An important, insightful account.

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CONFESSIONS OF A VIGILANTE

Walsh’s debut novel explores the volatile relationship between justice and violence.

The story begins with an inexperienced police detective interrogating a murder suspect who quickly confesses. Allen Benson cops to the crime, explaining that he killed an unrepentant rapist who had escaped conviction because of some legal technicality. However, Benson also admits to killing scores of others, shocking Detective Michaels, the police interrogator. Benson insists on telling her the story of his life—the whole story, beginning with his orphaned childhood—in a clear attempt to unburden himself of his traumatic past. He begins by admitting that he killed a childhood friend who had become a junkie and stole money from his mother. Then, while serving in an elite unit during the Vietnam War, he murdered his superior officer. Each time Benson confesses to yet another murder, he claims the moral high road—they all deserved it, he defiantly claims—but even the simple act of confession demonstrates the weight his life of vigilante violence has placed upon his shoulders. Detective Michaels patiently midwifes the whole story from him and recounts her own secret pain; physically and emotionally abused by an alcoholic father, she still struggles with painful memories that stubbornly shadow her into adulthood. And while she initially responds to Benson’s confessions with abhorrence, she gradually develops sympathy for him, especially for his struggle to maintain a sense of goodness despite a life marred by ugly violence. And his penchant for violence is precisely what made him such an effective soldier. “The government of the United States had spent a lot of money to make me a living weapon,” he says. “I was already a killer when I joined. The army just smoothed out the edges.” Debut author Walsh, a former U.S. Marine who served in Iraq, sensitively portrays the paradox of the vigilante, a contradictory pairing of moral rectitude and a cynical disregard for the law. At its heart, this tale is about the great distance that often separates morality and murder as well as the emotional weariness that results from living with a conscience freighted by memories of loss and pain. Impressively, the author poignantly presents difficult material without punishing the reader.

An important, insightful account.

Pub Date: Sept. 3, 2015

ISBN: 978-1-50-236898-0

Page Count: 292

Publisher: CreateSpace

Review Posted Online: Oct. 30, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2016

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A touching family drama that effectively explores the negative impact of stress on fragile relationships.

A WEEK AT THE SHORE

A middle-aged woman returns to her childhood home to care for her ailing father, confronting many painful secrets from her past.

When Mallory Aldiss gets a call from a long-ago boyfriend telling her that her elderly father has been gallivanting around town with a gun in his hand, Mallory decides it’s time to return to the small Rhode Island town that she’s been avoiding for more than a decade. Mallory’s precocious 13-year-old daughter, Joy, is thrilled that she'll get to meet her grandfather at long last, and an aunt, too, and she'll finally see the place where her mother grew up. When they arrive in Bay Bluff, it’s barely a few hours before Mallory bumps into her old flame, Jack, the only man she’s ever really loved. Gone is the rebellious young person she remembers, and in his place stands a compassionate, accomplished adult. As they try to reconnect, Mallory realizes that the same obstacle that pushed them apart decades earlier is still standing in their way: Jack blames Mallory’s father for his mother’s death. No one knows exactly how Jack’s mother died, but Jack thinks a love affair between her and Mallory’s father had something to do with it. As Jack and Mallory chase down answers, Mallory also tries to repair her rocky relationships with her two sisters and determine why her father has always been so hard on her. Told entirely from Mallory’s perspective, the novel has a haunting, nostalgic quality. Despite the complex and overlapping layers to the history of Bay Bluff and its inhabitants, the book at times trudges too slowly through Mallory’s meanderings down Memory Lane. Even so, Delinsky sometimes manages to pick up the pace, and in those moments the beauty and nuance of this complicated family tale shine through. Readers who don’t mind skimming past details that do little to advance the plot may find that the juicier nuggets and realistically rendered human connections are worth the effort.

A touching family drama that effectively explores the negative impact of stress on fragile relationships.

Pub Date: May 19, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-250-11951-3

Page Count: 416

Publisher: St. Martin's

Review Posted Online: March 2, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2020

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A love letter to the power of books and friendship.

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THE GIVER OF STARS

Women become horseback librarians in 1930s Kentucky and face challenges from the landscape, the weather, and the men around them.

Alice thought marrying attractive American Bennett Van Cleve would be her ticket out of her stifling life in England. But when she and Bennett settle in Baileyville, Kentucky, she realizes that her life consists of nothing more than staying in their giant house all day and getting yelled at by his unpleasant father, who owns a coal mine. She’s just about to resign herself to a life of boredom when an opportunity presents itself in the form of a traveling horseback library—an initiative from Eleanor Roosevelt meant to counteract the devastating effects of the Depression by focusing on literacy and learning. Much to the dismay of her husband and father-in-law, Alice signs up and soon learns the ropes from the library’s leader, Margery. Margery doesn’t care what anyone thinks of her, rejects marriage, and would rather be on horseback than in a kitchen. And even though all this makes Margery a town pariah, Alice quickly grows to like her. Along with several other women (including one black woman, Sophia, whose employment causes controversy in a town that doesn’t believe black and white people should be allowed to use the same library), Margery and Alice supply magazines, Bible stories, and copies of books like Little Women to the largely poor residents who live in remote areas. Alice spends long days in terrible weather on horseback, but she finally feels happy in her new life in Kentucky, even as her marriage to Bennett is failing. But her powerful father-in-law doesn’t care for Alice’s job or Margery’s lifestyle, and he’ll stop at nothing to shut their library down. Basing her novel on the true story of the Pack Horse Library Project established by the Works Progress Administration in the 1930s, Moyes (Still Me, 2018, etc.) brings an often forgotten slice of history to life. She writes about Kentucky with lush descriptions of the landscape and tender respect for the townspeople, most of whom are poor, uneducated, and grateful for the chance to learn. Although Alice and Margery both have their own romances, the true power of the story is in the bonds between the women of the library. They may have different backgrounds, but their commitment to helping the people of Baileyville brings them together.

A love letter to the power of books and friendship.

Pub Date: Oct. 8, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-399-56248-8

Page Count: 400

Publisher: Pamela Dorman/Viking

Review Posted Online: July 1, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2019

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