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Oprah's Book Club
2016
The Underground Railroad
Book Jacket   Colson Whitehead
Library Journal (c) Copyright Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted. 9780385537032 Pulitzer Prize finalist Whitehead (John Henry Days) here telescopes several centuries' worth of slavery and oppression as he puts escaped slaves Cora and Caesar on what is literally an underground railroad, using such brief magical realist touches to enhance our understanding of the African American experience. Cora, an outsider among her fellow slaves since her mother's escape from a brutal Georgia plantation, is asked by new slave Caesar to join his own escape effort. He knows a white abolitionist shopkeeper named Fletcher with connections to the Underground Railroad, and as they flee to Fletcher's house, Cora saves them from capture with an act of violence that puts them in graver danger. "Who built it?" asks Caesar wonderingly of the endless tunnel meant to carry them to freedom. "Who builds anything in this country?" replies the stationmaster, clarifying how much of America rests on work by black hands. The train delivers Cora and Caesar to a seemingly benevolent South Carolina, where they linger until learning of programs that recall the controlled -sterilization and Tuskegee experiments of later years. Then it's onward, as Whitehead continues ratcheting up both imagery and tension. VERDICT A highly recommended work that raises the bar for fiction addressing slavery. [See Prepub Alert, 3/7/16.]-Barbara Hoffert, -Library Journal © Copyright 2016. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.
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2015
Ruby
Book Jacket   Cynthia Bend
Kirkus Copyright © Kirkus Reviews, used with permission. Voodoo, faith and racism converge in an East Texas townparticularly within the troubled titular heroinein this bracing debut novel. When we first meet Ruby Bell, she's a symbol of local disgrace: It's 1974, and a decade earlier she returned to her hometown of Liberty seemingly gone crazy. The local rumor mill (mostly centered around the church) ponders a host of reasons: the lynching of her aunt; her being forced into prostitution as a child; a stint in New York, where she was the rare black woman in a white highbrow literary milieu. The only person who doesn't keep his distance is Ephram, a middle-aged man who braves the town's mockery and the mad squalor of Ruby's home to reconnect with her. Bond presents Ruby as a symbol of a century's worth of abuse toward African-Americans; as one local puts it, "Hell, ain't nothing strange when Colored go crazy. Strange is when we don't." The echoes of Alice Walker and Toni Morrison are clear, but Bond is an accomplished enough writer to work in a variety of modes with skill and insight. She conjures Ruby's fun-house-mirror mind with harrowing visions of voodoo ceremonies and the ghosts of dead children, yet she also delivers plainspoken descriptions of young Ruby's experience in a brothel, surrounded by horrid men. And Bond can be sharply funny, satirizing the high-toned sanctimony of Liberty's churchgoers (especially Ephram's sister Celia) that's really a cover for hypocritical pride and fear. Some of the more intense passages of the novel lapse into purple prose, and the horror of Ruby's experience (which intensifies as the novel moves along) makes her closing redemption feel somewhat pat. But the force of Ruby's character, and Bond's capacity to describe it, is undeniable. A very strong first novel that blends tough realism with the appealing strangeness of a fever dream.]] Copyright Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.
Publishers Weekly (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved 9780804139090 Bond's debut novel is difficult to read for its graphic and uncomfortable portrayal of racism, sexual violence, and religious intolerance in East Texas in the 1960s and '70s. Bond is a gifted storyteller, able to make the reader squirm with anger and unease as she vividly depicts how easily bad things happen to good people. Ruby Bell is a middle-aged black woman living a feral existence in the woods of Liberty Township, a poor black community where the intolerant and superstitious inhabitants treat her with disgust as a social outcast and an unrepentant sinner because she's a prostitute. Ephram Jennings grew up with Ruby and has been in love with her for years, despite her reputation. He too is shunned and ridiculed-because of his feelings for her. Their romance remains sad and painfully one-sided, regardless of Ephram's tender good intentions. Even his doting older sister, Celia, is embarrassed and ashamed by Ephram's behavior, and her deep, visceral hatred of Ruby goes back decades. Flashbacks reveal why Ruby chose a life of prostitution and why Celia hates her, as well as why Ephram struggles to get out from under his sister's influence. All of the family drama is set amid an ingrained culture of sexual exploitation of women and children, racial brutality, and the community's passive acceptance that these things are facts of life. This is a grim tale, well told, but there's no comfort in these pages-just tragedy and heartache. (Apr.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.
