Clarke (Lord Vishnu’s Love Handles, 2005) paints an amusing and jaw-dropping (but only slightly exaggerated) picture of a...

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THE WORTHY

A GHOST’S STORY

The ghost of a Louisiana State frat boy, seeking revenge for his death; the salvation of one of the fraternity’s big dumb pledges; and a few of the good things in life not generally available to the dead.

The excesses of Greek life proved fatal for Gamma Chi pledge Conrad Sutton when the exceedingly handsome, coke-snorting, date-raping Ryan Hutchinson threw Conrad down the frat-house staircase, breaking the freshman’s neck. The unwitnessed murder was listed as just another boyish disaster in the notorious history of the hard-partying fraternity, and Ryan has continued to live the good LSU life unpunished, making life hell for a new pledge class and for his gorgeous girlfriend Maggie. Now Conrad’s ghost roams Baton Rouge plotting retribution. He is at first visible only to Miss Etta, the deeply religious frat-house cook, who explains to him that he isn’t supposed to be working on vengeance but on the salvation of poor, thick-witted, gargantuan, red-headed Tucker Graham, whom Ryan has singled out for particular attention in the new pledge class. Tucker is prepared to endure all that his prospective brothers can dish out, believing that as a Gamma Chi, he will at last be able to lose his virginity. But Conrad, who finds he can slip into Tucker’s skin whenever the pledge passes out (a not-infrequent event), uses the boy’s great strength to start smacking Ryan around. He gets a little help from his ex-girlfriend’s best friend and sorority sister Sarah Jane, who is on to Ryan’s evil ways and has her own plans for his downfall. Retribution will come in steps that include the unwitting application of depilatory to Ryan’s gorgeous locks, another grisly murder and a surprising liaison for the hard-used Tucker.

Clarke (Lord Vishnu’s Love Handles, 2005) paints an amusing and jaw-dropping (but only slightly exaggerated) picture of a life treasured by generations of beer guzzling food fighters.

Pub Date: July 1, 2006

ISBN: 0-7432-7315-X

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 2006

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A spellbinding portrait of what it means to be human in an inhuman world.

THE WORLD THAT WE KNEW

In this tale of a young German Jewish girl under the protection of a golem—a magical creature of Jewish myth created from mud and water—Hoffman (The Rules of Magic, 2017, etc.) employs her signature lyricism to express the agony of the Holocaust with a depth seldom equaled in more seemingly realistic accounts.

The golem, named Ava, comes into being in 1941 Berlin. Recently made a widow by the Gestapo and desperate to get her 12-year-old daughter, Lea, out of Germany, Hanni Kohn hires Ettie, a rabbi’s adolescent daughter who has witnessed her father creating a golem, to make a female creature who must obey Hanni by protecting Lea at all costs. Ettie uses Hanni’s payment to escape on the same train toward France as Lea and Ava, but the two human girls’ lives take different paths. Ettie, who has always chafed at the limits placed on her gender, becomes a Resistance fighter set on avenging her younger sister’s killing by Nazis. Lea, under Ava’s supernatural care, escapes the worst ravages of the war, staying first with distant cousins in Paris (already under Gestapo rule), where she falls in love with her hosts' 14-year-old son, Julien; then in a convent school hiding Jewish girls in the Rhone Valley; then in a forest village not far from where Ettie has partnered in her Resistance activities with Julien’s older brother. While Lea’s experiences toughen and mature her, Ettie never stops mourning her sister but finds something like love with a gentle gentile doctor who has his own heartbreaking backstory. In fact, everyone in the large cast of supporting human characters—as well as the talking heron that is Ava’s love interest and Azriel, the Angel of Death—becomes vividly real, but Ava the golem is the heart of the book. Representing both fierce maternal love and the will to survive, she forces Lea and Ettie to examine their capacities to make ethical choices and to love despite impossible circumstances.

A spellbinding portrait of what it means to be human in an inhuman world.

Pub Date: Sept. 24, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-5011-3757-0

Page Count: 384

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: July 1, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2019

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King fans won’t be disappointed, though most will likely prefer the scarier likes of The Shining and It.

THE INSTITUTE

The master of modern horror returns with a loose-knit parapsychological thriller that touches on territory previously explored in Firestarter and Carrie.

Tim Jamieson is a man emphatically not in a hurry. As King’s (The Outsider, 2018, etc.) latest opens, he’s bargaining with a flight attendant to sell his seat on an overbooked run from Tampa to New York. His pockets full, he sticks out his thumb and winds up in the backwater South Carolina town of DuPray (should we hear echoes of “pray”? Or “depraved”?). Turns out he’s a decorated cop, good at his job and at reading others (“You ought to go see Doc Roper,” he tells a local. “There are pills that will brighten your attitude”). Shift the scene to Minneapolis, where young Luke Ellis, precociously brilliant, has been kidnapped by a crack extraction team, his parents brutally murdered so that it looks as if he did it. Luke is spirited off to Maine—this is King, so it’s got to be Maine—and a secret shadow-government lab where similarly conscripted paranormally blessed kids, psychokinetic and telepathic, are made to endure the Skinnerian pain-and-reward methods of the evil Mrs. Sigsby. How to bring the stories of Tim and Luke together? King has never minded detours into the unlikely, but for this one, disbelief must be extra-willingly suspended. In the end, their forces joined, the two and their redneck allies battle the sophisticated secret agents of The Institute in a bloodbath of flying bullets and beams of mental energy (“You’re in the south now, Annie had told these gunned-up interlopers. She had an idea they were about to find out just how true that was"). It’s not King at his best, but he plays on current themes of conspiracy theory, child abuse, the occult, and Deep State malevolence while getting in digs at the current occupant of the White House, to say nothing of shadowy evil masterminds with lisps.

King fans won’t be disappointed, though most will likely prefer the scarier likes of The Shining and It.

Pub Date: Sept. 10, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-9821-1056-7

Page Count: 576

Publisher: Scribner

Review Posted Online: Aug. 4, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2019

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