, etc.) latest thriller moves at a brisk pace even as she plays with narrative structure: The book is split into three sections, including a first one which alternates chapters between the time of Ellie’s disappearance and the present and a second section that begins as Laurel and Floyd meet. Both of these sections primarily focus on Laurel. In the third section, Jewell alternates narrators and moments in time: The narrator switches to alternating first-person points of view (told by Poppy’s mother and Floyd) interspersed with third-person narration of Ellie’s experiences and Laurel’s discoveries in the present. All of these devices serve to build palpable tension, but the structure also contributes to how deeply disturbing the story becomes. At times, the characters and the emotional core of the events are almost obscured by such quick maneuvering through the weighty plot.

Dark and unsettling, this novel’s end arrives abruptly even as readers are still moving at a breakneck speed.

Pub Date: April 24, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-5011-5464-5

Page Count: 368

Publisher: Atria

Review Posted Online: Feb. 6, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2018

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ANIMAL FARM

A FAIRY STORY

A modern day fable, with modern implications in a deceiving simplicity, by the author of Dickens. Dali and Others (Reynal & Hitchcock, p. 138), whose critical brilliance is well adapted to this type of satire. This tells of the revolt on a farm, against humans, when the pigs take over the intellectual superiority, training the horses, cows, sheep, etc., into acknowledging their greatness. The first hints come with the reading out of a pig who instigated the building of a windmill, so that the electric power would be theirs, the idea taken over by Napoleon who becomes topman with no maybes about it. Napoleon trains the young puppies to be his guards, dickers with humans, gradually instigates a reign of terror, and breaks the final commandment against any animal walking on two legs. The old faithful followers find themselves no better off for food and work than they were when man ruled them, learn their final disgrace when they see Napoleon and Squealer carousing with their enemies... A basic statement of the evils of dictatorship in that it not only corrupts the leaders, but deadens the intelligence and awareness of those led so that tyranny is inevitable. Mr. Orwell's animals exist in their own right, with a narrative as individual as it is apt in political parody.

Pub Date: Aug. 26, 1946

ISBN: 0452277507

Page Count: 114

Publisher: Harcourt, Brace

Review Posted Online: Nov. 2, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 1946

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