The Great American Pandemic Novel only Shteyngart could write, full of hyphenated identities, killer prose, and wild...

OUR COUNTRY FRIENDS

The Levin-Senderovskys—Sasha, Masha, and little Natasha—wait out the virus at their country estate with four close friends and one movie star.

One of Sasha Senderovsky's fondest memories of his childhood is the bungalow colony catering to Russian immigrant families where he first met his wife, Masha. With the proceeds of his once-successful writing career, he has built a colony of his own, though it's in an area of New York state where a deconstructed swastika is becoming a popular bumper sticker, and he's having trouble scraping together the cash to get the dead tree limbs out of the driveway before the party starts. Karen Cho and Vinod Mehta have been his best friends since high school. She's stratospherically rich after creating an app that makes people fall in love; he's failed at everything except being a very good person and loving Karen ceaselessly from afar. They are joined by Karen's distant cousin, an international dandy named Ed; Senderovsky's beautiful former student Dee, who leverages her Southern drawl and heritage to great effect on and off the page; and someone known only as the Actor, whose fame, charisma, and good looks are almost beyond description. Except Shteyngart, most recently of the fantastic Lake Success(2018) and most famously of Super Sad True Love Story (2010), can describe anything. Russian: "a language built around the exhalation of warmth and pain." Cheeses: "so filled with aromatic herbs they inspired (on Senderovsky's part) memories that had never happened." One could go on. When the curtain rises on the House on the Hill, as the place is known, it's early March 2020; Senderovsky has to ask his guests to refrain from hugging because "Masha's gone all epidemiological." Everyone seems to gather that they'll be staying for a while, but, of course, they have no idea. Uncle Vanya, K-pop, and Japanese reality TV will all play important roles, and just about everyone gets to fall in love.

The Great American Pandemic Novel only Shteyngart could write, full of hyphenated identities, killer prose, and wild vitality.

Pub Date: Nov. 2, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-984855-12-1

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Random House

Review Posted Online: Aug. 4, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 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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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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