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April 24, 2020

George Ernsberger - Columnist
Posted 4/24/20

THE BOOK OF LOST FRIENDS by Lisa Wingate (Ballantine). The new novel by the author of the bestseller BEFORE WE WERE YOURS, which the column neglected. This one (rather like that one, I've discovered) …

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April 24, 2020

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THE BOOK OF LOST FRIENDS by Lisa Wingate (Ballantine). The new novel by the author of the bestseller BEFORE WE WERE YOURS, which the column neglected. This one (rather like that one, I've discovered) takes a little getting into; the author is determined to get you to pay attention to voices you're not used to listening to. In the opening pages, here, an enslaved child in the deep South; later—some generations later—a young schoolteacher in a hopeless school for hopeless kids, also in the south. She stumbles on a file of post-Civil War classified ads placed in regional papers by emancipated people desperately hoping to locate family members torn away from them, sold they never knew where. (A sampling of these real ads appear in this novel.) The interwoven stories move across country and through time, more and more smoothly and more and still more compellingly. This one's first bestseller list appearance, this coming Sunday.

SOMETHING SHE'S NOT TELLING US by Darcey Bell (Harper). Second “domestic thriller” by the author of the terrific SIMPLE FAVORS of three years ago. Family connections become sinister and mysterious, twisty and consistently surprising. Set in Paris (but it's Americans); much turns around a vulnerable little girl. A very good, still young writer, and one to keep up with.

HOUR OF THE ASSASSIN by Matthew Quirk (Morrow). One of our great action thriller writers, so smart you barely notice him being smart—sophisticated in international politics as well as weaponry. We first met him as a military-action specialist, in fact, but he has moved in the direction of pure espionage and intrigue, though still with a high body count. Here, it's domestic political evil, probably too wicked and ingenious to be entirely true (we fervently hope), but hellishly convincing.

AFTER SUNDOWN by Linda Howard and Linda Jones (Morrow). Sexy (“steamy,” an early review chose) romance novel, of a sort the column hasn't covered, much. Happens to have been meant as near-future, not-quite-sf, but by a remarkable accident of timing, it's set in an America very like the one we're living in, now, the result not of a pandemic but a solar flare that destroyed most crops, so…Very decently written, nicely observed character details and emotional currents—including the guy's (but it is, of course, the guy who's physically objectified, that we're invited to drool over.) The quite restrained s-f elements—disrupted, distressed everyday life and some violence—won't strike us as far-fetched, at all, and the sex is thoughtfully as well as feelingfully presented. You won't learn much, then, about either sex or our current upheaval, but you might well be entertained and won't feel insulted by the stories you're told about both.

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