Astutely captures the circular nature of life with a dazzling, creative intuition.

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RIDING THE TALE OF A DREAM

This late-19th-century life story of an enigmatic girl raised in a log cabin in the Canadian wilderness is a stirring debut for Ware.

The novel opens with a death. Prostrated by pneumonia, Martha lies on the kitchen table of the family’s remote Southern Alberta home, gasping her final breaths. As peace comes to her, she sees her life’s highlights—growing up in Massachusetts, travelling west in a covered wagon with her husband, John, building their cabin in an open meadow, and having children. A darkness descends over 5-year-old Beth as her mother passes away. She retreats into herself and takes to straying alone into the forest. Despite the perils of venturing unaccompanied, it is here she finds the strength to re-engage with life after encountering the apparition of a benevolent woman in white. Growing older, she feels an increasing connection to the spiritual world. Her brother, Jeremiah, educates her in the writings of Whitman, Emerson, and Thoreau, but she experiences an even more profound personal bond to the cosmos in dreams, visions. Throughout, she’s aided by a spiritual guide she calls Chief. It’s Chief who consoles her when she runs away after her father promises her to Abe Moen, deciding that a young woman needs a more fulfilling life than living with her “Pa and bachelor brother.” With Chief’s assurance, she joins Abe’s family at their homestead just outside Rosend, marries, and gives birth to a son, Joshua. But what appears to be the beginning of a blissful life becomes wracked with uncertainty when drought comes to the family farm and Beth learns that she can no longer have children. The book is a moving bildungsroman, the story of a woman conquering her childhood fears and learning to overcome daily struggle by gaining a sense of place in the universe. Beth develops into a seerlike figure, possessing from a young age the ability to step outside herself. Ware’s prose lucidly captures this shift in cosmic consciousness: “As an objective bystander, she hovered and surveyed the situation intently. She began to realize that the people down there were so caught up in the emotion of the moment, the panic or pressure of the moment, that they hadn’t thought to look up to see where they were going.” Ware skillfully builds two distinct worlds within the novel, the first being the natural environment that seems to wrap around Beth when she ventures beyond the safety of her cabin, animated by trickling streams, whispering breezes, and the chatter of animals. This is contrasted with Beth’s dreamscape: a nebulous place where abstract images appear and then recede to nothing. Such images may be as simple as that of a “non-physical, invisible net” that surrounds Beth, bestowing her with a sense of protection in her day-to-day life. The power of the novel lies in developing an understanding of how the tangible natural plane and incorporeal dream plane reflect and inform each another. The result is an empowering life story and a mind-expanding cosmic exploration that will particularly delight readers drawn to spirituality titles.

Astutely captures the circular nature of life with a dazzling, creative intuition.

Pub Date: N/A

ISBN: N/A

Page Count: 221

Publisher: Dog Ear Publisher

Review Posted Online: March 28, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 2018

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A tasty, if not always tasteful, tale of supernatural mayhem that fans of King and Crichton alike will enjoy.

DEVOLUTION

Are we not men? We are—well, ask Bigfoot, as Brooks does in this delightful yarn, following on his bestseller World War Z (2006).

A zombie apocalypse is one thing. A volcanic eruption is quite another, for, as the journalist who does a framing voice-over narration for Brooks’ latest puts it, when Mount Rainier popped its cork, “it was the psychological aspect, the hyperbole-fueled hysteria that had ended up killing the most people.” Maybe, but the sasquatches whom the volcano displaced contributed to the statistics, too, if only out of self-defense. Brooks places the epicenter of the Bigfoot war in a high-tech hideaway populated by the kind of people you might find in a Jurassic Park franchise: the schmo who doesn’t know how to do much of anything but tries anyway, the well-intentioned bleeding heart, the know-it-all intellectual who turns out to know the wrong things, the immigrant with a tough backstory and an instinct for survival. Indeed, the novel does double duty as a survival manual, packed full of good advice—for instance, try not to get wounded, for “injury turns you from a giver to a taker. Taking up our resources, our time to care for you.” Brooks presents a case for making room for Bigfoot in the world while peppering his narrative with timely social criticism about bad behavior on the human side of the conflict: The explosion of Rainier might have been better forecast had the president not slashed the budget of the U.S. Geological Survey, leading to “immediate suspension of the National Volcano Early Warning System,” and there’s always someone around looking to monetize the natural disaster and the sasquatch-y onslaught that follows. Brooks is a pro at building suspense even if it plays out in some rather spectacularly yucky episodes, one involving a short spear that takes its name from “the sucking sound of pulling it out of the dead man’s heart and lungs.” Grossness aside, it puts you right there on the scene.

A tasty, if not always tasteful, tale of supernatural mayhem that fans of King and Crichton alike will enjoy.

Pub Date: June 16, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-9848-2678-7

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Del Rey/Ballantine

Review Posted Online: Feb. 10, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2020

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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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