Fans of Hoffman’s brand of mystical whimsy will find this paean to New England one of her most satisfying.

THE RED GARDEN

In 14 freestanding but consecutive stories, Hoffman (The Story Sisters, 2009, etc.) traces the life of the town of Blackwell, Mass., from its founding in 1750 up to the present as the founders’ descendents connect to the land and each other.

Hallie Brady, who saves her fellow settlers from starvation by catching eels in the river, has a special, perhaps mystical affinity for the local bears. After her daughter’s husband Harry Partridge mistakenly kills her most beloved bear in her back garden, she disappears and Harry buries the bear. In 1792, Johnny (Appleseed) Chapman, the first of many outsiders who drift through, plants a Tree of Life in the center of town. In 1816, another outsider helps find the drowned body of six-year-old Amy Starr before eloping with her older sister. Amy’s “ghost” will appear to future generations. In the Civil War, an injured Partridge finds a reason to live when he falls in love with the war widow of Amy’s nephew. In 1903, Isaac Partridge marries a woman who has reinvented herself, not unlike Hallie Brady. In 1935, a writer from Brooklyn comes to town as part of the WPA and falls in love with a fisherman’s wife who may or may not be an enchanted eel. In 1945, the townspeople believe that the tomatoes that Hannah Partridge, Isaac’s daughter, plants in her garden have the power to make wishes come true; in fact Hannah’s own wish to raise a child without marriage is realized when her sister comes back from World War II with a baby girl named Kate. In 1956, Kate falls in love with a man whose loneliness has turned him into a kind of bear. Discovering bones in her garden in 1986, Kate’s daughter Louise thinks they belong to a dinosaur until the man who loves her proves they came from a bear. Together the lovers re-bury the bones.

Fans of Hoffman’s brand of mystical whimsy will find this paean to New England one of her most satisfying.

Pub Date: Jan. 25, 2011

ISBN: 978-0-307-39387-6

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Crown

Review Posted Online: Sept. 22, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 2010

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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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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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A clever and current book about a complicated woman and her romantic relationships.

CONVERSATIONS WITH FRIENDS

The story of the entangled affairs of a group of exceedingly smart and self-possessed creative types.

Frances, an aloof and intelligent 21-year-old living in Dublin, is an aspiring poet and communist. She performs her spoken-word pieces with her best friend and ex-lover, Bobbi, who is equally intellectual but gregarious where Frances is shy and composed where Frances is awkward. When Melissa, a notable writer and photographer, approaches the pair to offer to do a profile of them, they accept excitedly. While Bobbi is taken with Melissa, Frances becomes infatuated by her life—her success, her beautiful home, her actor husband, Nick. Nick is handsome and mysterious and, it turns out, returns Frances’ attraction. Although he can sometimes be withholding of his affection (he struggles with depression), they begin a passionate affair. Frances and Nick’s relationship makes difficult the already tense (for its intensity) relationship between Frances and Bobbi. In the midst of this complicated dynamic, Frances is also managing endometriosis and neglectful parents—an abusive, alcoholic father and complicit mother. As a narrator, Frances describes all these complex fragments in an ethereal and thoughtful but self-loathing way. Rooney captures the mood and voice of contemporary women and their interpersonal connections and concerns without being remotely predictable. In her debut novel, she deftly illustrates psychology’s first lesson: that everyone is doomed to repeat their patterns.

A clever and current book about a complicated woman and her romantic relationships.

Pub Date: July 11, 2017

ISBN: 978-0-451-49905-9

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Hogarth

Review Posted Online: April 18, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 2017

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