Geni continues to create works of art with perfect voices that are simultaneously thrillers and meditations on nature. It is...

THE WILDLANDS

Geni’s (The Lightkeepers, 2016) fascination with the borders between human and animal drives this distinctive sophomore novel.

Darlene, Tucker, Jane, Cora: Already motherless, they are transformed in seconds into modern orphans when a massive tornado sweeps their small piece of the Oklahoma plains, disappearing their childhood home, their barn animals, and their father. More transformations await. Darlene, now a legal guardian, scrapes together a subsistence for the siblings instead of going to college. Their new life is sufficient for Jane and for Cora (whose memories extend no further back than the tornado) but is untenable for Tucker. He runs away to nurse a streak of wildness, becoming a dangerously zealous animal rights activist, returning to bomb a cosmetics factory close to home and releasing the bewildered test animals. And while the tornado is catalytic, catastrophe occurs when Tucker kidnaps 9-year-old Cora. He needs someone to tend his gruesome wounds from the bombing but seemingly desires a spiritual accomplice as well. Cora joins her big brother lovingly and willingly. On the lam, she sees more and more to make her uneasy; bombing is but one of the destructive crimes Tucker is willing to commit in the name of the animals. But Cora is enthralled by the fairy tale Tucker spins around their adventure and confused by the new identity Tucker has given her as a boy named Corey. Back home, Darlene’s devastation is palpable, as are her anger, desperation, and strength of will. She and Jane find an ally in a local police officer, but their hope of finding Cora wanes along with the summer. Cora’s experience, narrated in first-person chapters, is tender and terrifying. Tucker is almost exclusively viewed through her eyes, but readers can see the abhorrence of his actions clearly. At the same time, Geni uses him to limn the intelligence and order of the animal world and to raise valid, troubling questions about humans’ treatment of their fellow beasts. Darlene, an impressive example of grit, provides a counterpoint. The question of the novel is what Cora will become—what any of us could become—when placed in the eyes of that storm.

Geni continues to create works of art with perfect voices that are simultaneously thrillers and meditations on nature. It is an incredible trick.

Pub Date: Sept. 4, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-61902-234-8

Page Count: 368

Publisher: Counterpoint

Review Posted Online: June 18, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2018

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Doerr captures the sights and sounds of wartime and focuses, refreshingly, on the innate goodness of his major characters.

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  • Kirkus Reviews'
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  • Pulitzer Prize Winner

  • National Book Award Finalist

ALL THE LIGHT WE CANNOT SEE

Doerr presents us with two intricate stories, both of which take place during World War II; late in the novel, inevitably, they intersect.

In August 1944, Marie-Laure LeBlanc is a blind 16-year-old living in the walled port city of Saint-Malo in Brittany and hoping to escape the effects of Allied bombing. D-Day took place two months earlier, and Cherbourg, Caen and Rennes have already been liberated. She’s taken refuge in this city with her great-uncle Etienne, at first a fairly frightening figure to her. Marie-Laure’s father was a locksmith and craftsman who made scale models of cities that Marie-Laure studied so she could travel around on her own. He also crafted clever and intricate boxes, within which treasures could be hidden. Parallel to the story of Marie-Laure we meet Werner and Jutta Pfennig, a brother and sister, both orphans who have been raised in the Children’s House outside Essen, in Germany. Through flashbacks we learn that Werner had been a curious and bright child who developed an obsession with radio transmitters and receivers, both in their infancies during this period. Eventually, Werner goes to a select technical school and then, at 18, into the Wehrmacht, where his technical aptitudes are recognized and he’s put on a team trying to track down illegal radio transmissions. Etienne and Marie-Laure are responsible for some of these transmissions, but Werner is intrigued since what she’s broadcasting is innocent—she shares her passion for Jules Verne by reading aloud 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea. A further subplot involves Marie-Laure’s father’s having hidden a valuable diamond, one being tracked down by Reinhold von Rumpel, a relentless German sergeant-major.

Doerr captures the sights and sounds of wartime and focuses, refreshingly, on the innate goodness of his major characters.

Pub Date: May 6, 2014

ISBN: 978-1-4767-4658-6

Page Count: 448

Publisher: Scribner

Review Posted Online: March 6, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2014

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Absolutely enthralling. Read it.

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NORMAL PEOPLE

A young Irish couple gets together, splits up, gets together, splits up—sorry, can't tell you how it ends!

Irish writer Rooney has made a trans-Atlantic splash since publishing her first novel, Conversations With Friends, in 2017. Her second has already won the Costa Novel Award, among other honors, since it was published in Ireland and Britain last year. In outline it's a simple story, but Rooney tells it with bravura intelligence, wit, and delicacy. Connell Waldron and Marianne Sheridan are classmates in the small Irish town of Carricklea, where his mother works for her family as a cleaner. It's 2011, after the financial crisis, which hovers around the edges of the book like a ghost. Connell is popular in school, good at soccer, and nice; Marianne is strange and friendless. They're the smartest kids in their class, and they forge an intimacy when Connell picks his mother up from Marianne's house. Soon they're having sex, but Connell doesn't want anyone to know and Marianne doesn't mind; either she really doesn't care, or it's all she thinks she deserves. Or both. Though one time when she's forced into a social situation with some of their classmates, she briefly fantasizes about what would happen if she revealed their connection: "How much terrifying and bewildering status would accrue to her in this one moment, how destabilising it would be, how destructive." When they both move to Dublin for Trinity College, their positions are swapped: Marianne now seems electric and in-demand while Connell feels adrift in this unfamiliar environment. Rooney's genius lies in her ability to track her characters' subtle shifts in power, both within themselves and in relation to each other, and the ways they do and don't know each other; they both feel most like themselves when they're together, but they still have disastrous failures of communication. "Sorry about last night," Marianne says to Connell in February 2012. Then Rooney elaborates: "She tries to pronounce this in a way that communicates several things: apology, painful embarrassment, some additional pained embarrassment that serves to ironise and dilute the painful kind, a sense that she knows she will be forgiven or is already, a desire not to 'make a big deal.' " Then: "Forget about it, he says." Rooney precisely articulates everything that's going on below the surface; there's humor and insight here as well as the pleasure of getting to know two prickly, complicated people as they try to figure out who they are and who they want to become.

Absolutely enthralling. Read it.

Pub Date: April 16, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-984-82217-8

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Hogarth/Crown

Review Posted Online: Feb. 18, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2019

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