A metatextual inquiry into the roots of human conflict that keeps its thread of tension taut throughout.

YOU FEEL IT JUST BELOW THE RIBS

A recovered manuscript details the establishment of the New Society after the ruinous Great Reckoning almost ends mankind—but does it describe a triumphant return to peace and equity or the desecration of that which makes us most human?

Dr. Miriam Gregory was a visionary psychologist whose research into the link between memory and trauma led to some of the foundational tenants of the New Society, the system of political and social governance that sprang up in the shambles left behind by the Great Reckoning. In 1977, she failed to return home from work and was not heard from again until her body was discovered in Stockholm in 1996.  Hidden under the floorboards of Dr. Gregory’s attic bedsit was a manuscript which, in spite of its incendiary nature, has been made available to a select few well-vetted readers in the name of free speech, the very manuscript the reader now holds in their hands. Dr. Gregory details her early life: the loss of her family, her adoption into a gang of similarly orphaned children, her specious arrest for treason, and her friendship with the ethereal Elsa. It is from Elsa that Dr. Gregory learns to enter a meditative trance state that allows the girls to remove themselves from the harsh environment of the Belgian prison in which they are both incarcerated. After Elsa’s presumed death in a prison riot, Dr. Gregory evolves the technique from meditation into a tool that can actually alter a subject’s relationship to the traumatic memories they carry within them. As her proficiency grows, however, Dr. Gregory’s research is put to uses she never intended. Eventually, her psychological treatments become the foundational tool for enacting the Age Ten Protocols, wherein children are separated from their families and conditioned to forget their emotional ties in an effort to eradicate all traces of the kind of tribal or national loyalties responsible for the Great Reckoning. Horrified by the application of her process, Dr. Gregory sets out to right some of the wrongs she has unwittingly helped create. The book as a whole fits into the universe of the authors' serial podcast Within the Wires, which also takes its form from the idea of found communication. Unsurprisingly, that sense of collaborative creation carries over, both in how Dr. Gregory’s memories intersect and sometimes refute the details of her history and in the technique of liberally footnoting the text with asides from fact-checkers and critics who warn the reader of the danger of taking Dr. Gregory’s word as law. The result is a fascinating layering of fiction, invention, satire, and social critique which explores much more than just the backstory of an alternative history.

A metatextual inquiry into the roots of human conflict that keeps its thread of tension taut throughout.

Pub Date: Nov. 16, 2021

ISBN: 978-0-06-306662-5

Page Count: 384

Publisher: Harper Perennial/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Sept. 29, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 2021

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Miller makes Homer pertinent to women facing 21st-century monsters.

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CIRCE

A retelling of ancient Greek lore gives exhilarating voice to a witch.

“Monsters are a boon for gods. Imagine all the prayers.” So says Circe, a sly, petulant, and finally commanding voice that narrates the entirety of Miller’s dazzling second novel. The writer returns to Homer, the wellspring that led her to an Orange Prize for The Song of Achilles (2012). This time, she dips into The Odyssey for the legend of Circe, a nymph who turns Odysseus’ crew of men into pigs. The novel, with its distinctive feminist tang, starts with the sentence: “When I was born, the name for what I was did not exist.” Readers will relish following the puzzle of this unpromising daughter of the sun god Helios and his wife, Perse, who had negligible use for their child. It takes banishment to the island Aeaea for Circe to sense her calling as a sorceress: “I will not be like a bird bred in a cage, I thought, too dull to fly even when the door stands open. I stepped into those woods and my life began.” This lonely, scorned figure learns herbs and potions, surrounds herself with lions, and, in a heart-stopping chapter, outwits the monster Scylla to propel Daedalus and his boat to safety. She makes lovers of Hermes and then two mortal men. She midwifes the birth of the Minotaur on Crete and performs her own C-section. And as she grows in power, she muses that “not even Odysseus could talk his way past [her] witchcraft. He had talked his way past the witch instead.” Circe’s fascination with mortals becomes the book’s marrow and delivers its thrilling ending. All the while, the supernatural sits intriguingly alongside “the tonic of ordinary things.” A few passages coil toward melodrama, and one inelegant line after a rape seems jarringly modern, but the spell holds fast. Expect Miller’s readership to mushroom like one of Circe’s spells.

Miller makes Homer pertinent to women facing 21st-century monsters.

Pub Date: April 10, 2018

ISBN: 978-0-316-55634-7

Page Count: 400

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: Jan. 23, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2018

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An exhilarating ride through Americana.

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THE LINCOLN HIGHWAY

Newly released from a work farm in 1950s Kansas, where he served 18 months for involuntary manslaughter, 18-year-old Emmett Watson hits the road with his little brother, Billy, following the death of their father and the foreclosure of their Nebraska farm.

They leave to escape angry townspeople who believe Emmett got off easy, having caused the fatal fall of a taunting local boy by punching him in the nose. The whip-smart Billy, who exhibits OCD–like symptoms, convinces Emmett to drive them to San Francisco to reunite with their mother, who left town eight years ago. He insists she's there, based on postcards she sent before completely disappearing from their lives. But when Emmett's prized red Studebaker is "borrowed" by two rambunctious, New York–bound escapees from the juvie facility he just left, Emmett takes after them via freight train with Billy in tow. Billy befriends a Black veteran named Ulysses who's been riding the rails nonstop since returning home from World War II to find his wife and baby boy gone. A modern picaresque with a host of characters, competing points of view, wandering narratives, and teasing chapter endings, Towles' third novel is even more entertaining than his much-acclaimed A Gentleman in Moscow (2016). You can quibble with one or two plot turns, but there's no resisting moments such as Billy's encounter, high up in the Empire State Building in the middle of the night, with professor Abacus Abernathe, whose Compendium of Heroes, Adventurers, and Other Intrepid Travelers he's read 24 times. A remarkable blend of sweetness and doom, Towles' novel is packed with revelations about the American myth, the art of storytelling, and the unrelenting pull of history.

An exhilarating ride through Americana.

Pub Date: Oct. 5, 2021

ISBN: 978-0-73-522235-9

Page Count: 592

Publisher: Viking

Review Posted Online: June 22, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2021

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