This tale skillfully shows the complexities and bloodshed of three famous days in American history.

WITHOUT WARNING

THE SAGA OF GETTYSBURG, A RELUCTANT UNION HERO, AND THE MEN HE INSPIRED

A historical novel focuses on the Battle of Gettysburg from the perspective of the North.

Pierce begins this detailed work on June 27, 1863. It is the middle of the Civil War, and President Abraham Lincoln and his team in the White House want a change. The Rebels have invaded Pennsylvania. A wrong decision could very well lead to an attack on the nation’s capital. A messenger is dispatched to the front lines to tell Gen. George Meade that he is the new head of the Army of the Potomac. Meade is a West Point graduate and career soldier, though he has some doubts that he is the right one to command so many men. He lacks the charisma of more well-liked generals and is known for his hot temper. But orders are orders. Meade is soon at the helm of what will be remembered as the bloodiest engagement of the Civil War. The narrative follows Meade and a few other characters on the Union side as they fight the enemy, the oppressive summer heat, and problems in their own ranks. Perhaps the biggest thorn in Meade’s side is Maj. Gen. Daniel Sickles. Although Sickles thinks quite highly of himself, Meade has quite the opposite opinion. Sickles, who has political connections and was once acquitted of killing his wife’s lover, presents a major problem on the battlefield when he decides to place his troops in a foolhardy position. Yet even when Sickles must exit the battle with a wounded leg, there are still lots of pounding artillery, infantry charges, and Rebel yells to fill the once-tranquil Pennsylvania landscape.

The book deftly outlines the enormous task that lay before Meade. From the difficulties of simply communicating to his troops to men like Sickles who might decide to do what they wanted regardless of orders, leading the Union forces in a major engagement is certainly no cakewalk. Not to mention that Meade takes command mere days before the epic battle. And those are just the logistical problems. The tale effectively depicts how even a general like Meade has plenty to fear from enemy fire, as when a shell bursts near a group of officers, “raining down steel fragments.” But not all of the details are quite as informative. Meade and others, as one could imagine, have a penchant for coffee. Yet readers need not care how a private “poured a steaming cup” and how “Meade’s cook walked onto the porch and handed Meade a cup of coffee.” Such moments lengthen an already sprawling novel without supplying much substance. Meanwhile, opportunities for providing more depth are missed. For example, much is made of the many participants in the war who are West Point graduates. But what might West Point have been like in the 1800s? Why do some leave the school with a sense of duty while others see fit to break their “solemn oath to protect and honor the Republic”? Nevertheless, the novel delivers an astute angle from which to consider the crucial events of those deadly days in July. In the end, Meade, a figure often overshadowed by other heroes, has a lot to tell readers.

This tale skillfully shows the complexities and bloodshed of three famous days in American history.

Pub Date: June 15, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-63107-027-3

Page Count: 788

Publisher: Heart Ally Books

Review Posted Online: July 7, 2020

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If novelists are auditioning to play God, Hilderbrand gets the part.

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GOLDEN GIRL

From the greenroom of the afterlife—make that Benjamin Moore "Parsley Snips" green—a newly dead Nantucket novelist watches life unfold without her.

In her 27th novel, Hilderbrand gives herself an alter ego—beloved beach-novel author Vivian Howe—sends her out for a morning jog, and immediately kills her off. A hit-and-run driver leaves Vivi dead by the side of the road, where her son's best friend discovers her body—or was he responsible for the accident? Vivi doesn't know, nor does she know yet that her daughter Willa is pregnant, or that her daughter Carson is having a terribly ill-advised affair, or that her son, Leo, has a gnawing secret, or that her ex is getting tired of the girl he dumped her for. She will discover all this and more as she watches one last summer on Nantucket play out under the tutelage of Martha, her "Person," who receives her in the boho-chic waiting room of the Beyond. Hermès-scarved Martha explains that Vivi will have three nudges—three chances to change the course of events on Earth and prevent her bereaved loved ones from making life-altering mistakes. She will also get to watch the publication of what will be her last novel, titled Golden Girl, natch, and learn the answers to two questions: Will the secret about her own life she buried in this novel come to light (who cares, really—she's dead now), and will it hit No. 1 on the New York Times bestseller list (now there's an interesting question). She'll also get to see that one of her biggest wrongs is posthumously righted and that her kids have learned her most important lesson. As Willa says to Carson, "You know how she treats the characters in her books? She gives them flaws, she portrays them doing horrible things—but the reader loves them anyway. Because Mom loves them. Because they’re human.”

If novelists are auditioning to play God, Hilderbrand gets the part.

Pub Date: June 1, 2021

ISBN: 978-0-31642008-2

Page Count: 384

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: May 5, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2021

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Unlike baseball, basketball has contributed little to world literature. Call this Exhibit A.

SOOLEY

Legal eagle and mystery maven Grisham shifts gears with a novel about roundball.

What possessed Grisham to stop writing about murder in the Spanish moss–dripping milieus of the Deep South is anyone’s guess, and why he elected to write about basketball, one might imagine, speaks to some deep passion for the game. The depth of that love doesn’t quite emerge in these pages, flat of affect, told almost as if a by-the-numbers biography of an actual player. As it is, Grisham invents an all-too-believable hero in Samuel Sooleymon, who plays his way out of South Sudan, a nation wrought by sectarian violence—Sooley is a Dinka, Grisham instructs, of “the largest ethnic class in the country,” pitted against other ethnic groups—and mired in poverty despite the relative opulence of the capital city of Juba, with its “tall buildings, vibrancy, and well-dressed people.” A hard-charging but heart-of-gold coach changes his life when he arrives at the university there, having been dismissed earlier as a “nonshooting guard.” Soon enough Sooley is sinking three-pointers with alarming precision, which lands him a spot on an American college team. Much of the later portion of Grisham’s novel bounces between Sooley’s on-court exploits, jaw-dropping as they are, and his efforts to bring his embattled family, now refugees from civil war, to join him in the U.S.; explains Grisham, again, “Beatrice and her children were Dinka, the largest tribe in South Sudan, and their strongman was supposedly in control of most of the country,” though evidently not the part where they lived. Alas, Sooley, beloved of all, bound for a glorious career in the NBA, falls into the bad company that sudden wealth and fame can bring, and it all comes crashing down in a morality play that has only the virtue of bringing this tired narrative to an end.

Unlike baseball, basketball has contributed little to world literature. Call this Exhibit A.

Pub Date: April 27, 2021

ISBN: 978-0-385-54768-0

Page Count: 368

Publisher: Doubleday

Review Posted Online: March 3, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2021

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