Library Journal (c) Copyright Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted. 9780804139090 The citizens of Liberty, TX, have always watched Ruby Bell, first as a small child playing in the Piney Woods with her devoted cousin Maggie, then as a beautiful young woman on her way to a new life in New York City during the 1950s, and finally as she wanders aimlessly down the red dirt roads upon her return in the 1970s, muttering incoherently at the invisible spirits that torment her. Grocery clerk and childhood friend Ephram Jennings decides to reach out to Ruby, but his doing so angers his sister Celia and mobilizes his church brethren to intervene. Through multiple flashbacks, we learn of Ruby's past, rife with abuse and neglect, including lynchings, prostitution, and child rape. The strength and will that Ephram and Ruby need to fend off the rest of the world is threatened even as their bond grows stronger. Educator and debut novelist Bond knows the dark potentialities of her setting and explores them adroitly through each well-drawn character. Ruby's story is truly that of a people and a place, outlined lyrically and honestly, even when the most brutal events unfold. -VERDICT Definitely not for the faint of heart or for those who prefer lighter reads, this book exhibits a dark and redemptive beauty. Bond's prose is evocative of Alice Walker and Toni Morrison, paying homage to the greats of Southern gothic literature. [See Prepub Alert, 10/14/13.]-Jennifer B. Stidham, Houston Community Coll. Northeast (c) Copyright 2014. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.
Library Journal (c) Copyright Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted. 9780804165914 In this harrowing and gorgeous debut novel, Bond tells the story of Ruby, a woman who has returned to her hometown and descended into madness. In the 1950s, Ruby left Liberty, TX, as a damaged, sorrowful young woman and headed for New York. Rather than finding her salvation-which, for Ruby, would be finding her runaway mother-she is battered by life in the city. Called home in 1963, Ruby must face her devastating childhood and begin the long struggle to survive. This book is beautifully written, a necessity for a novel that confronts abuse and violence as unflinchingly as does this one. Part magical realism, part raw storytelling, Ruby is mesmerizing. Unfortunately, the choice of the author as narrator serves to blunt (although by no means eliminate) the glory of the writing. Understated narration suits this kind of work, but in the hands of a more skilled reader the impact of this audiobook would have been stronger. -VERDICT A worthwhile novel for any listener willing to brave the story's violent details. ["This book exhibits a dark and redemptive beauty. Bond's prose is evocative of Alice Walker and Toni Morrison, paying homage to the greats of Southern gothic literature": LJ 4/1/14 starred review of the Hogarth: Crown hc.-Wendy Galgan, St. Francis Coll., Brooklyn, NY © Copyright 2015. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.
