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MOST FAMOUS SHORT FILM OF ALL TIME

A winding, offbeat, and sometimes-affecting journey.

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Lieberman presents a literary novel about a man in crisis.

It’s the 2010s, and Lev Ockenshaw is a 29-year-old transgender man living in Boston and working at a company that makes security cameras. He’s not too excited about the job; what garners his interest instead is Chad Goeing, a man who died in 1900 and left behind an unpublished work called The Nature of Time. His official cause of death is unknown, which prompts Lev to do some investigating—and obsessing. Then Chad appears to Lev as a ghost. This is, however, not the only thing on Lev’s mind; he has a tumultuous friendship with a trans man named Stanley. For the most part, the two get along swimmingly until an incident involving a 1998 Ford Taurus. Back at Lev’s job, he receives a cryptic email about the company that reads, in part: “You are all being investigated now to account for your crimes.” Lev tries to bring this to the attention of his boss, but the response is tepid at best. Lucky for Lev, as he tries to unravel various mysteries, he also forms a bond with his co-worker Aparna. At one point, Lev, Stanley, and Aparna wind up swapping stories around a campfire in an homage of sorts to the 1990 Nickelodeon TV show Are You Afraid of the Dark?

Interspersed throughout these and other events are many heady conversations and observations involving a wide range of topics, including the philosophy of René Descartes, the Talmud, and the talking toy Teddy Ruxpin. There’s a portion considering “Rumpelstiltskin” as “a story that assumes cisgender people’s fear of transgender people,” for example, and frequent references to Abraham Zapruder’s film of President John F. Kennedy’s assassination (to which the title refers). Lev’s saga unfolds in a conversational manner, and as absurd as the hero’s adventures may seem at times, Lieberman uses them to form real connections with readers. For example, although Lev’s spat with Stanley is silly, Stanley’s absence for portions of the book has emotional impact, as when Lev says simply, “I wish I could call Stanley.” But the story, for all of its philosophical discussion, is not without its humor. At one point, for example, wild turkeys congregate behind Lev’s car not long before Thanksgiving, and he comments on how they seem to say, “We are not afraid of your car…nor your holiday. We are free.” However, most of the plot is resolved before the novel’s conclusion, which results in a meandering later section. Late in the game, Lev gets a new job, but this new position, along with the process of getting it, is largely inconsequential. Likewise, earlier portions, involving Lev’s quest to discover how Chad Goeing died, can drag, as there’s not much to make the reader care about how the writer died other than Lev’s insistence on finding out the truth. Yet, throughout it all, Lev proves to be a memorable protagonist—and one with a great deal on his mind.

A winding, offbeat, and sometimes-affecting journey.

Pub Date: Sept. 20, 2022

ISBN: N/A

Page Count: 598

Publisher: tRaum Books

Review Posted Online: Aug. 4, 2022

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THE WOMEN

A dramatic, vividly detailed reconstruction of a little-known aspect of the Vietnam War.

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A young woman’s experience as a nurse in Vietnam casts a deep shadow over her life.

When we learn that the farewell party in the opening scene is for Frances “Frankie” McGrath’s older brother—“a golden boy, a wild child who could make the hardest heart soften”—who is leaving to serve in Vietnam in 1966, we feel pretty certain that poor Finley McGrath is marked for death. Still, it’s a surprise when the fateful doorbell rings less than 20 pages later. His death inspires his sister to enlist as an Army nurse, and this turn of events is just the beginning of a roller coaster of a plot that’s impressive and engrossing if at times a bit formulaic. Hannah renders the experiences of the young women who served in Vietnam in all-encompassing detail. The first half of the book, set in gore-drenched hospital wards, mildewed dorm rooms, and boozy officers’ clubs, is an exciting read, tracking the transformation of virginal, uptight Frankie into a crack surgical nurse and woman of the world. Her tensely platonic romance with a married surgeon ends when his broken, unbreathing body is airlifted out by helicopter; she throws her pent-up passion into a wild affair with a soldier who happens to be her dead brother’s best friend. In the second part of the book, after the war, Frankie seems to experience every possible bad break. A drawback of the story is that none of the secondary characters in her life are fully three-dimensional: Her dismissive, chauvinistic father and tight-lipped, pill-popping mother, her fellow nurses, and her various love interests are more plot devices than people. You’ll wish you could have gone to Vegas and placed a bet on the ending—while it’s against all the odds, you’ll see it coming from a mile away.

A dramatic, vividly detailed reconstruction of a little-known aspect of the Vietnam War.

Pub Date: Feb. 6, 2024

ISBN: 9781250178633

Page Count: 480

Publisher: St. Martin's

Review Posted Online: Nov. 4, 2023

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2023

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HAPPY PLACE

A wistfully nostalgic look at endings, beginnings, and loving the people who will always have your back.

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Exes pretend they’re still together for the sake of their friends on their annual summer vacation.

Wyn Connor and Harriet Kilpatrick were the perfect couple—until Wyn dumped Harriet for reasons she still doesn’t fully understand. They’ve been part of the same boisterous friend group since college, and they know that their breakup will devastate the others and make things more than a little awkward. So they keep it a secret from their friends and families—in fact, Harriet barely even admits it to herself, focusing instead on her grueling hours as a surgical resident. She’s ready for a vacation at her happy place—the Maine cottage she and her friends visit every summer. But (surprise!) Wyn is there too, and he and Harriet have to share a (very romantic) room and a bed. Telling the truth about their breakup is out of the question, because the cottage is up for sale, and this is the group’s last hurrah. Determined to make sure everyone has the perfect last trip, Harriet and Wyn resolve to fake their relationship for the week. The problem with this plan, of course, is that Harriet still has major feelings for Wyn—feelings that only get stronger as they pretend to be blissfully in love. As always, Henry’s dialogue is sparkling and the banter between characters is snappy and hilarious. Wyn and Harriet’s relationship, shown both in the past and the present, feels achingly real. Their breakup, as well as their complicated relationships with their own families, adds a twinge of melancholy, as do the relatable growing pains of a group of friends whose lives are taking them in different directions.

A wistfully nostalgic look at endings, beginnings, and loving the people who will always have your back.

Pub Date: April 25, 2023

ISBN: 9780593441275

Page Count: 400

Publisher: Berkley

Review Posted Online: Feb. 23, 2023

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2023

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