An evocative coming-of-age novel that captures the fear, rage, and yearning of three women growing up in a time of...

THE WATER CURE

Three sisters, secreted away during a global crisis of male violence, learn to fight for their survival in this spare, dystopian debut.

Grace, Lia, and Sky follow the rituals enforced by their mother and their father, King, the only man they've ever known. The strange family lives in an isolated, crumbling mansion by the sea, where women arrive to receive the family's storied water cures and heal from violent pasts. They look like "they had been bled out, their skin limp. Eyes watering involuntarily, hair thinning," recalls Lia, and the sisters learn to fear a world that visits so much violence on its women. There are water cures for everything: to purify toxins from the outside world, illness, grief, too much feeling. The rituals themselves are often violent, requiring drowning or self-harm. When the novel opens, the sisters are mourning the death of King and the discovery of Grace's pregnancy, which disrupts their harmony and fractures their routines. To complicate matters, three men wash up on shore and beg for entry. Met with deep suspicion and relegated to the beach, the men become figures of both fascination and fear. Mackintosh alternates between the sisters' collective voices and the heartbreaking narratives of Grace and Lia. Despite being warned by her sisters and mother to stay away, Lia begins her first love affair with Llew, who is by turns charming, careless, and cruel. Grace gives birth to King's stillborn baby boy, an experience that isolates her from her younger sisters and her mother, who inexplicably disappears. While the narrative at times veers toward the pedantic, it's both shocking and refreshing to see the observations women make to one another—about the specific, learned cruelties and emotional violence of men—represented so plainly on the page. "It was no one big thing but many small things," one of the patients writes in the house Welcome Book. "Each one chipped away at me. By the end, I felt skinless." Ultimately, Grace, Lia, and Sky must make a choice: to trust the men or to save one another.

An evocative coming-of-age novel that captures the fear, rage, and yearning of three women growing up in a time of heightened violence.

Pub Date: Jan. 8, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-385-54387-3

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Doubleday

Review Posted Online: Oct. 2, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 2018

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With every new work, Jemisin’s ability to build worlds and break hearts only grows.

THE FIFTH SEASON

From the The Broken Earth series , Vol. 1

In the first volume of a trilogy, a fresh cataclysm besets a physically unstable world whose ruling society oppresses its most magically powerful inhabitants.

The continent ironically known as the Stillness is riddled with fault lines and volcanoes and periodically suffers from Seasons, civilization-destroying tectonic catastrophes. It’s also occupied by a small population of orogenes, people with the ability to sense and manipulate thermal and kinetic energy. They can quiet earthquakes and quench volcanoes…but also touch them off. While they’re necessary, they’re also feared and frequently lynched. The “lucky” ones are recruited by the Fulcrum, where the brutal training hones their powers in the service of the Empire. The tragic trap of the orogene's life is told through three linked narratives (the link is obvious fairly quickly): Damaya, a fierce, ambitious girl new to the Fulcrum; Syenite, an angry young woman ordered to breed with her bitter and frighteningly powerful mentor and who stumbles across secrets her masters never intended her to know; and Essun, searching for the husband who murdered her young son and ran away with her daughter mere hours before a Season tore a fiery rift across the Stillness. Jemisin (The Shadowed Sun, 2012, etc.) is utterly unflinching; she tackles racial and social politics which have obvious echoes in our own world while chronicling the painfully intimate struggle between the desire to survive at all costs and the need to maintain one’s personal integrity. Beneath the story’s fantastic trappings are incredibly real people who undergo intense, sadly believable pain.

With every new work, Jemisin’s ability to build worlds and break hearts only grows.

Pub Date: Aug. 4, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-316-22929-6

Page Count: 512

Publisher: Orbit/Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: June 14, 2016

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Suspenseful, full of incident, and not obviously necessary.

Our Verdict

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  • New York Times Bestseller

  • Booker Prize Winner

THE TESTAMENTS

Atwood goes back to Gilead.

The Handmaid’s Tale (1985), consistently regarded as a masterpiece of 20th-century literature, has gained new attention in recent years with the success of the Hulu series as well as fresh appreciation from readers who feel like this story has new relevance in America’s current political climate. Atwood herself has spoken about how news headlines have made her dystopian fiction seem eerily plausible, and it’s not difficult to imagine her wanting to revisit Gilead as the TV show has sped past where her narrative ended. Like the novel that preceded it, this sequel is presented as found documents—first-person accounts of life inside a misogynistic theocracy from three informants. There is Agnes Jemima, a girl who rejects the marriage her family arranges for her but still has faith in God and Gilead. There’s Daisy, who learns on her 16th birthday that her whole life has been a lie. And there's Aunt Lydia, the woman responsible for turning women into Handmaids. This approach gives readers insight into different aspects of life inside and outside Gilead, but it also leads to a book that sometimes feels overstuffed. The Handmaid’s Tale combined exquisite lyricism with a powerful sense of urgency, as if a thoughtful, perceptive woman was racing against time to give witness to her experience. That narrator hinted at more than she said; Atwood seemed to trust readers to fill in the gaps. This dynamic created an atmosphere of intimacy. However curious we might be about Gilead and the resistance operating outside that country, what we learn here is that what Atwood left unsaid in the first novel generated more horror and outrage than explicit detail can. And the more we get to know Agnes, Daisy, and Aunt Lydia, the less convincing they become. It’s hard, of course, to compete with a beloved classic, so maybe the best way to read this new book is to forget about The Handmaid’s Tale and enjoy it as an artful feminist thriller.

Suspenseful, full of incident, and not obviously necessary.

Pub Date: Sept. 10, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-385-54378-1

Page Count: 432

Publisher: Nan A. Talese

Review Posted Online: Sept. 4, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2019

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