By HELEN ROGAN ROBIN MICHELI
August 26, 2013 12:00 PM

People PICK

The Good Lord Bird

by James McBride |

REVIEWED BY HELEN ROGAN

NOVEL

In this wildly entertaining novel, McBride (The Color of Water) reimagines the life of legendary abolitionist John Brown as seen through the eyes of Henry, an irrepressible 10-year-old slave. Swept up into Brown’s ramshackle entourage of crusaders, the boy gets mistaken for a girl and nicknamed Onion; he keeps up the fantasy in order to avoid violence and soon becomes Brown’s feisty, chatty little mascot in a dress, witnessing history as Brown’s band weaves its way from Kansas to Virginia, attempting to “free coloreds” and bring God’s wrath on their owners. Along the way Onion meets Frederick Douglass and Harriet Tubman, dodges death, falls in love and grows to revere the messianic Brown, even as he longs for “the Old Man” to shut up and stop his loud praying once in a while. By the time Brown plans what will turn out to be a suicidal raid on the federal arsenal at Harpers Ferry, W.Va., his sidekick has gained maturity beyond his years. “Some things in this world just ain’t meant to be,” Onion says, “not in the times we want ’em to ….”

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The Girl You Left Behind

by Jojo Moyes |

REVIEWED BY ROBIN MICHELI

NOVEL

In her last romantic novel, the best-selling Me Before You, Moyes movingly explored the question of when and whether a human being has the right to take his own life. In her newest she combines the stories of Sophie Lefèvre, a young Frenchwoman whose town is occupied by the Germans in World War I, and Liv Halston, a London widow who possesses a prized painting of Sophie almost a century later and is fighting to keep it. The contemporary plot, about claims on artwork looted in war, wobbles a bit, but Sophie’s tale is vibrant and gripping. Here’s hoping an entire book of historical fiction is next on Moyes’s list.

COMMENTS? WRITE TO KIM HUBBARD: bookseditor@peoplemag.com

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