Foreword Reviews

Book of the Day Roundup: August 22-26, 2022

Darling

Book Cover
Mercedes M. Yardley
Black Spot Books
Softcover $17.95 (270pp)
978-1-64548-119-5
Buy: Local Bookstore (Bookshop), Amazon

In Mercedes M. Yardley’s disquieting novel Darling, a young mother fights to protect her children from the unseen evil that inhabits her hometown.

Cherry returns to Darling, Louisiana, after the death of her estranged mother. It is an act of desperation. The single mother of two has little money and fewer prospects, so a free place to live is too good to pass up, though her memories of Darling fill her with dread.

In Darling, Cherry reconnects with Mordachi, her estranged husband’s younger brother, and Runner, an old friend. She begins to create a new life, ignoring the town’s gossip. Despite the way her house whispers to her, and the sounds that she hears scrambling across her roof at night, she is determined to create a happy home for her children. Then children in and around Darling go missing; Cherry wakes to find her two-year-old daughter, Daisy, was also taken in the night. If she has any hope of getting her child back, she will have to face the evil that she ran from in her youth.

Both frightening and familiar, this is the story of a lone woman fighting against great evil to keep her family intact. It builds in a slow, atmospheric manner, with Cherry’s own fears serving as the primary source of discomfort in Darling, a town that otherwise seems ordinary—until the bodies start to appear, validating Cherry’s trepidation. How she and the other townspeople respond to the dead children, and to the families left to mourn them, leads to additional disturbances. Here, everyone seems capable of murder, and there are no safe places to hide.

Darling is an unflinching horror novel—an unsettling story about what constitutes true evil.

CATHERINE THURESON (June 27, 2022)

The King of India

Book Cover
Jabbour Douaihy
Paula Haydar, translator
Interlink Books
Softcover $17.00 (256pp)
978-1-62371-907-4
Buy: Local Bookstore (Bookshop), Amazon

A prodigal son comes home in the wake of tragedy in Jabbour Douaihy’s compelling novel The King of India.

After several years and a storied life abroad, Zakariya returns to Lebanon. Surrounded by an air of melancholy, he interacts little with his sister and aunt. One morning, he takes a walk to his family’s orchard. By sunset, he is found dead with a single gunshot wound to the heart. It is unclear who murdered him, but memory is long in Lebanon. Investigating judge Kamal Abu Khalid will have to absorb over a century’s worth of gossip and history to find the culprit.

The Mubarak family has deep ties to the village of Tel Sefra, and made enemies of neighbors and extended family alike. Zakariya’s death, and the subsequent investigation, serve as a framework to delve into those intricate connections. The book reaches backward in time, focusing first on the women of the family, then the men, and finally, on Zakariya and his sister. In doing so, the mysteries of Zakariya’s life abroad, his mournful return, and the similarities between himself and his ancestors are clarified.

Despite the passage of time being central to the story, it is alluded to in abstract ways. Characters travel by sea, then by air. Communication is nonexistent, then by letter, then by telephone. Children become parents, then grandparents. Removing concrete time from the bulk of the story allows each character to exist both as an individual and as a keystone in the Mubarak family history. In a book wherein everyone is important: the story returns to the investigation with an increased understanding of the significance of the case to those who remain alive.

In the literary novel The King of India, a family’s enduring connection to their homeland is traced.

DONTANá MCPHERSON-JOSEPH (June 27, 2022)

Midstream

Book Cover
Lynn Sloan
Fomite Press
Softcover $16.00 (262pp)
978-1-953236-66-1
Buy: Local Bookstore (Bookshop), Amazon

In Lynn Sloan’s luminous novel Midstream, a woman’s comfortable, enviable life is upended.

In 1974, Polly is thirty-four. The US simmers in discontent. Vietnam protests and feminists who demand equal rights and pay are disturbing reminders that all is not as it should be. Though she feels suffocated by the doublespeak, false enthusiasm, and exhausting jockeying for positions that she encounters in her career, Polly clings to the security of her job as a picture editor for the Encyclopedia Britannica. She is unwilling to risk her reliable paycheck, comfy Chicago apartment, and much admired, often absent war correspondent boyfriend by throwing herself into the fray.

Then a mysterious letter arrives, reminding Polly of who she once was: a fearless woman with wide dreams. She is forced to question who she is and what she really wants. Though she dusts off her shelved hopes, she realizes that being true to herself may require letting go of her comforts to follow the risky road that’s opening before her.

The sensitive prose makes both the characters and the worlds that they inhabit shimmer with life. The language is clear and crisp as it focuses on the concerns of creative, twenty-first-century women trying to make it in corporate environments that are dominated by men. Rapid-fire conversations pair with colorful descriptions to invigorate Polly’s world: there are observations of a technicolor sky “dotted with whipped cream clouds” and of “eyes [a] disturbing … eerie light blue, too light, like glass, the whites around the irises marbled with red veins.”

Midstream is a sophisticated, insightful novel in which a woman on the cusp of becoming a cog in the corporate world awakens, finding the courage to reclaim her lost dreams.

KRISTINE MORRIS (June 27, 2022)

Night of the Living Rez

Book Cover
Morgan Talty
Tin House
Softcover $16.95 (296pp)
978-1-953534-18-7
Buy: Local Bookstore (Bookshop), Amazon

The discerning, masterful short stories in Morgan Talty’s Night of the Living Rez follow a Native community in Maine with power and precision.

David, a Penobscot boy who grows up in a dysfunctional family on an isolated island reservation, narrates. His voice is knowing and weary: he describes a “warped” world wherein “something is off balance that will never be balanced again.” His linked stories observe as an elderly woman with dementia mistakes her grandson for her dead brother; as a boy obsesses about his treasured collection of toy men, stored in a plastic tub; as a part-time medicine man and a mother spend their days watching television and drinking wine from a box; as a young man steals Native artifacts to sell on Antique Road Show; and as classmates bond over cigarettes, cheap beer, and methadone.

Haunting details capture the restlessness of David’s world. When he’s ten, he hides in the woods while his sister’s newborn dies in his arms; he temporarily loses his vision by staring into the sun, distracted by science lessons about the sun exploding and swallowing the Earth. In another tale, David, now older, drives a friend home after electroconvulsive therapy; he fights nausea from the stench of a road “slick with caterpillar guts” that smelled of “bait, of something chewed up and spit out or even shit out.” In a rare glimmer of comfort, David’s mother assures him that “Every morning’s deformed…but you have to find your footing, your own balance.” Such fleeting moments of affection, however, do little to inspire his hope; his angst is staggering.

Night of the Living Rez is bleak and raw in depicting David’s experiences—but his brilliant, chiseled stories still demand attention, demonstrating the urgency of telling the truth.

KRISTEN RABE (June 27, 2022)

To Find Treasure in the Mountains

Book Cover
Francine Rockey
Kendra Binney, illustrator
Yosemite Conservancy
Hardcover $18.99 (32pp)
978-1-951179-16-8
Buy: Local Bookstore (Bookshop), Amazon

Fostering love for the natural world, this picture book pairs lush illustrations with notes about the accessibility of interacting with the wild. You don’t need magic to find treasures, it declares—just sturdy shoes and a spirit of adventure! Follow along as a diverse group of children ready their knapsacks with snacks, water, and the tools of the trail, heading off to wonder at tall trees, cheerful birdsong, changing skies, and alighting butterflies. Soon you’ll be aching for outdoor adventures, too!

MICHELLE ANNE SCHINGLER (June 27, 2022)

Barbara Hodge

Load Next Article