A tenderhearted, if somewhat rushed, story of passion, radicalism, and moving on.

BURN DOWN THIS WORLD

A middle-aged woman looks back on the romance of revolutionary politics in her youth in this novel.

In 1998, Celeste reflects on the past: “I arrived on the campus of the University of Florida in the fall of 1971, ready to join the fray….I wanted to be a part of those at the ragged fringe.” As she thinks back, her Florida home is threatened by raging wildfires along the state’s eastern coast. Her 14-year-old son, Evan, vacillates between moody and moodier; her mother, who has dementia, is living in a nursing home nearby. The last thing that she needs is her estranged brother, Reid, a poet, returning home after years of hitchhiking. But according to a verse that he scrawled on a postcard, he is, in fact, coming home, and Celeste must revisit and renegotiate her relationship with her free-spirited sibling. This conjures memories of Celeste’s revolutionary days, fighting in the streets with him when they were both students at the University of Florida in the early 1970s. She recalls protesting the Vietnam War, joining feminist consciousness-raising groups, and falling in love. Over the course of this novel, Egnoski employs plenty of humor and luscious detail to help to bring the world of protest politics to life, and along the way, she also manages to effectively relate the visceral passion of youth. Celeste herself is shown to be a smart, charming narrator (“Betty Friedan had been counting on me to change the world”). At the heart of the book is the protagonist’s struggle to forgive and to remember without losing herself. However, despite the book’s rich subject matter, it often breezes through key events, thus missing opportunities for greater emotional depth.

A tenderhearted, if somewhat rushed, story of passion, radicalism, and moving on.

Pub Date: Feb. 27, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-951214-82-1

Page Count: 330

Publisher: Adelaide Books

Review Posted Online: April 23, 2020

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For devoted Hannah fans in search of a good cry.

THE FOUR WINDS

The miseries of the Depression and Dust Bowl years shape the destiny of a Texas family.

“Hope is a coin I carry: an American penny, given to me by a man I came to love. There were times in my journey when I felt as if that penny and the hope it represented were the only things that kept me going.” We meet Elsa Wolcott in Dalhart, Texas, in 1921, on the eve of her 25th birthday, and wind up with her in California in 1936 in a saga of almost unrelieved woe. Despised by her shallow parents and sisters for being sickly and unattractive—“too tall, too thin, too pale, too unsure of herself”—Elsa escapes their cruelty when a single night of abandon leads to pregnancy and forced marriage to the son of Italian immigrant farmers. Though she finds some joy working the land, tending the animals, and learning her way around Mama Rose's kitchen, her marriage is never happy, the pleasures of early motherhood are brief, and soon the disastrous droughts of the 1930s drive all the farmers of the area to despair and starvation. Elsa's search for a better life for her children takes them out west to California, where things turn out to be even worse. While she never overcomes her low self-esteem about her looks, Elsa displays an iron core of character and courage as she faces dust storms, floods, hunger riots, homelessness, poverty, the misery of migrant labor, bigotry, union busting, violent goons, and more. The pedantic aims of the novel are hard to ignore as Hannah embodies her history lesson in what feels like a series of sepia-toned postcards depicting melodramatic scenes and clichéd emotions.

For devoted Hannah fans in search of a good cry.

Pub Date: Feb. 9, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-2501-7860-2

Page Count: 464

Publisher: St. Martin's

Review Posted Online: Nov. 18, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2020

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A compelling portrait of a marriage gone desperately sour.

THE MYSTERY OF MRS. CHRISTIE

In December 1926, mystery writer Agatha Christie really did disappear for 11 days. Was it a hoax? Or did her husband resort to foul play?

When Agatha meets Archie on a dance floor in 1912, the obscure yet handsome pilot quickly sweeps her off her feet with his daring. Archie seems smitten with her. Defying her family’s expectations, Agatha consents to marry Archie rather than her intended, the reliable yet boring Reggie Lucy. Although the war keeps them apart, straining their early marriage, Agatha finds meaningful work as a nurse and dispensary assistant, jobs that teach her a lot about poisons, knowledge that helps shape her early short stories and novels. While Agatha’s career flourishes after the war, Archie suffers setback after setback. Determined to keep her man happy, Agatha finds herself cooking elaborate meals, squelching her natural affections for their daughter (after all, Archie must always feel like the most important person in her life), and downplaying her own troubles, including her grief over her mother's death. Nonetheless, Archie grows increasingly morose. In fact, he is away from home the day Agatha disappears. By the time Detective Chief Constable Kenward arrives, Agatha has already been missing for a day. After discovering—and burning—a mysterious letter from Agatha, Archie is less than eager to help the police. His reluctance and arrogance work against him, and soon the police, the newspapers, the Christies’ staff, and even his daughter’s classmates suspect him of harming his wife. Benedict concocts a worthy mystery of her own, as chapters alternate between Archie’s negotiation of the investigation and Agatha’s recounting of their relationship. She keeps the reader guessing: Which narrator is reliable? Who is the real villain?

A compelling portrait of a marriage gone desperately sour.

Pub Date: Dec. 29, 2020

ISBN: N/A

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Sourcebooks Landmark

Review Posted Online: Sept. 30, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 2020

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