Next book

TREASURE OF THE BLUE WHALE

A whale of a tale concerning a boy who tries to lift everyone’s spirits.

Awards & Accolades

Our Verdict

  • Our Verdict
  • GET IT

The appearance of an ocean blob causes folks in a small seaside town to believe that they are all rich in this comic novel.

On the first day of summer vacation in 1934, a mysterious and malodorous blob washes up on the beach of Tesoro, California. Ten-year-old Connor O’Halloran manages to reach the lumpy mass even before the local lighthouse keeper, thus establishing his claim over it—though just what it is he doesn’t know. “The mass was large—as broad as the base of a giant redwood tree and nearly as tall as me,” remembers Connor, now narrating the story as an elderly man. “It smelled of manure and barnacles and was certainly the most disgusting object I had ever encountered.” The lighthouse keeper tells him it’s ambergris—a valuable discharge from whales used by the perfume industry—and that it may well be worth millions. News of the find quickly makes its way through the seaside town that the O’Halloran family, which includes Connor’s mentally ill mother, Mary Rose, and his 6-year-old brother, Alex, is rich. The generous Connor decides that he will share the wealth with the town—it’s the height of the Depression, after all—and the citizens of Tesoro immediately set about figuring out how to sell the thing. When town miser Cyrus Dinkle offers lines of credit to all the families so that they can start spending their money now, a buying spree of epic (and opulent) proportions begins. Connor hopes that his share of the profits may be used to finally get a good doctor to end his mother’s bouts of mania and depression. But when he discovers that his mound of ambergris is actually mostly sewage, Connor and a few trusted others—who dub themselves the Ambergrisians—must figure out a way to prevent Dinkle from bankrupting the entire town.

Mayfield’s novel has a wonderful tall tale quality, matched perfectly with its semifantastic, semibelievable pre–World War II American setting. Though the premise may sound middle grade, the mannerly prose style of the elderly narrator tips the story into the realm of adult literary fiction: “Every boy has a friend with an older brother happy to introduce an innocent younger sibling and his pals to pornography. Mine was Webb Garwood, whose brother Tuck had already initiated our education with a library of postcard photos depicting Rubenesque women and hairy men engaged in naked Greco-Roman wrestling.” There is a warmth and energy to the author’s depiction of his characters, particularly the town midwife, Miss Lizzie Fryberg, who becomes Connor’s mentor in his schemes. Likewise, Tesoro’s population of oddballs and colorful personalities means that someone intriguing is always entering or exiting the scene. There are a few moments when the pacing lags or the prose becomes slightly too self-indulgent, but generally, the story moves with a purpose. Readers looking for a slightly stylized yarn of small-town drama will find much to enjoy in this charming book.

A whale of a tale concerning a boy who tries to lift everyone’s spirits.

Pub Date: April 1, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-64603-004-0

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Regal House Publishing

Review Posted Online: March 27, 2020

Awards & Accolades

Likes

  • Readers Vote
  • 105


Our Verdict

  • Our Verdict
  • GET IT


  • New York Times Bestseller

Next book

THE WOMEN

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

Awards & Accolades

Likes

  • Readers Vote
  • 105


Our Verdict

  • Our Verdict
  • GET IT


  • New York Times Bestseller

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

Next book

LONG ISLAND

A moving portrait of rueful middle age and the failure to connect.

An acclaimed novelist revisits the central characters of his best-known work.

At the end of Brooklyn (2009), Eilis Lacey departed Ireland for the second and final time—headed back to New York and the Italian American husband she had secretly married after first traveling there for work. In her hometown of Enniscorthy, she left behind Jim Farrell, a young man she’d fallen in love with during her visit, and the inevitable gossip about her conduct. Tóibín’s 11th novel introduces readers to Eilis 20 years later, in 1976, still married to Tony Fiorello and living in the titular suburbia with their two teenage children. But Eilis’ seemingly placid existence is disturbed when a stranger confronts her, accusing Tony of having an affair with his wife—now pregnant—and threatening to leave the baby on their doorstep. “She’d known men like this in Ireland,” Tóibín writes. “Should one of them discover that their wife had been unfaithful and was pregnant as a result, they would not have the baby in the house.” This shock sends Eilis back to Enniscorthy for a visit—or perhaps a longer stay. (Eilis’ motives are as inscrutable as ever, even to herself.) She finds the never-married Jim managing his late father’s pub; unbeknownst to Eilis (and the town), he’s become involved with her widowed friend Nancy, who struggles to maintain the family chip shop. Eilis herself appears different to her old friends: “Something had happened to her in America,” Nancy concludes. Although the novel begins with a soap-operatic confrontation—and ends with a dramatic denouement, as Eilis’ fate is determined in a plot twist worthy of Edith Wharton—the author is a master of quiet, restrained prose, calmly observing the mores and mindsets of provincial Ireland, not much changed from the 1950s.

A moving portrait of rueful middle age and the failure to connect.

Pub Date: May 7, 2024

ISBN: 9781476785110

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Scribner

Review Posted Online: Feb. 3, 2024

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2024

Close Quickview