THE FOUR WINDS by Kristin Hannah (St. Martin's). I don't suppose Hannah is a “great American writer” in the most solemn, in-a-deep-voice sense, but she's enormously popular among the best readers …
THE FOUR WINDS by Kristin Hannah (St. Martin's). I don't suppose Hannah is a “great American writer” in the most solemn, in-a-deep-voice sense, but she's enormously popular among the best readers for the very best reasons; no small thing. This big historical novel of Americans on the move in the dust bowl era will bring to mind not just a predecessor novel but a great name that she might be compared to meaningfully—which would be Steinbeck. The time and the place (places, really) of this book's setting make that an obvious choice, but there's also the depth of understanding in more than political ways of the adventure and the struggle as they unfold. It's more woman-centered; we get to know the central figure as a fragile young girl, and come soon to love and want to follow her as she grows and becomes tough and brave. The emotions might be more explicit than the politics, then; but politics is real, too, and none of what's real is neglected.
THIS IS HOW THEY TELL ME THE WORLD ENDS: THE CYBER-WEAPONS ARMS RACE by Nicole Perlroth (Bloomsbury). This big, smart but entirely intelligible book means to scare us, first, but only to convince us that this new state of existence can be dealt with. Perlroth is smart enough to understand that war (yes, it's already going on), but no geek; rather, writer enough (she's on the New York Times) to help us understand it. We have undergone cyber-attacks, from Russia and others, and we've executed a few ourselves—all that history (and more; there's more) is covered. But wars tend to be fought with rules, some of them actually enforceable, at least by (measured) retaliation—and this one should be, too. This book is lively and enjoyable, scary until it's (somewhat) calming, and mind-clearing.
PRODIGAL SON: AN ORPHAN X NOVEL by Gregg Hurwitz (Minotaur). Just the sixth of this already classic action series centered on an independent operative who was at first likely to be compared to Jack Reacher (this column contributed to that, and it wasn't ridiculously wrong, but James Bond would have been closer). Here, it's his stretched-thin connection to the family that he has long since renounced that tugs at him in desperation. The sobriquet is no joke, but: Orphan X has a mother. Maybe.
LET'S TALK ABOUT DEATH by Michael Hebb (Hachette). The column meant to cover this when it was first published in hard covers, but. . . . Sensible, neither mopey nor chilly; sensitive but not soppy, then. Keeping in mind that teaching you to how to talk is mostly teaching you how to think: the talk here can scarcely be light, but it's calm and forthright, and could only help.
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