Abbott is a master of thinly veiled secrets often kept by women who rage underneath their delicate exteriors.

THE TURNOUT

The owners of a ballet school have their insular and delicate world torn open.

Sisters Marie and Dara Durant own the Durant School of Dance; with matching buns, long necks, and pink tights, they exemplify the traditions of ballet. The classic girl’s dream of becoming a ballerina is the reality they’ve lived since their late mother opened the school in the 1980s. But behind the delicate tulle-clad facade of every ballerina reside the grit, pain, and stamina that drive them to push their bodies to the limit day in and day out. “Ballet was full of dark fairy tales,” Abbott writes, and one of those dark tales belongs to Dara’s husband, Charlie, who was once her mother’s prize student. Charlie now runs the school's daily operations, no longer able to dance due to his chronic pain. With Nutcracker season upon them, tension runs high at the studio. While Marie, Dara, and Charlie have survived many Nutcrackers, this year is a little different—the dark fairy tale comes to life, first in the form of a fire, “brilliant and bright…eating the floor and spitting out kindling shards in its wake.” As in many of Abbott’s thrillers, a violent catalyst sets off a series of events that brings buried emotions and hidden desires to the surface. The physicality in Abbott’s prose gives the mounting tension a heartbeat, from “the clatter of phones” to “the slap of flip-flops.” The tension arrives next in the form of Derek, the contractor hired to fix the ruined studio—“the expanse of him was overwhelming.” Derek represents every contractor horror story you’ve ever heard. He takes over the sisters' space, “an invasion and a deconstruction” that threatens to break the delicate balance that keeps the studio—and Marie’s and Dara’s lives—functioning. Derek invades their mental as well as their physical space, twisting words and promises, making beautiful things unseemly: “Some people liked to make everything dirty. Some people liked to ruin everything.” While the life of a ballerina may be “mysterious and private,” many illusions are shattered by the end. Though this story lacks some of the unquenchable energy that is Abbott’s trademark, the mesmerizing prose will keep you turning the pages.

Abbott is a master of thinly veiled secrets often kept by women who rage underneath their delicate exteriors.

Pub Date: July 6, 2021

ISBN: 978-0-593-08490-8

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Putnam

Review Posted Online: April 14, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 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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