Book list From Booklist, Copyright © American Library Association. Used with permission. 9780804139090 *Starred Review* Ephram Jennings, the son of a backwoods preacher, has been in love with the beautiful Ruby Bell ever since childhood. But Ruby has been so badly used by the men in her small African American town of Liberty, Texas, that she flees for New York City as soon as she is able, in search of the mother who abandoned her. When Ruby's best friend dies, Ruby returns home, only to succumb to the bad memories that haunt her still. Once sharply dressed and coiffed, she now wanders the streets with ripped clothing and vacant eyes. But Ephram still sees her as the lighthearted girl with pigtails, running free in the woods. And so he begins his long, sweet courtship, bringing her a homemade cake, cleaning her filthy house, and always treating her with kindness. At long last, out from under his overbearing sister's dominion, he feels himself come alive. But the church folks in town view their relationship as the work of the devil and seek to bring Ephram back to God and to cast out Ruby. In her first novel, Bond immerses readers in a fully realized world, one scarred by virulent racism and perverted rituals but also redeemed by love. Graphic in its descriptions of sexual violence and suffering, this powerful, explosive novel is, at times, difficult to read, presenting a stark, unflinching portrait of dark deeds and dark psyches.--Wilkinson, Joanne Copyright 2014 Booklist
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2014
The Invention of Wings
 Sue Monk Kidd
Publishers Weekly (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved 9780670024780 Sarah and Handful Grimke split the narration in Kidd's third novel, set in pre-Civil War Charleston, S.C., and along an abolitionist lecture circuit in New England. Kidd (The Secret Life of Bees) is no stranger to strong female characters. Here, her inspiration is the real Sarah Grimke, daughter of an elite Charleston family, who fought for abolition and women's rights. Handful, Kidd's creation, is Sarah's childhood handmaid. The girls are friends. Sarah teaches Handful to read, and proclaims loudly at dinner that she opposes slavery. However, after being severely punished, she abandons her aspirations-for decades. Time passes, and Handful is given the freedoms she was formerly denied. The book's scope of 30-plus years contributes to a feeling of plodding in the middle section. Particularly insufferable is the constant allusion, by both women, to a tarnished button that symbolizes perseverance. But Kidd rewards the patient reader. Male abolitionists, preachers, and Quakers repeatedly express sexist views, and in this context, Sarah's eventual outspokenness is incredibly satisfying to read. And Handful, after suffering a horrific punishment, makes an invaluable contribution to an attempted slave rebellion. Bolstered by female mentors, Kidd's heroines finally act on Sarah's blunt realization: "We can do little for the slave as long as we're under the feet of men." Agent: Jennifer Rudolph Walsh, WME Entertainment. (Jan.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.
Kirkus Copyright © Kirkus Reviews, used with permission. Kidd (The Mermaid Chair, 2005, etc.) hits her stride and avoids sentimental revisionism with this historical novel about the relationship between a slave and the daughter of slave owners in antebellum Charleston. Sarah Grimk was an actual early abolitionist and feminist whose upbringing in a slaveholding Southern family made her voice particularly controversial. Kidd re-imagines Sarah's life in tandem with that of a slave in the Grimk household. In 1803, 11-year-old Sarah receives a slave as her birthday present from her wealthy Charleston parents. Called Hetty by the whites, Handful is just what her name implies--sharp tongued and spirited. Precocious Sarah is horrified at the idea of owning a slave but is given no choice by her mother, a conventional Southern woman of her time who is not evil but accepts slavery (and the dehumanizing cruelties that go along with it) as a God-given right. Soon, Sarah and Handful have established a bond built on affection and guilt. Sarah breaks the law by secretly teaching Handful to read and write. When they are caught, Handful receives a lashing, while Sarah is banned from her father's library and all the books therein, her dream of becoming a lawyer dashed. As Sarah and Handful mature, their lives take separate courses. While Handful is physically imprisoned, she maintains her independent spirit, while Sarah has difficulty living her abstract values in her actual life. Eventually, she escapes to Philadelphia and becomes a Quaker, until the Quakers prove too conservative. As Sarah's activism gives her new freedom, Handful's life only becomes harder in the Grimk household. Through her mother, Handful gets to know Denmark Vesey, who dies as a martyr after attempting to organize a slave uprising. Sarah visits less and less often, but the bond between the two women continues until it is tested one last time. Kidd's portrait of white slave-owning Southerners is all the more harrowing for showing them as morally complicated, while she gives Handful the dignity of being not simply a victim, but a strong, imperfect woman.]] Copyright Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.
