Doing what she does best, Johnson shows us why she's been compared to writers like Henry James, Jane Austen, and Voltaire.

LORNA MOTT COMES HOME

A Californian facing her second divorce, this one in France, returns to the bosom of her family.

In her 18th book, Johnson, now 86, returns with undimmed joie de vivre to the delicious Francophile vein she mined so successfully in her National Book Award finalist Le Divorce (1997) and other novels. Everything one looks forward to in Johnson's books is delivered in abundance here: nimble plotting, witty narration, edifying juxtaposition of French and American cultures. Returning to her hometown of San Francisco just before the financial crisis of the aughts, art historian Lorna Mott "had remembered America differently, without people lying in the street, neighbors being tied up and robbed, junk food, obesity, cars everywhere." Yet after 20 mostly happy years in the sweet village of Pont-les-Puits, she has had it with her aging playboy husband's indiscretions and now hopes to be of use to her adult children. They have problems, almost all concerning finances. Divorced Peggy can't make ends meet selling crafts on the internet; money's run out for daughter Julie's college tuition. Tech wonder-boy Curt has disappeared to the Far East after awakening from a coma, leaving a wife and young twins. Old hippie Hams and his pierced and pregnant wife are living in a terrible neighborhood. Their father, Lorna's ex, has married a young gazillionaire but seems to have little interest in helping the children of his first marriage—until he faces a problem with their 15-year-old half sister that manages to pull almost all the plot elements and cast members into a single focus. Ta da! Johnson's social and moral insight are condensed into pithy one-liners that begin each chapter: "Hope springs eternal and is sometimes rewarded." "Pace Freud, does talking about a problem always make us feel better?" She also excels at evoking people's misconstruals of others' behavior and various delicate inner states: "Her French troubles with Armand and wifedom had faded to a bearable background hum, a kind of tinnitus."

Doing what she does best, Johnson shows us why she's been compared to writers like Henry James, Jane Austen, and Voltaire.

Pub Date: June 29, 2021

ISBN: 978-0-525-52108-2

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Knopf

Review Posted Online: Jan. 27, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2021

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An exhilarating ride through Americana.

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

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  • New York Times Bestseller

  • National Book Award Finalist

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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