Movingly conveys a resonant message of empathy for mistreated and abandoned animals.

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THE DOG AT THE GATE

HOW A THROWAWAY DOG BECOMES SPECIAL

In this middle-grade novel, an Australian shepherd poignantly relates his mistreatment as a puppy, the love and companionship he finds with a caring owner and other rescued animals, and his life’s surprising last chapter.

Dog lovers be warned: You’ll need to keep the tissues handy while reading the saga of an Australian shepherd’s life and death (and beyond). Told in the heart-tugging voice of Aussie Max, Weber’s (Beyond Flight or Fight: A Compassionate Guide for Working with Fearful Dogs, 2015) novel begins when Max is taken from his mother as a puppy. Relegated to his first human family’s shade-free, barren backyard, Max is subject to increasing neglect. His only moments of affection and companionship come when the family’s unhappy young son occasionally plays outside with him. After a painful encounter with a neighbor’s aggressive dog, Max is beaten and hauled off to an animal shelter, where, confused and depressed, he is marked for death. Life turns around when Max is adopted by a caring, dog-savvy new owner. Gradually adjusting to his extended new family of rescued dogs and cats, he finds his calling as a champion in agility competitions. Weber believably shadows Max’s triumphs and sunny times over the years with a tragedy that befalls his beloved feline companion and with the emotional scars that linger due to the Aussie’s harrowing start in life. The author also doesn’t sugarcoat Max’s last challenge: his wrenching, graphically depicted last illness. Yet Weber never makes Max’s plight feel gratuitous. This touching narrative, with its colorful characters and humane message, conveys Weber’s own love for animals and her experiences with animal rescue and the loss of a pet. And, although readers may go through an emotional wringer throughout, Weber leaves her audience with the comfort of a cathartic last chapter that involves a trip over the “Rainbow Bridge,” joyous reunions, and Max’s new job, tailor-made just for him.

Movingly conveys a resonant message of empathy for mistreated and abandoned animals.

Pub Date: Oct. 6, 2017

ISBN: 978-0-9966612-4-9

Page Count: 246

Publisher: Pups and Purrs Press

Review Posted Online: April 30, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 2018

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Kin “[find] each other’s lives inscrutable” in this rich, sharp story about the way identity is formed.

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THE VANISHING HALF

Inseparable identical twin sisters ditch home together, and then one decides to vanish.

The talented Bennett fuels her fiction with secrets—first in her lauded debut, The Mothers (2016), and now in the assured and magnetic story of the Vignes sisters, light-skinned women parked on opposite sides of the color line. Desiree, the “fidgety twin,” and Stella, “a smart, careful girl,” make their break from stultifying rural Mallard, Louisiana, becoming 16-year-old runaways in 1954 New Orleans. The novel opens 14 years later as Desiree, fleeing a violent marriage in D.C., returns home with a different relative: her 8-year-old daughter, Jude. The gossips are agog: “In Mallard, nobody married dark....Marrying a dark man and dragging his blueblack child all over town was one step too far.” Desiree's decision seals Jude’s misery in this “colorstruck” place and propels a new generation of flight: Jude escapes on a track scholarship to UCLA. Tending bar as a side job in Beverly Hills, she catches a glimpse of her mother’s doppelgänger. Stella, ensconced in white society, is shedding her fur coat. Jude, so black that strangers routinely stare, is unrecognizable to her aunt. All this is expertly paced, unfurling before the book is half finished; a reader can guess what is coming. Bennett is deeply engaged in the unknowability of other people and the scourge of colorism. The scene in which Stella adopts her white persona is a tour de force of doubling and confusion. It calls up Toni Morrison’s The Bluest Eye, the book's 50-year-old antecedent. Bennett's novel plays with its characters' nagging feelings of being incomplete—for the twins without each other; for Jude’s boyfriend, Reese, who is trans and seeks surgery; for their friend Barry, who performs in drag as Bianca. Bennett keeps all these plot threads thrumming and her social commentary crisp. In the second half, Jude spars with her cousin Kennedy, Stella's daughter, a spoiled actress.

Kin “[find] each other’s lives inscrutable” in this rich, sharp story about the way identity is formed.

Pub Date: June 2, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-525-53629-1

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Riverhead

Review Posted Online: March 15, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2020

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A love letter to the power of books and friendship.

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THE GIVER OF STARS

Women become horseback librarians in 1930s Kentucky and face challenges from the landscape, the weather, and the men around them.

Alice thought marrying attractive American Bennett Van Cleve would be her ticket out of her stifling life in England. But when she and Bennett settle in Baileyville, Kentucky, she realizes that her life consists of nothing more than staying in their giant house all day and getting yelled at by his unpleasant father, who owns a coal mine. She’s just about to resign herself to a life of boredom when an opportunity presents itself in the form of a traveling horseback library—an initiative from Eleanor Roosevelt meant to counteract the devastating effects of the Depression by focusing on literacy and learning. Much to the dismay of her husband and father-in-law, Alice signs up and soon learns the ropes from the library’s leader, Margery. Margery doesn’t care what anyone thinks of her, rejects marriage, and would rather be on horseback than in a kitchen. And even though all this makes Margery a town pariah, Alice quickly grows to like her. Along with several other women (including one black woman, Sophia, whose employment causes controversy in a town that doesn’t believe black and white people should be allowed to use the same library), Margery and Alice supply magazines, Bible stories, and copies of books like Little Women to the largely poor residents who live in remote areas. Alice spends long days in terrible weather on horseback, but she finally feels happy in her new life in Kentucky, even as her marriage to Bennett is failing. But her powerful father-in-law doesn’t care for Alice’s job or Margery’s lifestyle, and he’ll stop at nothing to shut their library down. Basing her novel on the true story of the Pack Horse Library Project established by the Works Progress Administration in the 1930s, Moyes (Still Me, 2018, etc.) brings an often forgotten slice of history to life. She writes about Kentucky with lush descriptions of the landscape and tender respect for the townspeople, most of whom are poor, uneducated, and grateful for the chance to learn. Although Alice and Margery both have their own romances, the true power of the story is in the bonds between the women of the library. They may have different backgrounds, but their commitment to helping the people of Baileyville brings them together.

A love letter to the power of books and friendship.

Pub Date: Oct. 8, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-399-56248-8

Page Count: 400

Publisher: Pamela Dorman/Viking

Review Posted Online: July 1, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2019

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