A stunning book which paints the portrait of a broken life with honesty and compassion.

THE ANTARCTICA OF LOVE

A young Swedish woman who has been brutally murdered spends her afterlife looking down on the Earth she has left behind.

Kristina is only 24 when she dies. She leaves behind her estranged parents, Raksha and Ivan, her dying husband, Shane, and her two children, Valle and Solveig, the elder taken by the state when he was 3 and the younger given up at birth to an adoptive family. Kristina also leaves behind the heroin addiction that gave her days immediate purpose and her murderer, an unnamed man who remembers her with more specific passion than anyone else in her abbreviated life. From her formless position in the afterlife, Kristina looks in on the people she left behind, both as their lives continue and as they existed in the significant moments she revisits as she drifts through a suddenly nonlinear experience of time. Yet, as cruel as the facts of Kristina’s life were—suffused with abandonment, abuse, sorrow, and death—the way she sees the world as it progresses without her is articulated with a kind of pragmatic hope. Nothing will change the facts of death or the bleakness that often precedes it, but what Kristina sees in Raksha as she struggles to live on as the mother of a murdered child; in Valle as he fights his own demons, so similar to his mother’s; in Solveig as she grows into the adult Kristina never had the chance to become are as real as the wasteland that spreads inside the mind of the murderer who chose Kristina to kill precisely because she seemed unafraid to die. In fragmented sections that echo with longing, loss, unutterable sorrow, and yet also a species of joy and light, Stridsberg explores the mind of a woman who gave up her life long before it was taken from her. There is a familiar tradition of dead-girl media in which “the only person of interest…is the murderer, and [the victim] is just a brief glimpse, a blur of green body, and then she is gone, out of the picture, disappearing into the depths of nothingness whence she came.” This book is the antidote to that kind of brutal anonymizing—a novel in which both the wicked and the sublime are scrutinized with the same care by the watchful eyes of the dead.

A stunning book which paints the portrait of a broken life with honesty and compassion.

Pub Date: Jan. 18, 2022

ISBN: 978-0-374-27269-2

Page Count: 272

Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux

Review Posted Online: Sept. 29, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 2021

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Murder most foul and mayhem most entertaining. Another worthy page-turner from a protean master.

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BILLY SUMMERS

The ever prolific King moves from his trademark horror into the realm of the hard-boiled noir thriller.

“He’s not a normal person. He’s a hired assassin, and if he doesn’t think like who and what he is, he’ll never get clear.” So writes King of his title character, whom the Las Vegas mob has brought in to rub out another hired gun who’s been caught and is likely to talk. Billy, who goes by several names, is a complex man, a Marine veteran of the Iraq War who’s seen friends blown to pieces; he’s perhaps numbed by PTSD, but he’s goal-oriented. He’s also a reader—Zola’s novel Thérèse Raquin figures as a MacGuffin—which sets his employer’s wheels spinning: If a reader, then why not have him pretend he’s a writer while he’s waiting for the perfect moment to make his hit? It wouldn’t be the first writer, real or imagined, King has pressed into service, and if Billy is no Jack Torrance, there’s a lovely, subtle hint of the Overlook Hotel and its spectral occupants at the end of the yarn. It’s no spoiler to say that whereas Billy carries out the hit with grim precision, things go squirrelly, complicated by his rescue of a young woman—Alice—after she’s been roofied and raped. Billy’s revenge on her behalf is less than sweet. As a memoir grows in his laptop, Billy becomes more confident as a writer: “He doesn’t know what anyone else might think, but Billy thinks it’s good,” King writes of one day’s output. “And good that it’s awful, because awful is sometimes the truth. He guesses he really is a writer now, because that’s a writer’s thought.” Billy’s art becomes life as Alice begins to take an increasingly important part in it, crisscrossing the country with him to carry out a final hit on an errant bad guy: “He flopped back on the sofa, kicked once, and fell on the floor. His days of raping children and murdering sons and God knew what else were over.” That story within a story has a nice twist, and Billy’s battered copy of Zola’s book plays a part, too.

Murder most foul and mayhem most entertaining. Another worthy page-turner from a protean master.

Pub Date: Aug. 3, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-982173-61-6

Page Count: 528

Publisher: Scribner

Review Posted Online: June 2, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 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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