Book list From Booklist, Copyright © American Library Association. Used with permission. 9780670024780 *Starred Review* Inspired by the true story of early-nineteenth-century abolitionist and suffragist Sarah Grimke, Kidd paints a moving portrait of two women inextricably linked by the horrors of slavery. Sarah, daughter of a wealthy South Carolina plantation owner, exhibits an independent spirit and strong belief in the equality of all. Thwarted from her dreams of becoming a lawyer, she struggles throughout life to find an outlet for her convictions. Handful, a slave in the Grimke household, displays a sharp intellect and brave, rebellious disposition. She maintains a compliant exterior, while planning for a brighter future. Told in first person, the chapters alternate between the two main characters' perspectives, as we follow their unlikely friendship (characterized by both respect and resentment) from childhood to middle age. While their pain and struggle cannot be equated, both women strive to be set free Sarah from the bonds of patriarchy and Southern bigotry, and Handful from the inhuman bonds of slavery. Kidd is a master storyteller, and, with smooth and graceful prose, she immerses the reader in the lives of these fascinating women as they navigate religion, family drama, slave revolts, and the abolitionist movement. HIGH-DEMAND BACKSTORY: Beginning with her phenomenally successful debut, The Secret Life of Bees (2002), Kidd's novels have found an intense readership among library patrons, who will be eager to get their hands on her latest one.--Price, Kerri Copyright 2010 Booklist
Library Journal (c) Copyright Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted. 9780670024780 Women played a large role in the fledgling abolitionist movement preceding the Civil War by several decades but were shushed by their male compatriots if they pointed out their own subservient status. One of several recent novels noting the similarity between women having few rights and slaves having none in the pre-Civil War American South (others include Marlen Suyapa Bodden's The Wedding Gift and Jessica Maria Tuccelli's Glow), Monk's (The Secret Life of Bees) compelling work of historical fiction stands out from the rest because of its layers of imaginative details of the lives of actual abolitionists from Charleston, SC-Sarah and Angelina Grimke-and Handful, a young slave in their family home. With her far more desperate desire for freedom, Handful steals the story from the two freethinking sisters while they wrestle with their consciences for years, still bound by society's strictures. VERDICT This richly imagined narrative brings both black history and women's history to life with an unsentimental story of two women who became sisters under the skin-Handful, a slave in body whose mind roves freely and widely, and "owner" Sarah, whose mind is shackled by family and society. [See Prepub Alert, 7/8/13.]-Laurie Cavanaugh, Holmes P.L., Halifax, MA (c) Copyright 2013. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.
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2013
The Twelve Tribes of Hattie
 Ayana Mathis
Publishers Weekly (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved 9780307959423 Mathis's remarkable debut traces the life of Hattie Shepherd through the eyes of her offspring, depicting a family whose members are distant, fiercely proud, and desperate for connection with their mother. When 16-year-old Hattie's newborn twins, her first with husband August, die from pneumonia in the winter of 1925, it is a devastation that will disfigure her for the rest of her life. As the novel moves from closeted musician Floyd's fearful attempt to love another man in 1948, to Six's flight to Alabama two years later after beating a boy nearly to death, Alice's rift with her brother Billups in the late 1960s, consumptive Bell's aborted suicide in 1975, and Cassie's descent into schizophrenia in the early 1980s, what ties these lives together is a longing for tenderness from the mother they call the General. Strong, angry Hattie despairs as August, an ineffectual though affectionate father, reveals himself to be a womanizer who is incapable of supporting the family. Hattie finds happiness with Lawrence, a gambler; after having his baby, Hattie leaves August and her other children and goes with Lawrence to Baltimore, but returns to the house on Wayne Street, in Philadelphia, almost immediately. Sick with longing for her dead twins and all that her children will never have, Hattie retreats into coldness. As her children age, they come to terms with their intense need for and resentment of the mother who kept them alive but starved their hearts, while Hattie faces a choice between anger and peace. Mathis weaves this story with confidence, proving herself a gifted and powerful writer. Agent: Ellen Levine, Trident Media Group. (Jan.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.
