A bighearted, widescreen American tale.

SMALL WORLD

A train accident reveals the connections among a host of people across race, class, history, and the country in this ambitious epic.

Evison’s seventh novel opens by giving away the climax: Walter, a train operator working his final run for Amtrak, is at the center of a wreck on the way to Seattle. But despite making the worlds-in-collision setup clear early, Evison has still crafted a suspenseful novel, as he shuttles between the train’s riders in 2019 and their forebears in the 1850s. Walter is a descendent of Nora and Finn, Irish twins orphaned in Chicago. Malik, a rising high school basketball star, is a descendent of George, an escaped slave. Jenny, a hard-charging corporate fixer (she supervised Amtrak buyouts that, it’s implied, led to the crash), descends from Wu Chen, a Chinese immigrant who parlayed a small stash of gold into a thriving business. And Laila, escaping her abusive husband, is descended from Luyu, a Miwok woman who’s absorbed White people's condescension or brutality. Bouncing among the characters in brief chapters, Evison gives the story a sprightly, page-turner feel despite the sizable cast he’s assembled. And the story thrives because his eye for the particulars of each character’s life is so sharp: Finn’s work on farms and railroads, Laila’s anxiety over escaping her husband, Malik’s mother’s desperate efforts to make ends meet for her son’s sake. So when their lives do wind up intersecting on the train, Evison’s novel feels less like we’re-all-connected sentimentality than a compassionate vision of a pluralistic country that ought to dignify everybody. Though politics aren’t explicit in the novel, it’s plainly a response to an era that’s created dividing lines across the country. Without being simplistic or wearing rose-colored glasses, Evison suggests a fresh way of recognizing our relationships without melting-pot clichés.

A bighearted, widescreen American tale.

Pub Date: Jan. 11, 2022

ISBN: 978-0-593-18412-7

Page Count: 480

Publisher: Dutton

Review Posted Online: Sept. 29, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 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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Light on suspense but still a solid page-turner.

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  • New York Times Bestseller

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THE LAST THING HE TOLD ME

When a devoted husband and father disappears, his wife and daughter set out to find him.

Hannah Hall is deeply in love with her husband of one year, Owen Michaels. She’s also determined to win over his 16-year-old daughter, Bailey, who has made it very clear that she’s not thrilled with her new stepmother. Despite the drama, the family is mostly a happy one. They live in a lovely houseboat in Sausalito; Hannah is a woodturner whose handmade furniture brings in high-dollar clientele; and Owen works for The Shop, a successful tech firm. Their lives are shattered, however, when Hannah receives a note saying “Protect her” and can’t reach Owen by phone. Then there’s the bag full of cash Bailey finds in her school locker and the shocking news that The Shop’s CEO has been taken into custody. Hannah learns that the FBI has been investigating the firm for about a year regarding some hot new software they took to market before it was fully functional, falsifying their financial statements. Hannah refuses to believe her husband is involved in the fraud, and a U.S. marshal assigned to the case claims Owen isn’t a suspect. Hannah doesn’t know whom to trust, though, and she and Bailey resolve to root out the clues that might lead to Owen. They must also learn to trust one another. Hannah’s narrative alternates past and present, detailing her early days with Owen alongside her current hunt for him, and author Dave throws in a touch of danger and a few surprises. But what really drives the story is the evolving nature of Hannah and Bailey’s relationship, which is by turns poignant and frustrating but always realistic.

Light on suspense but still a solid page-turner.

Pub Date: May 4, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-5011-7134-5

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: Feb. 10, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2021

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