A luminous tale of friendship; readers will be excited to travel with these complex characters.

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A novel explores whether a road trip across America with a gay friend will put a troubled woman’s life back together.

Glenna Daniels’ life is a big mess. Three times married and with a third divorce pending, she has a miscarriage after trying hard to get pregnant. Then her father—and what a piece of work he is—accidentally burns her house down and perishes in the fire. Desperate, she gets in touch with her old friend Carey, a gay history professor. She is in Eastern Tennessee; he is in Atlanta. They met in the third grade and became fast friends and allies. Off they go on a road trip to the West Coast and back. Carey is carrying his own grief: His husband, Stan, died a couple of years ago. What follows is a travelogue (Yosemite, Yellowstone, Canyon de Chelly, the Gateway Arch) with wide-ranging commentary. They visit gay friends of Carey’s in San Francisco. Along the way, Glenna tortures herself with the secret of the miscarriage, which she finally confesses to Carey, allowing her healing to begin. Glenna and Carey start searching for happiness, and the details of their journey are both intriguing and believable. Underwood is a first-rate writer with a collection of poetry, The Book of Awe (2018), to her credit. One mark of a superb novelist is a dogged digging into characters and events, seeing things from all sides. In short, she is thoughtful and not afraid to spend four or five pages on an important scene, which she does time and again. And she gives readers arresting phrases, such as “the brain’s hot little terrarium of regret” and “Carey pushed out of the tent like a hatchling.” In fact, she has a poet’s love for words and the grounding of a moralist without being oppressively moralistic. The audience will find Glenna and Carey immensely appealing and will be convinced that they will remain lifelong pals.

A luminous tale of friendship; readers will be excited to travel with these complex characters.

Pub Date: June 21, 2022

ISBN: 978-1-948692-84-7

Page Count: 342

Publisher: Madville Publishing

Review Posted Online: June 13, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2022

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A flabby, fervid melodrama of a high-strung Southern family from Conroy (The Great Santini, The Lords of Discipline), whose penchant for overwriting once again obscures a genuine talent. Tom Wingo is an unemployed South Carolinian football coach whose internist wife is having an affair with a pompous cardiac man. When he hears that his fierce, beautiful twin sister Savannah, a well-known New York poet, has once again attempted suicide, he escapes his present emasculation by flying north to meet Savannah's comely psychiatrist, Susan Lowenstein. Savannah, it turns out, is catatonic, and before the suicide attempt had completely assumed the identity of a dead friend—the implication being that she couldn't stand being a Wingo anymore. Susan (a shrink with a lot of time on her hands) says to Tom, "Will you stay in New York and tell me all you know?" and he does, for nearly 600 mostly-bloated pages of flashbacks depicting The Family Wingo of swampy Colleton County: a beautiful mother, a brutal shrimper father (the Great Santini alive and kicking), and Tom and Savannah's much-admired older brother, Luke. There are enough traumas here to fall an average-sized mental ward, but the biggie centers around Luke, who uses the skills learned as a Navy SEAL in Vietnam to fight a guerrilla war against the installation of a nuclear power plant in Colleton and is killed by the authorities. It's his death that precipitates the nervous breakdown that costs Tom his job, and Savannah, almost, her life. There may be a barely-glimpsed smaller novel buried in all this succotash (Tom's marriage and life as a football coach), but it's sadly overwhelmed by the book's clumsy central narrative device (flashback ad infinitum) and Conroy's pretentious prose style: ""There are no verdicts to childhood, only consequences, and the bright freight of memory. I speak now of the sun-struck, deeply lived-in days of my past.

Pub Date: Oct. 21, 1986

ISBN: 0553381547

Page Count: 686

Publisher: Houghton Mifflin

Review Posted Online: Oct. 30, 2013

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 1986

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A quick, biting critique of the publishing industry.

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What happens when a midlist author steals a manuscript and publishes it as her own?

June Hayward and Athena Liu went to Yale together, moved to D.C. after graduation, and are both writers, but the similarities end there. While June has had little success since publication and is struggling to write her second novel, Athena has become a darling of the publishing industry, much to June’s frustration. When Athena suddenly dies, June, almost accidentally, walks off with her latest manuscript, a novel about the World War I Chinese Labour Corps. June edits the novel and passes it off as her own, and no one seems the wiser, but once the novel becomes a smash success, cracks begin to form. When June faces social media accusations and staggering writer’s block, she can’t shake the feeling that someone knows the truth about what she’s done. This satirical take on racism and success in the publishing industry at times veers into the realm of the unbelievable, but, on the whole, witnessing June’s constant casual racism and flimsy justifications for her actions is somehow cathartic. Yes, publishing is like this; finally someone has written it out. At times, the novel feels so much like a social media feed that it’s impossible to stop reading—what new drama is waiting to unfold. and who will win out in the end? An incredibly meta novel, with commentary on everything from trade reviews to Twitter, the ultimate message is clear from the start, which can lead to a lack of nuance. Kuang, however, does manage to leave some questions unanswered: fodder, perhaps, for a new tweetstorm.

A quick, biting critique of the publishing industry.

Pub Date: May 16, 2023

ISBN: 9780063250833

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Morrow/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Feb. 22, 2023

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2023

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