Kirkus Copyright © Kirkus Reviews, used with permission. The legacy of the Great Migration from the 1920s to the 1980s infuses this cutting, emotional collection of linked stories. The central figure of Mathis' debut is Hattie, who arrived in Philadelphia in the 1920s as a teenager, awed by the everyday freedoms afforded blacks outside of her native Georgia. But the opening story, "Philadelphia and Jubilee," is pure heartbreak, as pride and poverty keep her from saving her infant twin children from pneumonia. Though Mathis has inherited some of Alice Walker's sentimentality and Toni Morrison's poetic intonation, her own prose is appealingly earthbound and plainspoken, and the book's structure is ingenious: It moves across the bulk of the 20th century, with each chapter spotlighting one of Hattie's nine surviving children. (The title's "twelve tribes" are those nine children, plus the infant twins and a granddaughter who's central to the closing story.) Each child's personal struggle is a function of the casual bigotry and economic challenges in the wake of Jim Crow. Floyd is a jazz trumpeter and serial philanderer who awakens to his homosexuality; Six is a tent-revival preacher who comes at his profession cynically, as a way to escape his family; Alice is the well-off wife of a doctor with a co-dependent relationship with her brother, Billups; and so on. The longest and most disarming story features Bell, who in 1975 starts a relationship with one of Hattie's former boyfriends, highlighting the themes of illness and oppressiveness of family. Mathis will occasionally oversimplify dialogue to build drama, but she's remarkably deft at many more things for a first-timer: She gracefully shifts her narratives back and forth in time; has an eye for simple but resonant details; and possesses a generous empathy for Hattie, who is unlikable on the surface but carries plenty of complexity. An excellent debut that finds layers of pathos within a troubled clan.]] Copyright Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.
Book list From Booklist, Copyright © American Library Association. Used with permission. 9780307959423 *Starred Review* This was not the life smart and lovely Hattie expected to live after fleeing Jim Crow Georgia in 1923 and settling in Philadelphia. Two years later, married (at 16) to an irresponsible man, she is poor, cold, hungry, and desperate as her twin babies sicken with pneumonia. Writing with stunning authority, clarity, and courage, debut novelist Mathis pivots forward in time, spotlighting intensely dramatic episodes in the lives of Hattie's nine subsequent children (and one grandchild to make the twelve tribes ), galvanizing crises that expose the crushed dreams and anguished legacy of the Great Migration. While Hattie grows more stoic with each birth and each betrayal, her children struggle with her survival strategies, which they perceive as her coldness and anger. Hattie's daughters are epically depressed. Two sons end up in the South, shocked by its backward country ways : Floyd, a jazz musician painfully conflicted over his attraction to men, and badly scarred Six, who discovers a gift for preaching. Late in life, Hattie thinks, Here we are sixty years out of Georgia, . . . and there's still the same wounding and the same pain. Mathis writes with blazing insight into the complexities of sexuality, marriage, family relationships, backbone, fraudulence, and racism in a molten novel of lives racked with suffering yet suffused with beauty.--Seaman, Donna Copyright 2010 Booklist
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2012
Wild: From Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest Trail
Book Jacket   Cheryl Strayed
Kirkus Copyright © Kirkus Reviews, used with permission. Torch, 2006) life quickly disintegrated. Family ties melted away; she divorced her husband and slipped into drug use. For the next four years life was a series of disappointments. "I was crying over all of it," she writes, "over the sick mire I'd made of my life since my mother died; over the stupid existence that had become my own. I was not meant to be this way, to live this way, to fail so darkly." While waiting in line at an outdoors store, Strayed read the back cover of a book about the Pacific Crest Trail. Initially, the idea of hiking the trail became a vague apparition, then a goal. Woefully underprepared for the wilderness, out of shape and carrying a ridiculously overweight pack, the author set out from the small California town of Mojave, toward a bridge ("the Bridge of the Gods") crossing the Columbia River at the Oregon-Washington border. Strayed's writing admirably conveys the rigors and rewards of long-distance hiking. Along the way she suffered aches, pains, loneliness, blistered, bloody feet and persistent hunger. Yet the author also discovered a newfound sense of awe; for her, hiking the PCT was "powerful and fundamental" and "truly hard and glorious." Strayed was stunned by how the trail both shattered and sheltered her. Most of the hikers she met along the way were helpful, and she also encountered instances of trail magic, "the unexpected and sweet happenings that stand out in stark relief to the challenges of the trail." A candid, inspiring narrative of the author's brutal physical and psychological journey through a wilderness of despair to a renewed sense of self.]] Copyright Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.
