Unclassifiable, dizzying, and gorgeous.

PILOT IMPOSTOR

A short, genre-bending book that interrogates themes including art, race, and doubt.

The cover of the third book from novelist Hannaham features a disquieting, arresting image: two airplane passengers bent over in their seats, hands clasped above their heads, as if bracing for impact. Early in the book, the author offers something of an explanation: “I have so many systems to monitor as I work; each aspect of the writing might as well be a knob or a dial on the console of an airplane….It’s as if I am a pilot without knowing anything about how to fly an airplane.” Hannaham’s book—not quite a novel, not quite a short story collection, not quite like anything else—is a clever series of reflections on art, doubt, race, and impostor syndrome. Written as a response to the poetry of Portuguese writer Fernando Pessoa, the book mixes artwork with brief pieces that blur the line between prose and poetry, many focusing on aviation. In one section, a despondent pilot steers his own aircraft into the ocean; he still considers himself a “good person,” reasoning that his passengers’ families will get insurance payouts. Another section showcases Hannaham’s mordant humor: “Do I want to die in a plane crash? I can think of some good reasons to do so. It would bring more attention to this book. It was as if he knew, the reviewers would say, always eager for a prophet.” Hannaham can switch gears quickly from the tragic to the comic, and the ensuing whiplash the reader experiences is as fascinating as it is destabilizing. Each section of the book is beautifully executed in its own way, whether it’s about a pedophile who agonizingly fights his urges or a White police officer who pulls over a driver of color and recites the opening lines of famous poems at him. This book might be impossible to classify, but it’s easy to admire—Hannaham continues to be one of the country’s smartest and most surprising writers of fiction (or whatever this book actually is).

Unclassifiable, dizzying, and gorgeous.

Pub Date: Nov. 30, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-59376-701-3

Page Count: 208

Publisher: Soft Skull Press

Review Posted Online: Aug. 18, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2021

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet

Miller makes Homer pertinent to women facing 21st-century monsters.

Our Verdict

  • Our Verdict
  • GET IT

  • Kirkus Reviews'
    Best Books Of 2018

  • New York Times Bestseller

CIRCE

A retelling of ancient Greek lore gives exhilarating voice to a witch.

“Monsters are a boon for gods. Imagine all the prayers.” So says Circe, a sly, petulant, and finally commanding voice that narrates the entirety of Miller’s dazzling second novel. The writer returns to Homer, the wellspring that led her to an Orange Prize for The Song of Achilles (2012). This time, she dips into The Odyssey for the legend of Circe, a nymph who turns Odysseus’ crew of men into pigs. The novel, with its distinctive feminist tang, starts with the sentence: “When I was born, the name for what I was did not exist.” Readers will relish following the puzzle of this unpromising daughter of the sun god Helios and his wife, Perse, who had negligible use for their child. It takes banishment to the island Aeaea for Circe to sense her calling as a sorceress: “I will not be like a bird bred in a cage, I thought, too dull to fly even when the door stands open. I stepped into those woods and my life began.” This lonely, scorned figure learns herbs and potions, surrounds herself with lions, and, in a heart-stopping chapter, outwits the monster Scylla to propel Daedalus and his boat to safety. She makes lovers of Hermes and then two mortal men. She midwifes the birth of the Minotaur on Crete and performs her own C-section. And as she grows in power, she muses that “not even Odysseus could talk his way past [her] witchcraft. He had talked his way past the witch instead.” Circe’s fascination with mortals becomes the book’s marrow and delivers its thrilling ending. All the while, the supernatural sits intriguingly alongside “the tonic of ordinary things.” A few passages coil toward melodrama, and one inelegant line after a rape seems jarringly modern, but the spell holds fast. Expect Miller’s readership to mushroom like one of Circe’s spells.

Miller makes Homer pertinent to women facing 21st-century monsters.

Pub Date: April 10, 2018

ISBN: 978-0-316-55634-7

Page Count: 400

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: Jan. 23, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2018

Did you like this book?

An exhilarating ride through Americana.

Reader Votes

  • Readers Vote
  • 13

Our Verdict

  • Our Verdict
  • GET IT

  • Kirkus Reviews'
    Best Books Of 2021

  • New York Times Bestseller

  • IndieBound Bestseller

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

Did you like this book?

more