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Sadness Is a White Bird: A Novel by Moriel Rothman-Zecher, Atria Books, US $26.00, Pp 320, February 2018, ISBN 978-1501176265

Only Killers and Thieves: A Novel by Paul Howarth, Harper, US $26.99, Pp 288, February 2018, ISBN 978-0062690968

The Wolves of Winter: A Novel by Tyrell Johnson, Scribner, US $26.00, Pp 308, January 2018, ISBN 978-1501155673

Red Clocks: A Novel by Leni Zumas, Little, Brown and Company, US $26.00, Pp 358, January 2018, ISBN 978-0316434812

Sadness Is a White Bird is a story of a young man who meets two Palestinians at a time when he is planning to serve in the Israeli Army. Jonathan had moved to Israel from Pennsylvania, USA, where he had spent several years, with the intention of joining the Israeli Army and defending the Jewish state. Before he joins the army, he meets Nimree and Laith – the twin daughter and son of his of his mother’s friend — he develops doubts about his future job in the army. The three of them soon become close friends, spending a lot of time together. As the draft date approaches, Jonathan needs to differentiate between being loyal to your people (Israelis/Jews) and love the people who are not part of your nation (Palestinians/Muslims). But, before Jonathan can find the answer, Jonathan finds himself in prison that changes his relationship with the twins. Sadness Is a White Bird explores if a man (or a woman) can balance and find a common ground between his personal love and his love for his nation or territory. This beautifully-written but heart-breaking novel will absorb all your attention from the very beginning. Moriel Rothman-Zecher brilliantly explains the Middle Eastern crisis in an honest and brutally truthful way. Rothman-Zecher is not a politically correct writer and novels.

Born in Jerusalem, Israel, Moriel Rothman-Zecher is an American-Israeli writer, poet, and novelist. He is a graduate of Middlebury College with a degree in Arabic in Arabic and political science. He is a recipient of a 2017 MacDowell Colony Fellowship for Literature. Moriel lives in Yellow Springs, Ohio with his wife, Kayla, and their dog, Silly Department.

*****

Set in 19th century Australia, Only Killers and Thieves is the story of the McBride family. The McBrides are struggling to eke out a living in the hardscrabble Outback, very similar to America’s Wild West. It is brutally unforgiving and without any romance. A drought is threatening the McBrides with starvation. The land is parched and cattle are starving. Finally, the rain comes, with the rain comes the hope of survival. But, fourteen-year-old Tommy and sixteen-year-old Billy meet a tragedy when they are returning from an afternoon swimming at a waterhole filled with rainwater. The two brothers decide to take revenge from their former Aboriginal stockman — who may have behind the tragedy — with the help of the ruthless and cunning John Sullivan, the wealthiest landowner in the region. Sullivan asked Inspector Edmund Noone and his Queensland Native Police, an infamous arm of British colonial power charged with the “dispersal” of indigenous Aboriginals to “protect” white settlers’ rights. The horrifying ride across the barren outback to pursue the Aboriginal stockman leaves an unsettling impact on Tommy. The ride will torment him for the rest of his life. Only Killers and Thieves is a story of the violent colonial era in the Australian history. Paul Howarth explores the race relations and family under British colonial rule. This is one of those stay-up-all-night stories about family, the fight for survival and the wildness.

Paul Howarth was born and raised in Great Britain. He later moved to Australia where he has lived for the last six years. He has moved back to England. He received a master’s degree in Creative Writing in 2015 from the University of East Anglia in Great Britain. He also received Bradbury Scholarship.

*****

The Wolves of Winter tells the story of an imagined post-apocalyptic North America where the landscape has been re-shaped by a global pandemic and ceaseless nuclear winter. There is no spring, summer, autumn or winter as we understand. There is no family or bonds of love. Twenty-three-year-old Lynn McBride and her family have lost everything but survived the nuclear catastrophe. Lynn and her family succeed in crossing a frozen landscape to find her destiny in the Canadian wilds where the survivors are gathering. Haunted by her old life, she goes ahead in the snow-covered Canadian Yukon to learn how to hunt and slaughter. The arrival of an enigmatic and talented stranger named Jax makes all the differences when Lynn is able to answer questions about her past. But the biggest challenge for Lynn is to know who can she trust and who she is meant to be in the wake of humanity’s fall. The Wolves of Winter is a chilling story of humanity’s possible future. Tyrell Johnson writes about the likely scenario after the nukes have been used and what the life would look like for those few who survive. Tyrell Johnson is an extremely creative and imaginative writer. Everybody should read this unputdownable novel that is more than a piece of fiction.

Twenty-nine-year-old Tyrell Johnson grew up in Bellingham, Washington. He studied fiction and poetry and received his MFA from the University of California, Riverside. He currently lives in Kelowna, British Columbia, northeast of Vancouver with his wife, two kids, and a Siberian husky. The Wolves of Winter is his first novel.

*****

Red Clocks is set in a future imagined era when abortion and in-vitro fertilization are again illegal in the United States. A constitutional amendment called the Personhood Amendment also prohibits adoption by single women. The same constitutional amendment also grants rights to life, liberty, and property to every embryo. In a small Oregon fishing town, five different women are struggling to find answers to their age-old questions related to motherhood, identity, and freedom. Ro is a single high school teacher. She wants to have a baby on her own. Eivor is a polar explorer. Susan is unable to get out of her unhappy marriage. Mattie is the daughter of adoptive doting parents and one of Ro’s best students. She is pregnant and does not know what to do with her pregnancy. Gin is a gifted forest-dwelling herbalist or “mender”. She brings the fates of all these women together when she is arrested and becomes a victim of a modern-day witch hunt. Leni Zumas has rightly been compared with Margaret Atwood and Eileen Myles. In Red Clocks, Zumas explores critical women-related questions of our times. The issues discussed have gained unprecedented importance under President Trump Administration. Red Clocks is a political novel and a timely and much-needed contribution to the political debate on the present debate on social issues like women’s right to have an abortion, in-vitro fertilization, and adoption as well as rights of an unborn embryo.

Leni Zumas is the author of the story collection Farewell Navigator and the novel The Listeners, which was a finalist for the Oregon Book Award. She is an associate professor in the MFA Program in Creative Writing at Portland State University.

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