Library Journal (c) Copyright Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted. 9780307970299 Grieving for her recently deceased mother and a failed marriage, Strayed slipped into heroin addiction and a destructive lifestyle before deciding on a whim to hike the grueling Pacific Crest Trail (PCT) at age 26. Part memoir and part adventure story, Strayed's chronicle of her 1100-mile hike describes her suffering through blisters and bruises, threats from rattlesnakes, extreme thirst, bears, a predatory hunter, and intense loneliness, all while carrying her huge pack nicknamed "Monster." Strayed (Torch) writes with startling and heartbreaking clarity as she relates her mother's sad death at 45 as well as the physical and psychological transformation she underwent while on the trail. Bernadette Dunne's versatile narration can make even the male characters sound realistic. -VERDICT This audiobook will appeal to memoir fans and to those interested in physical challenges as an antidote to emotional pain. ["This book is less about the PCT and more about Strayed's own personal journey, which makes the story's scope a bit unclear. However, fans of her novel will likely enjoy this new book," read the review of the Knopf hc, LJ 2/15/12.-Ed.]-Nancy R. Ives, SUNY at Geneseo (c) Copyright 2012. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.
Library Journal (c) Copyright Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted. 9780307592736 Strayed delves into memoir after her fiction debut, Torch. She here recounts her experience hiking the Pacific Crest Trail (PCT) in 1995 after her mother's death and her own subsequent divorce. Designated a National Scenic Trail in 1968 but not completed until 1993, the PCT runs from Mexico to Canada, and Strayed hiked sections of it two summers after it was officially declared finished. She takes readers with her on the trail, and the transformation she experiences on its course is significant: she goes from feeling out of her element with a too-big backpack and too-small boots to finding a sense of home in the wilderness and with the allies she meets along the way. Readers will appreciate her vivid descriptions of the natural wonders near the PCT, particularly Mount Hood, Crater Lake, and the Sierras-what John Muir proclaimed the "Range of Light." VERDICT This book is less about the PCT and more about Strayed's own personal journey, which makes the story's scope a bit unclear. However, fans of her novel will likely enjoy this new book. [See Prepub Alert, 10/1/11.]-Karen McCoy, Northern Arizona Univ. Lib., Flagstaff (c) Copyright 2012. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.
Publishers Weekly (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved 9780307592736 In the summer of 1995, at age 26 and feeling at the end of her rope emotionally, Strayed resolved to hike solo the Pacific Crest Trail, a 2,663-mile wilderness route stretching from the Mexican border to the Canadian and traversing nine mountain ranges and three states. In this detailed, in-the-moment re-enactment, she delineates the travails and triumphs of those three grueling months. Living in Minneapolis, on the verge of divorcing her husband, Strayed was still reeling from the sudden death four years before of her mother from cancer; the ensuing years formed an erratic, confused time "like a crackling Fourth of July sparkler." Hiking the trail helped decide what direction her life would take, even though she had never seriously hiked or carried a pack before. Starting from Mojave, Calif., hauling a pack she called the Monster because it was so huge and heavy, she had to perform a dead lift to stand, and then could barely make a mile an hour. Eventually she began to experience "a kind of strange, abstract, retrospective fun," meeting the few other hikers along the way, all male; jettisoning some of the weight from her pack and burning books she had read; and encountering all manner of creature and acts of nature from rock slides to snow. Her account forms a charming, intrepid trial by fire, as she emerges from the ordeal bruised but not beaten, changed, a lone survivor. Agent: Janet Silver, Zachary Shuster Harmsworth Agency. (Mar.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.
