A superb, captivating work from a promising new literary voice.

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THE REVOLVING HEART

A call from an old friend in need leads a struggling playwright to come to terms with his complex history in Augello’s debut novel.

Donatello “Duck” Marcino is a master pizza chef, an unsuccessful playwright, and a narcoleptic. Amy is a suicidal, alcoholic single mother. The two were inseparable in their teenage years, during which they often babysat for the much younger Sarah Carpenter, whose mother was a less-than-ideal parent. A day at the beach in the 1990s changed their lives immeasurably, though, as Sarah went missing. Duck still has no idea what really happened that day, as he fell asleep on the beach as a result of his narcolepsy. It was generally assumed that Sarah drowned, although Amy claimed that the school drama teacher, Michael Ronan, whom Duck idolized, kidnapped the girl. However, police found no evidence that this was the case. Duck later left New Jersey for California, but a distress call from Amy 20 years later draws him back to his hometown to confront old demons. Duck, accompanied by his remarkably tolerant girlfriend, Kelly, immerses himself in the world he left behind and comes to a new, harrowing understanding of the events surrounding Sarah’s disappearance. Augello’s novel is a beautifully crafted fictional study of the long-term impact of neglect and abuse. Although the initial setup is reminiscent of a crime novel, the story gradually settles into a more reflective narrative about the choices that people make, the bonds they forge, and the obligations they can’t escape, however much they might try. The prose style is first-rate, featuring hints of Douglas Coupland and Philip Roth, cut through with the flavor of Beat Generation narratives. Augello shows a knack for sharp, believable dialogue, and his character construction is impressive. The unsettling malice of male aggression simmers throughout the story, as well, without ever feeling over-the-top.

A superb, captivating work from a promising new literary voice.

Pub Date: April 16, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-68433-477-3

Page Count: 244

Publisher: Black Rose Writing

Review Posted Online: March 18, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 2020

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Gigantic, strange, exquisite, terrifying, and replete with mystery.

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TO PARADISE

A triptych of stories set in 1893, 1993, and 2093 explore the fate of humanity, the essential power and sorrow of love, and the unique doom brought upon itself by the United States.

After the extraordinary reception of Yanagihara's Kirkus Prize–winning second novel, A Little Life (2015), her follow-up could not be more eagerly awaited. While it is nothing like either of her previous novels, it's also unlike anything else you've read (though Cloud Atlas, The House of Mirth, Martin and John, and Robertson Davies' Deptford Trilogy may all cross your mind at various points). More than 700 pages long, the book is composed of three sections, each a distinct narrative, each set in a counterfactual historical iteration of the place we call the United States. The narratives are connected by settings and themes: A house on Washington Square in Greenwich Village is central to each; Hawaii comes up often, most prominently in the second. The same names are used for (very different) characters in each story; almost all are gay and many are married. Even in the Edith Wharton–esque opening story, in which the scion of a wealthy family is caught between an arranged marriage and a reckless affair, both of his possible partners are men. Illness and disability are themes in each, most dramatically in the third, set in a brutally detailed post-pandemic totalitarian dystopia. Here is the single plot connection we could find: In the third part, a character remembers hearing a story with the plot of the first. She mourns the fact that she never did get to hear the end of it: "After all these years I found myself wondering what had happened....I knew it was foolish because they weren't even real people but I thought of them often. I wanted to know what had become of them." You will know just how she feels. But what does it mean that Yanagihara acknowledges this? That is just one of the conundrums sure to provoke years of discussion and theorizing. Another: Given the punch in the gut of utter despair one feels when all the most cherished elements of 19th- and 20th-century lives are unceremoniously swept off the stage when you turn the page to the 21st—why is the book not called To Hell?

Gigantic, strange, exquisite, terrifying, and replete with mystery.

Pub Date: Jan. 11, 2022

ISBN: 978-0-385-54793-2

Page Count: 720

Publisher: Doubleday

Review Posted Online: Oct. 13, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 2021

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As the pieces of this magical literary puzzle snap together, a flicker of hope is sparked for our benighted world.

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CLOUD CUCKOO LAND

An ancient Greek manuscript connects humanity's past, present, and future.

Stranger, whoever you are, open this to learn what will amaze you” wrote Antonius Diogenes at the end of the first century C.E.—and millennia later, Pulitzer Prize winner Doerr is his fitting heir. Around Diogenes' manuscript, "Cloud Cuckoo Land"—the author did exist, but the text is invented—Doerr builds a community of readers and nature lovers that transcends the boundaries of time and space. The protagonist of the original story is Aethon, a shepherd whose dream of escaping to a paradise in the sky leads to a wild series of adventures in the bodies of beast, fish, and fowl. Aethon's story is first found by Anna in 15th-century Constantinople; though a failure as an apprentice seamstress, she's learned ancient Greek from an elderly scholar. Omeir, a country boy of the same period, is rejected by the world for his cleft lip—but forms the deepest of connections with his beautiful oxen, Moonlight and Tree. In the 1950s, Zeno Ninis, a troubled ex–GI in Lakeport, Idaho, finds peace in working on a translation of Diogenes' recently recovered manuscript. In 2020, 86-year-old Zeno helps a group of youngsters put the story on as a play at the Lakeport Public Library—unaware that an eco-terrorist is planting a bomb in the building during dress rehearsal. (This happens in the first pages of the book and continues ticking away throughout.) On a spaceship called the Argos bound for Beta Oph2 in Mission Year 65, a teenage girl named Konstance is sequestered in a sealed room with a computer named Sybil. How could she possibly encounter Zeno's translation? This is just one of the many narrative miracles worked by the author as he brings a first-century story to its conclusion in 2146.

As the pieces of this magical literary puzzle snap together, a flicker of hope is sparked for our benighted world.

Pub Date: Sept. 28, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-982168-43-8

Page Count: 656

Publisher: Scribner

Review Posted Online: June 29, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2021

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