An intriguing but dense philosophical tale with supernatural elements.

HIDDEN IN THE FLOWERS

A Japanese teenager in Texas discovers a strange connection to a missing person case in this philosophical novel.

When Japanese exchange student Hanabusa Saichi lands in Texas, he feels every inch a foreigner. Despite his severe anxiety, he’s decided to come to America for his freshman year of high school in hopes that the change of environment will help him break out of his shell. His new temporary home is the city of McKinney, Texas, and the Greenes are his host family: police officer Richard and his wife, Sandra; daughter, Kate; and son, Eric. The suburban charm of McKinney belies the ominous shadow looming over the city: four recent disappearances that the police believe could be the work of a kidnapper. Saichi becomes particularly interested in the case when, during one of his long walks, he discovers a hidden glen of flowers in the nearby forest. The glen not only feels like home in a way that no other place ever has before, but among the flowers Saichi also receives visions—including one regarding the fate of one of the missing people: Lauren Winters. As Saichi grows closer to the Greene children, he becomes increasingly obsessed with the case. Were these kidnappings, murders, or even suicides? When Eric disappears, solving the mystery becomes Saichi’s single concern. He wants to find Eric and protect Kate: “The answer presented itself boldly for him to make into his reason for being; he thought, if I can save Kate and Eric, then I’ll be able to save everyone else, including myself. Every mistake made before could be undone if he could triumph over the darkness of the world here.” Can the secret of the disappearances lead Saichi to the greatest mystery of all: understanding why he’s always felt out of place in the world?

Jordan’s prose is categorized by long, ornate passages deftly describing both the physical setting and Saichi’s psychological state: “Standing there just past the willow leaves he’d parted, Saichi hesitated to step in any further for fear of trampling on any individual member of the beautiful world he’d stumbled upon; to leave his mark in this negative manner would surely tarnish his heart forevermore.” While the premise is a captivating one, the novel turns out to be not a mystery so much as a ruminative exploration of Saichi’s conflicted psyche. The story crawls along at a pace that seems almost engineered to frustrate readers. (The first half-dozen pages are devoted to the last few minutes of Saichi’s flight from Los Angeles to Dallas, during which almost no information about him is given, but three separate announcements by the pilot are included in full.) For all the psychology, there is little recognizable humanity to be found: Even within the claustrophobic Greene household, Saichi feels like a brain floating by itself in a void. The other characters are flat and ghostly. The book is over 300 pages and manages to somehow feel twice that length. In forsaking accessible characters or a compelling story, the author leaves readers few reasons to stick it out to the end.

An intriguing but dense philosophical tale with supernatural elements.

Pub Date: Jan. 24, 2021

ISBN: 979-8-58-836220-7

Page Count: 322

Publisher: Self

Review Posted Online: March 24, 2021

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Unlike baseball, basketball has contributed little to world literature. Call this Exhibit A.

SOOLEY

Legal eagle and mystery maven Grisham shifts gears with a novel about roundball.

What possessed Grisham to stop writing about murder in the Spanish moss–dripping milieus of the Deep South is anyone’s guess, and why he elected to write about basketball, one might imagine, speaks to some deep passion for the game. The depth of that love doesn’t quite emerge in these pages, flat of affect, told almost as if a by-the-numbers biography of an actual player. As it is, Grisham invents an all-too-believable hero in Samuel Sooleymon, who plays his way out of South Sudan, a nation wrought by sectarian violence—Sooley is a Dinka, Grisham instructs, of “the largest ethnic class in the country,” pitted against other ethnic groups—and mired in poverty despite the relative opulence of the capital city of Juba, with its “tall buildings, vibrancy, and well-dressed people.” A hard-charging but heart-of-gold coach changes his life when he arrives at the university there, having been dismissed earlier as a “nonshooting guard.” Soon enough Sooley is sinking three-pointers with alarming precision, which lands him a spot on an American college team. Much of the later portion of Grisham’s novel bounces between Sooley’s on-court exploits, jaw-dropping as they are, and his efforts to bring his embattled family, now refugees from civil war, to join him in the U.S.; explains Grisham, again, “Beatrice and her children were Dinka, the largest tribe in South Sudan, and their strongman was supposedly in control of most of the country,” though evidently not the part where they lived. Alas, Sooley, beloved of all, bound for a glorious career in the NBA, falls into the bad company that sudden wealth and fame can bring, and it all comes crashing down in a morality play that has only the virtue of bringing this tired narrative to an end.

Unlike baseball, basketball has contributed little to world literature. Call this Exhibit A.

Pub Date: April 27, 2021

ISBN: 978-0-385-54768-0

Page Count: 368

Publisher: Doubleday

Review Posted Online: March 3, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2021

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The most comforting of comfort-food reading—with a few chills for fun.

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LEGACY

Roberts sticks to formula in this romantic thriller—which should please fans and newcomers alike.

The only daughter of a woman with a wildly successful fitness company, 7-year-old Adrian Rizzo is used to traveling with her mother for videos and photo shoots, the child star of the brand. But everything changes one night when a man breaks into their house, confronts her mother for destroying his marriage, and then dies in a fall down the stairs. Adrian spends the summer with her beloved grandparents, enjoying the idyllic pace of small-town life and making some strong connections. Several years later, teenage Adrian gains the confidence to start her own business with the help of some high school misfits who become her best friends. Fast-forward a few years: Adrian’s grandmother dies in an accident followed by the death of a friend's wife. Adrian decides to move in with her grandfather and to finally make a home. As frequently happens in Roberts’ novels, Adrian's friends all end up living nearby, and they create a loyal, loving network that sees them all through marriage, birth, loss, success, and the other touchstones of maturity. In the background lurks a threat, though: For years, Adrian has been receiving disturbing letters signed only "The Poet," and they begin to arrive more frequently. Adrian’s perfect, messy, successful life—and blossoming relationship—may be in danger from this psychopath, but her friends and family will be there to support and protect her to the happiest of endings. If you're a fan of Roberts’ thrillers, the structure of this novel will bring few surprises, but the familiarity is comforting. Roberts’ strength has always been her ability to create likable, complex characters, and this crew is even more appealing than most—they are never whiny in insecurity or snobbish in success; rather, they provide unwavering support for each other’s ups and downs.

The most comforting of comfort-food reading—with a few chills for fun.

Pub Date: May 25, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-2502-7293-5

Page Count: 448

Publisher: St. Martin's

Review Posted Online: Jan. 27, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2021

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