An experimental, deeply meta novel about the search for meaning and the disappointments of reality.

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THE INFINITE FUTURE

A struggling American writer, a Brazilian librarian, and a Mormon historian come together in a dubious mission to unearth a long-lost science-fiction masterpiece.

Wirkus (City of Brick and Shadow, 2014) delved into the lives of Mormon missionaries in his debut novel and here makes a science fictional play at The Book of Mormon with a lightly comical meditation on the search for meaning in literature. It begins in a very meta fashion as “Tim Wirkus” meets Danny Laszlo, an old Brigham Young University creative-writing classmate, who presses upon the author his translation of a story by an obscure Brazilian science-fiction writer. Sad-sack Danny picks up the narration, relating how he ended up in Sao Paolo on a deceitful writing scholarship from the Coalition of Aggrieved Christians, who want him to write a book about Mormon missionaries in Brazil. But a more intriguing mystery presents itself when Danny’s library liaison, Sérgio Antunes, gives him several stories by Eduard Salgado-MacKenzie, a long-forgotten sci-fi novelist whose most famous work was to be titled The Infinite Future. They find this description, written in his own hand: “Strictly speaking, THE INFINITE FUTURE is not a novel. It is, instead, a prose-poem epic that discerns in the imagined empires of the future the germ of humanity’s eventual henosis—its sublime and terrible union with the infinite future. It is, in other words, a prophetic text on a par with the Holy Bible or the I Ching.” (Spoiler alert: it is not.) Next we get a prolonged road trip during which Danny and Sergio connect with Dr. Harriet Kimball, a disgruntled Mormon historian, to track down the mysterious author in the wilds of Idaho. The revelation that follows is a surprise by itself, but then Wirkus offers more than 150 pages of The Infinite Future, a pulpy yet literary nugget that reads like a cross between Flash Gordon and The Seventh Seal.

An experimental, deeply meta novel about the search for meaning and the disappointments of reality.

Pub Date: Jan. 16, 2018

ISBN: 978-0-7352-2432-2

Page Count: 400

Publisher: Penguin Press

Review Posted Online: Oct. 2, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 2017

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An exuberant comic opera set to the music of life.

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DEACON KING KONG

The versatile and accomplished McBride (Five Carat Soul, 2017, etc.) returns with a dark urban farce crowded with misjudged signals, crippling sorrows, and unexpected epiphanies.

It's September 1969, just after Apollo 11 and Woodstock. In a season of such events, it’s just as improbable that in front of 16 witnesses occupying the crowded plaza of a Brooklyn housing project one afternoon, a hobbling, dyspeptic, and boozy old church deacon named Cuffy Jasper "Sportcoat" Lambkin should pull out a .45-caliber Luger pistol and shoot off an ear belonging to the neighborhood’s most dangerous drug dealer. The 19-year-old victim’s name is Deems Clemens, and Sportcoat had coached him to be “the best baseball player the projects had ever seen” before he became “a poison-selling murderous meathead.” Everybody in the project presumes that Sportcoat is now destined to violently join his late wife, Hettie, in the great beyond. But all kinds of seemingly disconnected people keep getting in destiny's way, whether it’s Sportcoat’s friend Pork Sausage or Potts, a world-weary but scrupulous white policeman who’s hoping to find Sportcoat fast enough to protect him from not only Deems’ vengeance, but the malevolent designs of neighborhood kingpin Butch Moon. All their destines are somehow intertwined with those of Thomas “The Elephant” Elefante, a powerful but lonely Mafia don who’s got one eye trained on the chaos set off by the shooting and another on a mysterious quest set in motion by a stranger from his crime-boss father’s past. There are also an assortment of salsa musicians, a gentle Nation of Islam convert named Soup, and even a tribe of voracious red ants that somehow immigrated to the neighborhood from Colombia and hung around for generations, all of which seems like too much stuff for any one book to handle. But as he's already shown in The Good Lord Bird (2013), McBride has a flair for fashioning comedy whose buoyant outrageousness barely conceals both a steely command of big and small narrative elements and a river-deep supply of humane intelligence.

An exuberant comic opera set to the music of life.

Pub Date: March 3, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-7352-1672-3

Page Count: 384

Publisher: Riverhead

Review Posted Online: Dec. 9, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2020

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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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