Tackles but ultimately oversimplifies thorny issues.

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THE HUMMINGBIRD

A hospice nurse, baffled by her husband’s drastic personality change after his third deployment to Iraq, gleans valuable lessons from a dying World War II historian.

Deborah Birch, who has found her calling caring for dying patients in Portland, Oregon, is the only attendant retired professor Barclay Reed has not yet fired. She wins him over by showing an interest in his life’s work, an unpublished treatise about the only Axis bombing to take place on American soil—in Oregon, when Ichiro Soga, a Japanese pilot, took off from a submarine in a light plane, bent on firebombing the state’s famed virgin timber. Chapters from the treatise are interspersed throughout as Deb reads them to Barclay. Afflicted with terminal kidney cancer, Barclay also suffers from the blows life has dealt: his isolation from family and friends after his academic career ended due to a false accusation of plagiarism. Deb has another troubled soul to deal with at home, her husband, Michael, a Guardsman who survived his first two tours of duty in Iraq comparatively unscathed. After the third, however, he returned exhibiting full-blown post-traumatic stress disorder and has grown cold toward his wife and dangerously irascible. A skilled driver and car buff who works as a mechanic, he's now without wheels thanks to a road rage incident—police impounded his car after he pursued and rammed another driver for parking in a handicapped space. When Deb confides in Barclay, he tells her the key to unpacking the puzzle of Michael’s trauma may lie in studying the code of a warrior. The story of Soga, a descendant of samurais, and his atonement for the bombing is the key to that understanding. The sections concerning Soga and his odd rapprochement with the Oregon town he attacked are often more engaging than the plights of the contemporary characters. Kiernan (The Curiosity, 2013) seeds this saga with occasional sanctimony, bald symbolism, and overly facile epiphanies.

Tackles but ultimately oversimplifies thorny issues.

Pub Date: Sept. 9, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-06-236954-3

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Morrow/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: June 17, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2015

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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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