August2017 Booklist 35 www.booklistonline.com
nary people. Seiffert’s (The Walk Home, 2017)
characterization is well-realized, with a Nazi
Sturmbannführer (military officer) portrayed
with more complexity than archetypal villainy. The novel truly shines in its offering
of diverse, authentic perspectives. Some
Ukrainians view the Germans as a better alternative to the oppressive Soviets, for they
build infrastructure and allow farmers back
on their land. While there is no open hatred,
simmering resentment and fear form a “
better them than us” attitude towards the fate of
the Jewish inhabitants. Others possess a less
faulty moral compass, yet one act of naïve
compassion spawns foreseeable and terrible
tragedy. Seiffert does provides more successful
instances of kindness as well as hope in her accomplished literary work. —Bethany Latham
Caroline: Little House, Revisited.
By Sarah Miller.
Sept. 2017. 384p. Morrow, $25.99 (9780062685346).
Over the years, the Little House books
have become big business, spawning endless
spin-offs. Here—with the approval of the
Little House estate—is the latest: the series
revisited from the point of view not of Laura
but of her mother, Caroline. The result is a
gentle historical romance that begins in 1870
with Caroline, three months pregnant, leaving the familiar Big Woods of Wisconsin
with her family as they head for a new life in
the unknown wilds of Kansas’ Indian Territory. The familiar story proceeds from there
as the Wilders journey west, encounter Indians, and put down roots. Miller excels at
verisimilitude, bringing her setting to vivid
life, including her exposition of the extraordinary difficulties of the pioneers’ lot. She is
less successful with her characters, who are so
unrelievedly good as to rob the story of conflict, and, hence, drama. Nevertheless, Little
House fans will welcome this new perspective
even as it attracts new readers to the beloved
series. —Michael Cart
YA: Teens fans of historical fiction who
remember the Little House books fondly will
welcome this adult interpretation. MC.
The Good People.
By Hannah Kent.
Sept. 2017. 400p. Little, Brown, $27 (9780316243964);
e-book, $13.99 (9780316243933).
Kent (Burial Rites, 2014) brings her talent
for writing dark and atmospheric historical
fiction to this tale set in rural Ireland in 1825.
After the deaths of her daughter and hus-
band, in quick succession, Nóra Leahy must
care for her strangely disabled four-year-old
grandson, whom she keeps hidden, alone.
At two, Micheál could speak and walk, but
now he does neither, and the town begins to
whisper about how he’s a changeling, taken
by fairies and bringing bad luck to the com-
munity. Overwhelmed, Nóra hires young
Mary to ease her burden and soon enlists the
help of the equally derided and revered lo-
cal handywoman, Nance Roche. She knows
cures and can speak to the Good People, as
fairies are respectfully known, to hopefully
restore Nóra’s grandson. Kent’s immersive
setting, benefiting from impressive histori-
cal research and the use of Gaelic vocabulary,
features both a dramatically alive natural
world and a believably fearsome supernatural
one. Inspired by true events and exploring
those places where reason, religion, and su-
perstition cross paths, this will please lovers
of haunting literary fiction. —Annie Bostrom
The Living Infinite.
By Chantel Acevedo.
Sept. 2017. 320p. Europa, paper, $17 (9781609454302).
When Amalia becomes wet nurse to Spain’s
infant Princess Eulalia, her own newborn son,
Tomas, in tow, she does not know the far-reaching ramifications of the position. It is
a time of revolution, and though Amalia returns home after her two-year tenure, shortly
thereafter the royal family is forced to flee.
Eulalia spends the rest of her childhood in the
freedom of exile, only learning the constraints
of royalty after the Bourbons are returned to
the Spanish throne. Struggling against these
new fetters, Eulalia seeks release in writing
an exposé that would scandalize all of Spain.
Then Eulalia is given the opportunity to visit
the Americas. With her inflammatory autobiography in hand and the help of her “milk
brother” Tomas, she is there as an ambassador
to revolutionary Cuba and the 1893 Chicago
World’s Fair, but her real goal is to find a publisher who will help her change the world.
