Anyone who's bet his or her future on Wall Street, strapped on a pair of skis or savored a well-told story will want to read...

THIS IS HOW IT REALLY SOUNDS

An impressive and dramatic novel about three men who share a surname and intertwining fortunes.

Pete Harrington is a fading rock star who's shocked to find his fancy car being repossessed. Harry Harrington used to be the best “extreme skier” in the world, dominating a sport few knew existed. Wall Street financier and greed-hound Peter Harrington has “amassed hundreds of millions of dollars in five short years” through legal tactics that have hurt many other investors. He has made “more in interest each day doing nothing than most people earned working all year.” Meanwhile, Pete’s $8 million holdings have shrunk to $400,000 due to a poor investment—in Crossroads Partners, an enterprise set up by Peter. Now Pete must sell off costly tchotchkes to pay off his debts, as “fifteen years of his life turned into yellow tags at a secondhand store.” He becomes obsessed with payback. Pete wants more than anything else to walk up to Peter and sock him in the nose. “Once in a while somebody’s got to kick the crap out of greed,” he says. He hires an old CIA retiree, Charlie Pico, to teach him how to deliver the best possible punch. Meanwhile, friends remind Pete that he'll be committing assault, so maybe he can do the deed in China? Pete is a sympathetic jerk whose odyssey is fun to follow as he trains for the big confrontation and recalls a fight he once had with the bass player from the rock band Uncle Sam’s Erection. Harry’s storyline is less tightly connected to the others, with dazzling skiing scenes in which he courts death and races megaton-sized avalanches. 

Anyone who's bet his or her future on Wall Street, strapped on a pair of skis or savored a well-told story will want to read this one.

Pub Date: April 21, 2015

ISBN: 978-1-250-04882-0

Page Count: 368

Publisher: St. Martin's

Review Posted Online: Feb. 5, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2015

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Despite some distractions, there’s an irresistible charm to Owens’ first foray into nature-infused romantic fiction.

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WHERE THE CRAWDADS SING

A wild child’s isolated, dirt-poor upbringing in a Southern coastal wilderness fails to shield her from heartbreak or an accusation of murder.

“The Marsh Girl,” “swamp trash”—Catherine “Kya” Clark is a figure of mystery and prejudice in the remote North Carolina coastal community of Barkley Cove in the 1950s and '60s. Abandoned by a mother no longer able to endure her drunken husband’s beatings and then by her four siblings, Kya grows up in the careless, sometimes-savage company of her father, who eventually disappears, too. Alone, virtually or actually, from age 6, Kya learns both to be self-sufficient and to find solace and company in her fertile natural surroundings. Owens (Secrets of the Savanna, 2006, etc.), the accomplished co-author of several nonfiction books on wildlife, is at her best reflecting Kya’s fascination with the birds, insects, dappled light, and shifting tides of the marshes. The girl’s collections of shells and feathers, her communion with the gulls, her exploration of the wetlands are evoked in lyrical phrasing which only occasionally tips into excess. But as the child turns teenager and is befriended by local boy Tate Walker, who teaches her to read, the novel settles into a less magical, more predictable pattern. Interspersed with Kya’s coming-of-age is the 1969 murder investigation arising from the discovery of a man’s body in the marsh. The victim is Chase Andrews, “star quarterback and town hot shot,” who was once Kya’s lover. In the eyes of a pair of semicomic local police officers, Kya will eventually become the chief suspect and must stand trial. By now the novel’s weaknesses have become apparent: the monochromatic characterization (good boy Tate, bad boy Chase) and implausibilities (Kya evolves into a polymath—a published writer, artist, and poet), yet the closing twist is perhaps its most memorable oddity.

Despite some distractions, there’s an irresistible charm to Owens’ first foray into nature-infused romantic fiction.

Pub Date: Aug. 14, 2018

ISBN: 978-0-7352-1909-0

Page Count: 384

Publisher: Putnam

Review Posted Online: May 15, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 2018

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A magnificent achievement: a novel that is, by turns, both optimistic and fatalistic, idealistic without being naïve.

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THE OVERSTORY

Powers’ (Orfeo, 2014, etc.) 12th novel is a masterpiece of operatic proportions, involving nine central characters and more than half a century of American life.

In this work, Powers takes on the subject of nature, or our relationship to nature, as filtered through the lens of environmental activism, although at its heart the book is after more existential concerns. As is the case with much of Powers’ fiction, it takes shape slowly—first in a pastiche of narratives establishing the characters (a psychologist, an undergraduate who died briefly but was revived, a paraplegic computer game designer, a homeless vet), and then in the kaleidoscopic ways these individuals come together and break apart. “We all travel the Milky Way together, trees and men,” Powers writes, quoting the naturalist John Muir. “In every walk with nature one receives far more than he seeks.” The idea is important because what Powers means to explore is a sense of how we become who we are, individually and collectively, and our responsibility to the planet and to ourselves. Nick, for instance, continues a project begun by his grandfather to take repeated photographs of a single chestnut tree, “one a month for seventy-six years.” Pat, a visionary botanist, discovers how trees communicate with one another only to be discredited and then, a generation later, reaffirmed. What links the characters is survival—the survival of both trees and human beings. The bulk of the action unfolds during the timber wars of the late 1990s, as the characters coalesce on the Pacific coast to save old-growth sequoia from logging concerns. For Powers, however, political or environmental activism becomes a filter through which to consider the connectedness of all things—not only the human lives he portrays in often painfully intricate dimensions, but also the biosphere, both virtual and natural. “The world starts here,” Powers insists. “This is the merest beginning. Life can do anything. You have no idea.”

A magnificent achievement: a novel that is, by turns, both optimistic and fatalistic, idealistic without being naïve.

Pub Date: April 3, 2018

ISBN: 978-0-393-63552-2

Page Count: 512

Publisher: Norton

Review Posted Online: Jan. 23, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2018

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