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DELPHIC ORACLE U.S.A.

A thoughtful, zany rendition of small-town life.

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A comical, character-driven novel focuses on a Nebraska town.

Delphic Oracle, Nebraska, used to be called Miagrammesto Station. That changed when a con man named July Pennybaker came to town in the 1920s. At the age of 27, July had already seen a lot in life. After he stole money from the Mafia in Chicago, he fled to Nebraska, where he was discovered by a lovely young woman named Maggie Westinghouse. Although Maggie was suspicious of this apparent vagabond who managed to talk like a “college professor,” the two ultimately formed a couple. With the help of one of July’s friends who posed as a faith healer, Maggie became the Delphic Oracle. People traveled from miles around just to see her. July realized that despite Maggie’s toughness, grifting was just not in her nature. The two fell in love; yet, under such circumstances, could it last? The narrative skips back and forth to modern times when the town of Delphic Oracle is a hub of activity. While sometimes the action is on the baseball field, several folks embark on spiritual quests. The narrator tells it all from an oddly lenient correctional facility. Although events and characters lend themselves to the fantastical (a man who teaches poetry is named Byron Emerson), Mayfield’s story is full of heart. Some occurrences, such as a man getting his arm stuck while attempting to change the battery in his truck, may feel like a stretch. Yet readers will manage to empathize with this man as he stands there at one point dreaming that he can fly, soaring “into an azure sky.” Other scenes can overdo the rural hokeyness. Someone at a local baseball game constantly chanting “Hey battuh, hey battuh, hey battuh” and “Swing battuh” is no more humorous than it sounds. Nevertheless, this place where one woman holds “respect for God and Ouija boards roughly equivalent” becomes engaging in its own quirky way.

A thoughtful, zany rendition of small-town life.

Pub Date: Oct. 11, 2022

ISBN: 978-1-64603-292-1

Page Count: 298

Publisher: Regal House Publishing

Review Posted Online: Sept. 28, 2022

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THE WOMEN

A dramatic, vividly detailed reconstruction of a little-known aspect of the Vietnam War.

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A young woman’s experience as a nurse in Vietnam casts a deep shadow over her life.

When we learn that the farewell party in the opening scene is for Frances “Frankie” McGrath’s older brother—“a golden boy, a wild child who could make the hardest heart soften”—who is leaving to serve in Vietnam in 1966, we feel pretty certain that poor Finley McGrath is marked for death. Still, it’s a surprise when the fateful doorbell rings less than 20 pages later. His death inspires his sister to enlist as an Army nurse, and this turn of events is just the beginning of a roller coaster of a plot that’s impressive and engrossing if at times a bit formulaic. Hannah renders the experiences of the young women who served in Vietnam in all-encompassing detail. The first half of the book, set in gore-drenched hospital wards, mildewed dorm rooms, and boozy officers’ clubs, is an exciting read, tracking the transformation of virginal, uptight Frankie into a crack surgical nurse and woman of the world. Her tensely platonic romance with a married surgeon ends when his broken, unbreathing body is airlifted out by helicopter; she throws her pent-up passion into a wild affair with a soldier who happens to be her dead brother’s best friend. In the second part of the book, after the war, Frankie seems to experience every possible bad break. A drawback of the story is that none of the secondary characters in her life are fully three-dimensional: Her dismissive, chauvinistic father and tight-lipped, pill-popping mother, her fellow nurses, and her various love interests are more plot devices than people. You’ll wish you could have gone to Vegas and placed a bet on the ending—while it’s against all the odds, you’ll see it coming from a mile away.

A dramatic, vividly detailed reconstruction of a little-known aspect of the Vietnam War.

Pub Date: Feb. 6, 2024

ISBN: 9781250178633

Page Count: 480

Publisher: St. Martin's

Review Posted Online: Nov. 4, 2023

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2023

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IT STARTS WITH US

Through palpable tension balanced with glimmers of hope, Hoover beautifully captures the heartbreak and joy of starting over.

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The sequel to It Ends With Us (2016) shows the aftermath of domestic violence through the eyes of a single mother.

Lily Bloom is still running a flower shop; her abusive ex-husband, Ryle Kincaid, is still a surgeon. But now they’re co-parenting a daughter, Emerson, who's almost a year old. Lily won’t send Emerson to her father’s house overnight until she’s old enough to talk—“So she can tell me if something happens”—but she doesn’t want to fight for full custody lest it become an expensive legal drama or, worse, a physical fight. When Lily runs into Atlas Corrigan, a childhood friend who also came from an abusive family, she hopes their friendship can blossom into love. (For new readers, their history unfolds in heartfelt diary entries that Lily addresses to Finding Nemo star Ellen DeGeneres as she considers how Atlas was a calming presence during her turbulent childhood.) Atlas, who is single and running a restaurant, feels the same way. But even though she’s divorced, Lily isn’t exactly free. Behind Ryle’s veneer of civility are his jealousy and resentment. Lily has to plan her dates carefully to avoid a confrontation. Meanwhile, Atlas’ mother returns with shocking news. In between, Lily and Atlas steal away for romantic moments that are even sweeter for their authenticity as Lily struggles with child care, breastfeeding, and running a business while trying to find time for herself.

Through palpable tension balanced with glimmers of hope, Hoover beautifully captures the heartbreak and joy of starting over.

Pub Date: Oct. 18, 2022

ISBN: 978-1-668-00122-6

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Atria

Review Posted Online: July 26, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2022

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