Book list From Booklist, Copyright © American Library Association. Used with permission. 9780307592736 Echoing the ever-popular search for wilderness salvation by Chris McCandless (Back to the Wild, 2011) and every other modern-day disciple of Thoreau, Strayed tells the story of her emotional devastation after the death of her mother and the weeks she spent hiking the 1,100-mile Pacific Crest Trail. As her family, marriage, and sanity go to pieces, Strayed drifts into spontaneous encounters with other men, to the consternation of her confused husband, and eventually hits rock bottom while shooting up heroin with a new boyfriend. Convinced that nothing else can save her, she latches onto the unlikely idea of a long solo hike. Woefully unprepared (she fails to read about the trail, buy boots that fit, or pack practically), she relies on the kindness and assistance of those she meets along the way, much as McCandless did. Clinging to the books she lugs along Faulkner, Flannery O'Connor, Adrienne Rich Strayed labors along the demanding trail, documenting her bruises, blisters, and greater troubles. Hiker wannabes will likely be inspired. Experienced backpackers will roll their eyes. But this chronicle, perfect for book clubs, is certain to spark lively conversation.--Mondor, Colleen Copyright 2010 Booklist
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2010
A Tale of Two Cities and Great Expectations
Book Jacket   Charles Dickens
 
2010
Freedom
 Jonathan Franzen
Publishers Weekly (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved 9781427210494 When Patty and Walter Berglund's teenage son moves in with their conservative neighbors and their perfect life in St. Paul begins to unravel, out spill family secrets-clandestine loves, lies, compromises, failures. David Ledoux's masterly narration is powerful and well paced, comic and poignant. He expertly captures Walter and Patty-with her anxious whinny of a laugh-and their family life with its satisfactions and histrionics. Ledoux also deftly renders the gossiping of the Berglund's disingenuous neighbors; the frenetic rants of the drug-addled Eliza; and the weary, disaffected drawl of sleazy musician Richard. A Farrar, Straus, and Giroux hardcover (Reviews, July 5). (Sept.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.
Library Journal (c) Copyright Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted. 9780792773214 After 20 years of a liberal, middle-class marriage, Walter and Patty Burglund's relationship falls apart under the weight of a morally ambivalent son, the return of Walter's famous best friend, and the 21st century. The highly anticipated follow-up to the National Book Award winner The Corrections (2001) lives up to the hype with Franzen's ability to capture the twists and turns of U.S. culture and history while weaving them into the lives of flawed but fully developed characters. While actor/narrator David Ledoux aptly portrays the emotions of the story, more distinguishable character voices would have made this audio version at times easier to follow. If you have a patron wanting one of the most heralded books of this year or decade, this is it. [The No. 1 New York Times best-selling Farrar hc received a starred review, LJ 8/10.-Ed.]-Johannah Genett, Hennepin Cty. Libs., Minneapolis (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.
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2009
Say Youre One of Them
 Uwem Akpan
Publishers Weekly (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved 9780316113786 Nigerian-born Jesuit priest Akpan transports the reader into gritty scenes of chaos and fear in his rich debut collection of five long stories set in war-torn Africa. "An Ex-mas Feast" tells the heartbreaking story of eight-year-old Jigana, a Kenyan boy whose 12-year-old sister, Maisha, works as a prostitute to support her family. Jigana's mother quells the children's hunger by having them sniff glue while they wait for Maisha to earn enough to bring home a holiday meal. In "Luxurious Hearses," Jubril, a teenage Muslim, flees the violence in northern Nigeria. Attacked by his own Muslim neighbors, his only way out is on a bus transporting Christians to the south. In "Fattening for Gabon," 10-year-old Kotchikpa and his younger sister are sent by their sick parents to live with their uncle, Fofo Kpee, who in turn explains to the children that they are going to live with their prosperous "godparents," who, as Kotchikpa pieces together, are actually human traffickers. Akpan's prose is beautiful and his stories are insightful and revealing, made even more harrowing because all the horror--and there is much--is seen through the eyes of children. (June) Read a web-exclusive q&a with Uwem Akpan at www.publishersweekly.com/akpan. (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved
Library Journal (c) Copyright Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted. 9780316113786 Already featured twice in The New Yorker, Nigerian (and Jesuit priest) Akpan here collects his stories of Africa's troubled children. (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.
