An enchanting tale that, though demanding lots of suspended disbelief, pleases on every page.

THE HIDDEN PALACE

Wecker returns, eight years after The Golem and the Jinni, with a sequel that brings the saga into the 20th century.

In a blend of romance, Mary Shelley–esque horror, and folklore, Wecker recounts the continuing adventures of Chava, the Jewish golem, and Ahmad, the Arabian jinni. Bound to each other by love, they have nonetheless parted long enough for Ahmad to have had a brief affair with a human. “I wasn’t careful enough. I made her ill, permanently. I’m not certain how it happened, I only know that I was the cause,” he confesses to Chava. And now, Sophia Winston, known as Saffiyah among the Bedouins she visits—“Saffiyah the stranger, Saffiyah the afflicted”—has a big problem: Having been touched by the jinni, the spirit of pure fire, she can’t get warm, even in the blast furnace of the desert, where, among other historical characters, she runs into a certain Thomas E. Lawrence—soon to be known as Lawrence of Arabia—and Gertrude Bell. Meanwhile, back in New York, Chava, now known as Chava Levy, and Ahmad find each other again, performing miraculous labors, she as a champion baker who, of course, doesn’t need to sleep and he as an “iron-bound” figure in human form who works diligently, in self-imposed exile, for a Syrian immigrant tinsmith. Not far away, a rabbi happens upon a secret book that contains the recipe for making a golem—a project fraught with peril but one that turns out to be helpful to his daughter, Kreindel, after bad fortune lands her in an orphanage. Kreindel is the most resourceful of the characters Wecker sets into motion in this tale, and she knows a golem when she sees one, including the one who teaches her home ec. Wecker skillfully combines the storylines of these and numerous other players, good and evil, in a story that, while self-contained, gives every promise of being continued.

An enchanting tale that, though demanding lots of suspended disbelief, pleases on every page.

Pub Date: June 8, 2021

ISBN: 978-0-06-246871-0

Page Count: 480

Publisher: Harper/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: March 17, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2021

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A novel of capacious intelligence and plenty of page-turning emotional drama.

BEAUTIFUL WORLD, WHERE ARE YOU

Two erudite Irishwomen struggle with romance against the backdrop of the Trump/Brexit years.

Eileen and Alice have been friends since their university days. Now in their late 20s, Eileen works as an editorial assistant at a literary magazine in Dublin. Alice is a famous novelist recovering from a psychiatric hospitalization and staying in a large empty rectory on the west coast of Ireland. Since Alice’s breakdown, the two have kept in touch primarily through lengthy emails that alternate between recounting their romantic lives and working through their angst about the current social and political climate. (In one of these letters, Eileen laments that the introduction of plastic has ruined humanity’s aesthetic calibration and in the next paragraph, she’s eager to know if Alice is sleeping with the new man she’s met.) Eileen has spent many years entangled in an occasionally intimate friendship with her teenage crush, a slightly older man named Simon who is a devout Catholic and who works in the Irish Parliament as an assistant. As Eileen and Simon’s relationship becomes more complicated, Alice meets Felix, a warehouse worker who is unsure what to make of her fame and aloofness. In many ways, this book, a work of both philosophy and romantic tragicomedy about the ways people love and hurt one another, is exactly the type of book one would expect Rooney to write out of the political environment of the past few years. But just because the novel is so characteristic of Rooney doesn’t take anything away from its considerable power. As Alice herself puts it, “Humanity on the cusp of extinction [and] here I am writing another email about sex and friendship. What else is there to live for?”

A novel of capacious intelligence and plenty of page-turning emotional drama.

Pub Date: Sept. 7, 2021

ISBN: 978-0-374-60260-4

Page Count: 368

Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux

Review Posted Online: June 16, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 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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