Acevedo (The Distant Marvels, 2015) rounds
out the true story of Princess Eulalia with
richly imagined details. The resulting historical fiction is a vivid and enthralling tale of love
and redemption. —Cortney Ophoff
A Loving, Faithful Animal.
By Josephine Rowe.
Sept. 2017. 176p. Catapult, paper, $16.95
In the first days of 1990, during summer
in Australia, the family at the heart of award-winning writer Rowe’s debut novel is feeling
its way through one member’s desertion,
which might, this time, be final. Young Ru, her
parents’ easy child, understands that her once-again disappeared Vietnam vet father, Jack,
has a “ghost trap” for a head but would like to
conjure him back nonetheless. Her older sister, Lani, meanwhile, confidently shirks every
order the girls’ mom, Evelyn, tries to inflict
on her, instead riding motorcycles, skipping
curfew, and peddling her father’s meds to her
fellow teen partiers. Evelyn and Jack met and
married young, before his severe PTSD fully
emerged, and his disease and its many painful reverberations are well explored through
all the characters’ narratives. Throughout, a
panther suspected to be on the loose threatens
their small town, the beloved family dog one
of its presumed victims. Rowe’s richly interiorized characterizations and muscular prose,
of the condensed and economic variety that
manages to say a lot with a little, herald her
exciting U.S. entrée. —Annie Bostrom
The Prague Sonata.
By Bradford Morrow.
Oct. 2017. 528p. Atlantic Monthly, $27
The frame of Morrow’s eighth novel, in
which the main character searches for lost
parts of a sonata, is itself like a sonata: a sonata
in action that is acted out in the story. Music weaves it together. Characters intertwine,
break apart, and reunite; war scatters them
and the things they love. It’s a complicated,
parallel-time tale with multiple characters,
and it details Prague’s suffering during two
world wars, followed by
Communist rule and the
Velvet Revolution. Present-day pianist Meta Taverner is
given part of a sonata manuscript that she suspects is
valuable. She hopes to reunite it with its other parts,
separated during Hitler’s
vicious sweep through Prague. The plot follows Meta’s search as past political upheaval,
disruptive personal events, and a greedy enemy all threaten her success. These multiple
story lines and historical references work well
for readers familiar with twentieth-century
Eastern European history, but others will
need to brush up. Abrupt switches in time periods can be confusing, as (for nonmusicians)
are the musical references (“Mozartean but
with some curious chromaticism”), but, overall, this textured, style-rich historical novel
should prove enjoyable for anyone who loves
a symphony of words. Like Ayelet Waldman
in Love & Treasure (2014) and Lauren Belfer
in And After the Fire (2016), Morrow asks
difficult questions about what to do with the
unclaimed relics of war. —Jen Baker
Slow Train to Sonora.
By Loyd M. Uglow.
Aug. 2017. 342p. Five Star, $25.95 (9781432834135).
A period of near anarchy exists in Old Mexico. To protect American interests, the army
sends Lieutenants Langhorn and Jester, posing as newspaper reporters, on a fact-finding
mission to Sonora. With letters of introduction, the two spies move from businessmen
to U.S. consulates to Mexican accomplices,
writing notes in private codes and finding
more than enough intrigue and danger. Lieutenant Jester is injured in a mishap on a ranch
where the men are guests. He spends the remainder of his time in Mexico recovering and
wooing the ladies of the ranch, causing more
grief and trouble than the young man anticipated. Langhorn, meanwhile, continues his
research, quickly discovering how dangerous
it is to trust anyone. After being attacked and
killing a member of the dangerous Acordada
organization, Langhorn faces life-threatening
situations everywhere he turns. When the
men reunite, they plan a scheme to avoid the
Acordada and flee for the border. Roughly
based on history, this story gives a brief
glimpse of life in Mexico in the early twentieth century. —Reg Quist