A mixed bag, but this allegorical tale is definitely worth a read.



In this debut novel, Pepe offers an intriguing mixture of cage fighting and religion in an homage to Homer’s Iliad.

The story features a young protagonist whose real name is Achilles Jeannopoulos, but who goes by the nickname “Archie.” He’s a veteran of conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan and a cage fighter who’s proud of his Greek-American heritage. In this tale that echoes the Iliad, he is, of course, a stand-in for his namesake warrior; his trainer and best friend, Byron, is Patroclus; his corner-man, Mackey, is Odysseus; the venal club owner, Joe, represents King Agamemnon; and Archie’s girlfriend, Meaghan, is Briseis. His archenemy in the cage is a man named Heckman (standing in for Hector). Archie is a good fighter and an endearing wise guy; he’s also religious, and the Upper Room Praise and Worship Church sponsors him as a fighter. Clearly, he’s a complex young man who’s afire with passion. Joe wants to set Archie up against Heckman to bring in the crowds, but Heckman is a professional fighter, powered by steroids, who’s merely slumming at the club, so Archie resists the club owner’s urgings. Then Archie discovers that he is suffering from an inoperable brain tumor. However, the church needs money desperately, so Byron, long retired, fights Heckman, hoping to win a fat purse. Later, Archie, who’s in the most fragile of health, takes on Heckman himself. Afterward, his tumor is bleeding and he’ll almost certainly die soon, so he sets off in his sailboat for his ancestral homeland, Greece, powered by rage and alcohol. Along the way, he has further adventures, including an apparent debate and standoff with Lucifer himself. This is a highly ambitious novel—and, for many readers, it may seem to be too ambitious. Indeed, it quickly becomes an overcrowded catchall for the author’s thoughts on a very wide range of subjects, including God and morality, mortality, heroism, and present-day culture, among many other topics. To that end, there are many mini-essays herein; overall, it feels like a young man’s novel—passionate but undisciplined—and as a result, it often seems overwritten. For example, when a sad Archie impulsively plucks a flower, he immediately regrets what he’s done to it, and in the very next paragraph, the flower is referred to as “slain foliage.” Sometimes, the text contains inventive grammar, such as “the work perspired him.” On the other hand, it’s hard not to like a book that works so hard to make its points, and Archie comes off as a genuinely likable smart aleck and hero-in-training. The exchanges between him and Meaghan are affecting, with her loving and insightful but frustrated, and him, often, as dense as a post. That said, some readers may want to throw up their hands when the drunk and dying Archie imprudently sets sail for Greece. In the end, though, it somehow all works—in part, because he doesn’t wind up in Greece, after all.

A mixed bag, but this allegorical tale is definitely worth a read.

Pub Date: April 6, 2016

ISBN: 978-0-692-65687-7

Page Count: 242

Publisher: Chopper Press

Review Posted Online: May 1, 2018

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A touching family drama that effectively explores the negative impact of stress on fragile relationships.


A middle-aged woman returns to her childhood home to care for her ailing father, confronting many painful secrets from her past.

When Mallory Aldiss gets a call from a long-ago boyfriend telling her that her elderly father has been gallivanting around town with a gun in his hand, Mallory decides it’s time to return to the small Rhode Island town that she’s been avoiding for more than a decade. Mallory’s precocious 13-year-old daughter, Joy, is thrilled that she'll get to meet her grandfather at long last, and an aunt, too, and she'll finally see the place where her mother grew up. When they arrive in Bay Bluff, it’s barely a few hours before Mallory bumps into her old flame, Jack, the only man she’s ever really loved. Gone is the rebellious young person she remembers, and in his place stands a compassionate, accomplished adult. As they try to reconnect, Mallory realizes that the same obstacle that pushed them apart decades earlier is still standing in their way: Jack blames Mallory’s father for his mother’s death. No one knows exactly how Jack’s mother died, but Jack thinks a love affair between her and Mallory’s father had something to do with it. As Jack and Mallory chase down answers, Mallory also tries to repair her rocky relationships with her two sisters and determine why her father has always been so hard on her. Told entirely from Mallory’s perspective, the novel has a haunting, nostalgic quality. Despite the complex and overlapping layers to the history of Bay Bluff and its inhabitants, the book at times trudges too slowly through Mallory’s meanderings down Memory Lane. Even so, Delinsky sometimes manages to pick up the pace, and in those moments the beauty and nuance of this complicated family tale shine through. Readers who don’t mind skimming past details that do little to advance the plot may find that the juicier nuggets and realistically rendered human connections are worth the effort.

A touching family drama that effectively explores the negative impact of stress on fragile relationships.

Pub Date: May 19, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-250-11951-3

Page Count: 416

Publisher: St. Martin's

Review Posted Online: March 2, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2020

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A love letter to the power of books and friendship.

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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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