PEOPLE OF THE SEA

From the authors of People of the River (1992) and other novels (in paperback) set in America's prehistory: a rather rousing tale of deadly pursuits and spiritual journeys that is, in general, free of the dusty earnestness that so often clogs the movement of other fictional efforts by conscientious anthropologists like the Gears. Here, in a story set about 11,000 years ago on the West Coast, Kestrel—a pregnant woman of an inland clan who's condemned to death by her violent, mad husband Lambkill—escapes and heads for the oceanside Otter Clan, kin of her dead lover. On the way, she bears twins, then must leave one to die—and because the Otter Clan reckons descent from the female line, Kestrel leaves the boy. (Throughout, the baby's soul, trapped in decay, holds a dialogue with a wise Being about Life and Death's meaning.) Also alone and searching to find answers—as well as a Way to lure back the disappearing mammoths so needed by his people—is Sunchaser, the Dreamer of the Otter Clan. He will find Kestrel and her baby girl, who are hunted not only by Lambkill—who travels with a baby's body—but by the brothers of a man she was forced to kill. Meanwhile, a witch is also on the loose, a rival Dreamer who becomes a wolf at will. There's a happy close, and, a few years later, the mammoths miraculously come once more. Despite the overhang of myth and metaphysics and the turgid present-day prologue: essentially an action tale embellished by epigrammatic wisdom and a touch of very modern humor. (Cries the false Dreamer: ``I see death! Death and Destruction! Oh, it's terrible!'' Cracks a grandmother: ``Some news.'') It's all without the character-centered pep of Mary Mackey's The Year the Horses Came (p. 959), but the scholarly base gives a sheen of credulity to the time and place and predicaments.

Pub Date: Nov. 1, 1993

ISBN: 0-312-93122-0

Page Count: 432

Publisher: Forge

Review Posted Online: June 24, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 1993

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A daring concept not so daringly developed.

THE BOOK OF LONGINGS

In Kidd’s (The Invention of Wings, 2014, etc.) feminist take on the New Testament, Jesus has a wife whose fondest longing is to write.

Ana is the daughter of Matthias, head scribe to Herod Antipas, tetrarch of Galilee. She demonstrates an exceptional aptitude for writing, and Matthias, for a time, indulges her with reed pens, papyri, and other 16 C.E. office supplies. Her mother disapproves, but her aunt, Yaltha, mentors Ana in the ways of the enlightened women of Alexandria, from whence Yaltha, suspected of murdering her brutal husband, was exiled years before. Yaltha was also forced to give up her daughter, Chaya, for adoption. As Ana reaches puberty, parental tolerance of her nonconformity wanes, outweighed by the imperative to marry her off. Her adopted brother, Judas—yes, that Judas—is soon disowned for his nonconformity—plotting against Antipas. On the very day Ana, age 14, meets her prospective betrothed, the repellent Nathanial, in the town market, she also encounters Jesus, a young tradesman, to whom she’s instantly drawn. Their connection deepens after she encounters Jesus in the cave where she is concealing her writings about oppressed women. When Nathanial dies after his betrothal to Ana but before their marriage, Ana is shunned for insufficiently mourning him—and after refusing to become Antipas’ concubine, she is about to be stoned until Jesus defuses the situation with that famous admonition. She marries Jesus and moves into his widowed mother’s humble compound in Nazareth, accompanied by Yaltha. There, poverty, not sexism, prohibits her from continuing her writing—office supplies are expensive. Kidd skirts the issue of miracles, portraying Jesus as a fully human and, for the period, accepting husband—after a stillbirth, he condones Ana’s practice of herbal birth control. A structural problem is posed when Jesus’ active ministry begins—what will Ana’s role be? Problem avoided when, notified by Judas that Antipas is seeking her arrest, she and Yaltha journey to Alexandria in search of Chaya. In addition to depriving her of the opportunity to write the first and only contemporaneous gospel, removing Ana from the main action destroys the novel’s momentum.

A daring concept not so daringly developed.

Pub Date: April 21, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-525-42976-0

Page Count: 432

Publisher: Viking

Review Posted Online: Jan. 27, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2020

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Still, a respectful and absorbing page-turner.

THE NIGHTINGALE

Hannah’s new novel is an homage to the extraordinary courage and endurance of Frenchwomen during World War II.

In 1995, an elderly unnamed widow is moving into an Oregon nursing home on the urging of her controlling son, Julien, a surgeon. This trajectory is interrupted when she receives an invitation to return to France to attend a ceremony honoring passeurs: people who aided the escape of others during the war. Cut to spring, 1940: Viann has said goodbye to husband Antoine, who's off to hold the Maginot line against invading Germans. She returns to tending her small farm, Le Jardin, in the Loire Valley, teaching at the local school and coping with daughter Sophie’s adolescent rebellion. Soon, that world is upended: The Germans march into Paris and refugees flee south, overrunning Viann’s land. Her long-estranged younger sister, Isabelle, who has been kicked out of multiple convent schools, is sent to Le Jardin by Julien, their father in Paris, a drunken, decidedly unpaternal Great War veteran. As the depredations increase in the occupied zone—food rationing, systematic looting, and the billeting of a German officer, Capt. Beck, at Le Jardin—Isabelle’s outspokenness is a liability. She joins the Resistance, volunteering for dangerous duty: shepherding downed Allied airmen across the Pyrenees to Spain. Code-named the Nightingale, Isabelle will rescue many before she's captured. Meanwhile, Viann’s journey from passive to active resistance is less dramatic but no less wrenching. Hannah vividly demonstrates how the Nazis, through starvation, intimidation and barbarity both casual and calculated, demoralized the French, engineering a community collapse that enabled the deportations and deaths of more than 70,000 Jews. Hannah’s proven storytelling skills are ideally suited to depicting such cataclysmic events, but her tendency to sentimentalize undermines the gravitas of this tale.

Still, a respectful and absorbing page-turner.

Pub Date: Feb. 3, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-312-57722-3

Page Count: 448

Publisher: St. Martin's

Review Posted Online: Nov. 20, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2014

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