A slow-moving story about how religion can rapidly and completely transform a person’s life.

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Missing Piece

In Okoye’s debut novel, a successful but unfulfilled lawyer turns to Christianity to find meaning.

This modern-day parable, set in London, follows a familiar narrative arc. John Williams is a successful solicitor at the prestigious law firm Malone and Malone, where he’s on track to make partner for his work defending corporate interests. But as his career has flourished, his personal life has floundered; his marriage of 20 years is dead, and he has a poor relationship with his children. As a result, he constantly battles a feeling of emptiness, which he suppresses with alcohol, infidelity, and fancy cars. His personal and professional interests come into conflict when he’s assigned a case representing a high-profile oil magnate who perpetrated a hit-and-run; it turns out that the victim, a 20-something man named Toby, has a mysterious connection to John. As John negotiates between his obligations to his firm and his personal sense of responsibility to Toby, his home life shows signs of further degradation. Then John’s friend Ike steps in to introduce him to Christianity. After Ike brings him to a few church services, John is so moved by a sermon that he instantly, devoutly adopts religion. Still, it may be too late: his wife, Amy, is preparing to leave him, and the distance between him and his children seems too large to bridge. Okoye sets this up as the novel’s central problem: will John’s newfound faith survive the collapse of life as he knows it? However, the author struggles to maintain this tension evenly throughout the novel. The story states its conflicts succinctly rather than exploring them in depth, and at no point do readers question that John will ultimately pull through. As such, the minor characters often provide more compelling drama; Amy is the strongest, and her ambivalence about continuing her marriage provides the most authentic emotions in the book. One wishes that her internal struggle had received as much attention as John’s does or that his struggle was as compelling as hers.

A slow-moving story about how religion can rapidly and completely transform a person’s life.

Pub Date: June 8, 2016

ISBN: N/A

Page Count: 181

Publisher: PublishNation

Review Posted Online: July 20, 2016

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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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More Hallmarkiana, from a shameless expert in the genre.

THE RESCUE

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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