A well-paced narrative palpably evokes America’s stormy past.

WE ARE ALL GOOD PEOPLE HERE

A turbulent decade reverberates throughout two women’s lives.

The 1960s, as some chroniclers have noted, were nothing less than days of rage for many young men and women suddenly awakened to troubling political realities: overt racism and a violent, divisive war, both provoking an urgent pressure to act morally, to take a stand, “to dig out the rot.” But the upheaval of the '60s was not only political: Especially for women, ethical choices were complicated by love, sex, and, not least, money. White (A Place at the Table, 2013, etc.) handles that complexity with gentleness and empathy in a novel that follows the divergent paths of two friends: Evelyn Elliot Whalen, the cosseted daughter of wealthy, politely racist Atlantans, and Daniella Gold a middle-class, liberal Unitarian whose father is a Jewish professor. In 1962, they happily find themselves roommates at a small Southern women’s college that, the girls discover, holds onto some discomfiting customs: The top sorority refuses to accept Jews, for one; and African American maids, living in the basement of each residence house, clean students’ bedrooms and do their laundry. Eve, eager to take up a cause, protests their working conditions to the college’s headmaster, a gesture that backfires, as the more circumspect and pragmatic Daniella knew it would. Her “silly friend,” she reflects, “thought she could splash and kick her way into an ocean of oppression and instantly change the tide.” Eve continues to kick and splash after they both move to New York, become involved in CORE, and apply to join the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee in registering voters in Mississippi. Daniella worries about the danger: “We should only take actions that are safe?” Eve asks, a question they continue to confront as they struggle to shape their role in the world. Drawing on memoirs, biographies, and histories, White vividly portrays the fractious radicals—such as Eve’s arrogant, manipulative lover—dedicated to smashing “bourgeois notions and attitudes” as well as the trajectory that some of those ardent rebels took in the 1970s and '80s.

A well-paced narrative palpably evokes America’s stormy past.

Pub Date: Aug. 6, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-4516-0891-5

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Atria

Review Posted Online: April 28, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2019

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Doerr captures the sights and sounds of wartime and focuses, refreshingly, on the innate goodness of his major characters.

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ALL THE LIGHT WE CANNOT SEE

Doerr presents us with two intricate stories, both of which take place during World War II; late in the novel, inevitably, they intersect.

In August 1944, Marie-Laure LeBlanc is a blind 16-year-old living in the walled port city of Saint-Malo in Brittany and hoping to escape the effects of Allied bombing. D-Day took place two months earlier, and Cherbourg, Caen and Rennes have already been liberated. She’s taken refuge in this city with her great-uncle Etienne, at first a fairly frightening figure to her. Marie-Laure’s father was a locksmith and craftsman who made scale models of cities that Marie-Laure studied so she could travel around on her own. He also crafted clever and intricate boxes, within which treasures could be hidden. Parallel to the story of Marie-Laure we meet Werner and Jutta Pfennig, a brother and sister, both orphans who have been raised in the Children’s House outside Essen, in Germany. Through flashbacks we learn that Werner had been a curious and bright child who developed an obsession with radio transmitters and receivers, both in their infancies during this period. Eventually, Werner goes to a select technical school and then, at 18, into the Wehrmacht, where his technical aptitudes are recognized and he’s put on a team trying to track down illegal radio transmissions. Etienne and Marie-Laure are responsible for some of these transmissions, but Werner is intrigued since what she’s broadcasting is innocent—she shares her passion for Jules Verne by reading aloud 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea. A further subplot involves Marie-Laure’s father’s having hidden a valuable diamond, one being tracked down by Reinhold von Rumpel, a relentless German sergeant-major.

Doerr captures the sights and sounds of wartime and focuses, refreshingly, on the innate goodness of his major characters.

Pub Date: May 6, 2014

ISBN: 978-1-4767-4658-6

Page Count: 448

Publisher: Scribner

Review Posted Online: March 6, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2014

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Wingate sheds light on a shameful true story of child exploitation but is less successful in engaging readers in her...

BEFORE WE WERE YOURS

Avery Stafford, a lawyer, descendant of two prominent Southern families and daughter of a distinguished senator, discovers a family secret that alters her perspective on heritage.

Wingate (Sisters, 2016, etc.) shifts the story in her latest novel between present and past as Avery uncovers evidence that her Grandma Judy was a victim of the Tennessee Children’s Home Society and is related to a woman Avery and her father meet when he visits a nursing home. Although Avery is living at home to help her parents through her father’s cancer treatment, she is also being groomed for her own political career. Readers learn that investigating her family’s past is not part of Avery's scripted existence, but Wingate's attempts to make her seem torn about this are never fully developed, and descriptions of her chemistry with a man she meets as she's searching are also unconvincing. Sections describing the real-life orphanage director Georgia Tann, who stole poor children, mistreated them, and placed them for adoption with wealthy clients—including Joan Crawford and June Allyson—are more vivid, as are passages about Grandma Judy and her siblings. Wingate’s fans and readers who enjoy family dramas will find enough to entertain them, and book clubs may enjoy dissecting the relationship and historical issues in the book.

Wingate sheds light on a shameful true story of child exploitation but is less successful in engaging readers in her fictional characters' lives.

Pub Date: June 6, 2017

ISBN: 978-0-425-28468-1

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Ballantine

Review Posted Online: March 21, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2017

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