Courageous, insightful, and unsettling poems about war and family ties.

SHELLBACK

POEMS

A daughter recalls her relationship with her father, a World War II sailor, in this volume of poetry.

This collection opens with Osterman explaining that a “shellback” is a veteran sailor, particularly one who has taken part in an often brutal initiation ceremony after crossing the equator for the first time. The poems contained here recount events from the Pacific War theater, where the poet’s father served in the Navy, along with moments from her childhood and adulthood, including caring for her aging dad. Closing lines from the title poem summarize Osterman’s emotional quest: “This is one shellback’s daughter / trying to find that wiser self within / who can forgive these men.” She examines the psychological impact of war that reverberates through the lives of those who served. Poems such as “Portrait of My Father as a Dad” recall threats of punishment: “I’ll break every bone in your body if you don’t turn down that TV.” The author charts her pathway to forgiveness: “I let memories I can’t erase / rest in peace” and portrays her father’s struggle with aging and sickness. Osterman’s poetry is captivating in the way that it freshly describes the traditionally masculine endeavor of military combat. The poet includes her father’s spoken memories in italics: “Those shells were the size of a little league bat.” But in poems such as “Think of It,” childbirth is used to depict the destruction of the combat zone: “Ships giving birth— / landing tanks tumbling / from the monster hole, / scuttling to shore.” In doing so, she lends a vulnerability to the apparatus of war, which counters her father’s tough male bravado. But Osterman is also unafraid to face the shocking realities of battle. Describing the corpse of a kamikaze pilot, she notes: “He’s just a torso— / the end like a sponge / filled with blood.” The manner in which the poet captures her aging father’s descent into infirmity can be similarly unflinching yet never without a vein of tenderness: “Without muscle to sniff or swallow, your mouth / and nose let drain what’s left of your life. / I touch your shoulder. Happy Father’s Day, I say.” Set against the brutal backdrop of war, this is an emotionally perceptive, poignant, and thoughtfully nuanced examination of the father-daughter relationship.

Courageous, insightful, and unsettling poems about war and family ties.

Pub Date: Feb. 1, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-73449-653-6

Page Count: 82

Publisher: Paloma Press

Review Posted Online: April 22, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2021

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Funny, sad, astute, occasionally creepy, and slyly irresistible.

APPLES NEVER FALL

Australian novelist Moriarty combines domestic realism and noirish mystery in this story about the events surrounding a 69-year-old Sydney woman’s disappearance.

Joy and Stan Delaney met as champion tennis players more than 50 years ago and ran a well-regarded tennis academy until their recent retirement. Their long, complicated marriage has been filled with perhaps as much passion for the game of tennis as for each other or their children. When Joy disappears on Feb. 14, 2020 (note the date), the last text she sends to her now-grown kids—bohemian Amy, passive Logan, flashy Troy, and migraine-suffering Brooke—is too garbled by autocorrect to decipher and stubborn Stan refuses to accept that there might be a problem. But days pass and Joy remains missing and uncharacteristically silent. As worrisome details come to light, the police become involved. The structure follows the pattern of Big Little Lies (2014) by setting up a mystery and then jumping months into the past to unravel it. Here, Moriarty returns to the day a stranger named Savannah turned up bleeding on the Delaneys’ doorstep and Joy welcomed her to stay for an extended visit. Who is Savannah? Whether she’s innocent, scamming, or something else remains unclear on many levels. Moriarty is a master of ambiguity and also of the small, telling detail like a tossed tennis racket or the repeated appearance of apple crumble. Starting with the abandoned bike that's found by a passing motorist on the first page, the evidence that accumulates around what happened to Joy constantly challenges the reader both to notice which minor details (and characters) matter and to distinguish between red herrings and buried clues. The ultimate reveal is satisfying, if troubling. But Moriarty’s main focus, which she approaches from countless familiar and unexpected angles, is the mystery of family and what it means to be a parent, child, or sibling in the Delaney family—or in any family, for that matter.

Funny, sad, astute, occasionally creepy, and slyly irresistible.

Pub Date: Sept. 14, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-250-22025-7

Page Count: 480

Publisher: Henry Holt

Review Posted Online: June 16, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 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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