Shrouded in sorrow and Scandinavian gloom and a central part of a masterwork of modernist literature.

OLAV AUDUNSSØN

II. PROVIDENCE

The second volume in Undset’s tetralogy finds its eponymous hero battling one enemy and one moral quandary after another.

The time is the 1300s, when Norway’s king declares that his people are no longer to go out raiding as Vikings but instead are to settle down into peaceable occupations: “Men were supposed to believe, whether they liked it or not, that God would not tolerate anyone plundering a fellow Christian, even if he happened to be a foreigner.” Ask a Viking to make nice, though, and you’ve got a problem on your hands. Olav, having been an outlaw raider after killing a member of his betrothed’s family, now tries to settle down with Ingunn Steinfinnsdatter on his ancestral estate east of Oslo Fjord. It’s not an easy transition. Olav is on his way to being a good Christian, but even so the Viking is strong in him: “He was…aware that he was supposed to show remorse because the murder was considered a sin, even though he couldn’t understand why it was so sinful,” writes Undset of his original sin (but not his first killing, and not his last). In the second volume of the four devoted to Olav, we find him constantly wrestling with a conscience newly awakened by conversations with learned priests—all Catholic, naturally, considering the time, a matter that brought controversy to Undset when the novel was published in officially Lutheran Norway in 1925. He also wrestles with the presence of the son his wife bore to another man, whom Olav also killed; the boy is a constant reminder of her infidelity, even as one child after another of Olav’s is stillborn or dies soon after birth. Ingunn weakens and ages while Olav remains handsome and strong, though riven by doubt. A bonus in the story: As the volume winds to an end, Olav meets a kind fellow named Lavrans Bjørgulfssøn, who, readers may recall, is the father of the protagonist of Undset’s best-known novel, Kristin Lavransdatter.

Shrouded in sorrow and Scandinavian gloom and a central part of a masterwork of modernist literature.

Pub Date: Oct. 5, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-5179-1160-7

Page Count: 280

Publisher: Univ. of Minnesota

Review Posted Online: July 28, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2021

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An alternately farcical and poignant look at family bonds.

THE SUMMER PLACE

When a family convenes at their Cape Cod summer home for a wedding, old secrets threaten to ruin everything.

Sarah Danhauser is shocked when her beloved stepdaughter announces her engagement to her boyfriend, Gabe. After all, Ruby’s only 22, and Sarah suspects that their relationship was fast-tracked because of the time they spent together in quarantine during the early days of the pandemic. Sarah’s mother, Veronica, is thrilled, mostly because she longs to have the entire family together for one last celebration before she puts their Cape Cod summer house on the market. But getting to Ruby and Gabe’s wedding might prove more difficult than anyone thought. Sarah can’t figure out why her husband, Eli, has been so distant and distracted ever since Ruby moved home to Park Slope (bringing Gabe with her), and she's afraid he may be having an affair. Veronica is afraid that a long-ago dalliance might come back to bite her. Ruby isn’t sure how to process the conflicting feelings she’s having about her upcoming nuptials. And Sam, Sarah’s twin brother, is a recent widower who’s dealing with some pretty big romantic confusion. As the entire extended family, along with Gabe’s relatives, converges on the summer house, secrets become impossible to keep, and it quickly becomes clear that this might not be the perfect gathering Veronica was envisioning. If they make it to the wedding, will their family survive the aftermath? Weiner creates a story with all the misunderstandings and miscommunications of a screwball comedy or a Shakespeare play (think A Midsummer Night’s Dream). But the surprising, over-the-top actions of the characters are grounded by a realistic and moving look at grief and ambition (particularly for Sarah and Veronica, both of whom give up demanding creative careers early on). At times the flashbacks can slow down the story, but even when the characters are lying, cheating, and hiding from each other, they still seem like a real and loving family.

An alternately farcical and poignant look at family bonds.

Pub Date: May 10, 2022

ISBN: 978-1-5011-3357-2

Page Count: 432

Publisher: Atria

Review Posted Online: Feb. 9, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2022

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A curious fetishization of outsiders, outlaws, and the down-and-out.

THE RAVAGED

This debut novel from Walking Dead actor Reedus follows three thematically connected yet narratively unrelated people as they journey to find themselves.

Hunter, a heavily tatted Iraq War vet and self-proclaimed gearhead, attacks his boss at the bike shop after catching him kicking a dog. “Hunter was old school,” the narrator says, rough-hewn but with strong moral fiber and a heart of gold. After learning his father died in a “mysterious house fire” in California, Hunter hops on his Buell S1 motorcycle alongside his buddies Nugget and Itch for a cross-country haul to execute the will. Meanwhile, a wealthy 65-year-old executive named Jack is mugged while traveling aimlessly through South America, neither the first nor the last of his hardships. Jack abandoned his cushy, bloodless office lifestyle after his dying mother told him to “run and never look back,” words he continuously labors to unpack. Finally, Anne, an abused teenage girl in Tennessee, steals her father’s savings and .38 revolver and runs away from home, clobbering her brother upside the head with a cast-iron skillet when he tries to stop her. She connects with her friend Trot, and they join a community of train-hoppers. Co-written by Bill, the story reads like a pastiche of Robert Pirsig’s Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance and Jack Kerouac’s On the Road, the latter of which is name-dropped as “great” by multiple characters. Though occasionally hitting some beautiful imagery of the American heartland, Reedus falls victim to implausible dialogue—“Fabiola, you are reading me like a stock report,” Jack says—and overcooked language: “flesh the color of a high-dollar medium-roast coffee bean.” Frequently wordy summaries do little to develop the thinly sketched characters; we know nearly as much about them on Page 25 as on Page 250.

A curious fetishization of outsiders, outlaws, and the down-and-out.

Pub Date: May 10, 2022

ISBN: 978-1-09-416680-3

Page Count: 292

Publisher: Blackstone

Review Posted Online: March 16, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2022

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