A detailed, absorbing fictional study of friends in an all-too-real Finnish war.



Jordan’s debut novel tells a tale of love and strife during the Winter War of 1939-1940.

The book begins at the 1936 Summer Olympics in Nazi Germany and closes four years later at the end of a war between Finns and Soviets in the Finnish province of Karelia. Eric Björnström, a Finnish historian and diplomat, escorts his daughter Tina to the German capital to watch her childhood sweetheart, Paul, run in the Olympic Games; however, it ends up being a crushing defeat for the young man. They all meet Tom Henderson, a melancholy reporter attempting to distract himself from his own past failures. Tom and Tina are immediately taken with each other. The resulting love triangle later plays out over icy Finnish fields, in the anxious interiors of threatened Finnish homes, and on the battlefield, where Paul’s ears soon ring with “sirens and explosions and the distant cries of the injured.” Paul’s long letters to Tina tell of the horrors and small, unexpected reprieves of the battlefield; for example, he tells of friends being blasted apart by grenades and of “climbing over piles of dead Russians” but also tells of rare, quiet moments in the sauna at camp. Meanwhile, on the homefront, Tina struggles to care for her father amid the chaos and to sort out her desirous and guilty feelings toward Tom and Paul. “People tell you to put the past behind you.” Tom says at one point. “They don’t realize that some things remain forever in the present.” In this debut, the author packs in enough incidents to fill three novels, every one of them aimed at broadening readers’ understanding of the lives and sufferings of average Finns during the Soviet Union’s vicious, unprovoked invasion. English-speaking readers will be grateful for how the author puts this far-off war directly in front of them; again and again, Jordan grounds the story with solid research. However, it’s the book’s evocative language that brings the events of 75 years ago brightly to life.

A detailed, absorbing fictional study of friends in an all-too-real Finnish war.

Pub Date: June 3, 2015

ISBN: 978-1-4602-5985-6

Page Count: 240

Publisher: FriesenPress

Review Posted Online: Sept. 22, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15, 2015

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Kin “[find] each other’s lives inscrutable” in this rich, sharp story about the way identity is formed.

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Inseparable identical twin sisters ditch home together, and then one decides to vanish.

The talented Bennett fuels her fiction with secrets—first in her lauded debut, The Mothers (2016), and now in the assured and magnetic story of the Vignes sisters, light-skinned women parked on opposite sides of the color line. Desiree, the “fidgety twin,” and Stella, “a smart, careful girl,” make their break from stultifying rural Mallard, Louisiana, becoming 16-year-old runaways in 1954 New Orleans. The novel opens 14 years later as Desiree, fleeing a violent marriage in D.C., returns home with a different relative: her 8-year-old daughter, Jude. The gossips are agog: “In Mallard, nobody married dark....Marrying a dark man and dragging his blueblack child all over town was one step too far.” Desiree's decision seals Jude’s misery in this “colorstruck” place and propels a new generation of flight: Jude escapes on a track scholarship to UCLA. Tending bar as a side job in Beverly Hills, she catches a glimpse of her mother’s doppelgänger. Stella, ensconced in white society, is shedding her fur coat. Jude, so black that strangers routinely stare, is unrecognizable to her aunt. All this is expertly paced, unfurling before the book is half finished; a reader can guess what is coming. Bennett is deeply engaged in the unknowability of other people and the scourge of colorism. The scene in which Stella adopts her white persona is a tour de force of doubling and confusion. It calls up Toni Morrison’s The Bluest Eye, the book's 50-year-old antecedent. Bennett's novel plays with its characters' nagging feelings of being incomplete—for the twins without each other; for Jude’s boyfriend, Reese, who is trans and seeks surgery; for their friend Barry, who performs in drag as Bianca. Bennett keeps all these plot threads thrumming and her social commentary crisp. In the second half, Jude spars with her cousin Kennedy, Stella's daughter, a spoiled actress.

Kin “[find] each other’s lives inscrutable” in this rich, sharp story about the way identity is formed.

Pub Date: June 2, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-525-53629-1

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Riverhead

Review Posted Online: March 15, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2020

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More Hallmarkiana, from a shameless expert in the genre.


High-stakes weepmeister Sparks (A Walk to Remember, 1999, etc.) opts for a happy ending his fourth time out. His writing has improved—though it's still the equivalent of paint-by-numbers—and he makes use this time of at least a vestige of credible psychology.

That vestige involves the deep dark secret—it has something to do with his father's death when son Taylor was nine—that haunts kind, good 36-year-old local contractor Taylor McAden and makes him withdraw from relationships whenever they start getting serious enough to maybe get permanent. He's done this twice before, and now he does it again with pretty and sweet single mother Denise Holton, age 29, who's moved from Atlanta to Taylor's town of Edenton, North Carolina, in order to devote her time more fully to training her four-year-old son Kyle to overcome the peculiar impediment he has that keeps him from achieving normal language acquisition. Okay? When Denise has a car accident in a bad storm, she's rescued by volunteer fireman Taylor—who also rescues little Kyle after he wanders away from his injured mom in the storm. Love blooms in the weeks that follow—until Taylor suddenly begins putting on the brakes. What is it that holds him back, when there just isn't any question but that he loves Denise and vice versa-not to mention that he's "great" with Kyle, just like a father? It will require a couple of near-death experiences (as fireman Taylor bravely risks his life to save others); emotional steadiness from the intelligent, good, true Denise; and the terrible death of a dear and devoted friend before Taylor will come to the point at last of confiding to Denise the terrible memory of how his father died—and the guilt that's been its legacy to Taylor. The psychological dam broken, love will at last be able to flow.

More Hallmarkiana, from a shameless expert in the genre.

Pub Date: Sept. 19, 2000

ISBN: 0-446-52550-2

Page Count: 352

Publisher: N/A

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2000

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