Kirkus Copyright © Kirkus Reviews, used with permission. Redemption is in short supply in these five stories by a Nigerian priest about children caught in the crossfire of various African countries' upheavals. The opener of this debut collection, "An Ex-mas Feast," is one of the more upbeat entries—which isn't saying much, since its eight-year-old narrator describes sniffing shoe glue to ward off hunger in a Nairobi shanty town while his 12-year-old sister proudly moves from street prostitution to a brothel. In "Fattening for Gabon," a morbid variation on Hansel and Gretel, an uncle literally fattens up his nephew and niece to sell them into slavery. Although he genuinely loves them, his repentance comes too late and with not-unexpected tragic results. The least arresting story is the slight and familiar "What Language Is That?" Their families profess liberal, inclusive attitudes, but a Christian child and her Muslim best friend are prohibited from communicating when rioting breaks out in Addis Ababa, although the girls do find, perhaps briefly, "a new language." That miniscule glimmer of hope for humanity disappears in "Luxurious Hearses," an emotionally exhausting encapsulation of the devastation caused by religion. Baptized as an infant by his Catholic father, raised in a strict Muslim community by his mother, adolescent Jubril is targeted by extremists who happen to be his former playmates. Fleeing religious riots in northern Nigeria on a luxury bus full of Christians, he keeps his right wrist in his pocket; if they see that his hand has been amputated (for stealing, under Sharia law), they will know he is Muslim. Jubril comes close to finding acceptance among his fellow passengers, which only makes their ultimate violence against him that much more disturbing. The final story, "My Parents' Bedroom," goes beyond disturbing toward unbearable as the children of a Tutsi mother and Hutu father in Rwanda witness the unspeakable acts their decent parents are forced to commit. Haunting prose. Unrelenting horror. An almost unreadable must-read. Copyright ©Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.
School Library Journal (c) Copyright Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted. 9780316113786 Adult/High School-With the intensity of Chinua Achebe's Things Fall Apart, Say You're One of Them tells of the horrors faced by young people throughout Africa. Akpan uses five short stories (though at well over 100 pages, both "Luxurious Hearses" and "Fattening for Gabon" are nearly stand-alone novels in their own right) to bring to light topics ranging from selling children in Gabon to the Muslim vs. Christian battles in Ethiopia. The characters face choices that most American high school students will never have to-whether or not to prostitute oneself to provide money for one's homeless family, whether to save oneself, even if it means sacrificing a beloved sibling in the process. The selections are peppered with a mix of English, French, and a variety of African tongues, and some teens may find themselves reading at a slower pace than usual, but the impact of the stories is well worth the effort. The collection offers a multitude of learning opportunities and would be well suited for "Authors not born in the United States" reading and writing assignments. Teens looking for a more upbeat, but still powerful, story may prefer Bryce Courtenay's The Power of One (Random, 1989).-Sarah Krygier, Solano County Library, Fairfield, CA (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.
Book list From Booklist, Copyright © American Library Association. Used with permission. 9780316113786 *Starred Review* With this heart-stopping collection, which includes the New Yorker piece,  An Ex-Mas Feast,  that marked Akpan as a breakout talent, the Nigerian-born Jesuit priest relentlessly personalizes the unstable social conditions of sub-Saharan Africa. Throughout, child narrators serve as intensifying prisms for horror, their vulnerability and slowly eroding innocence lending especially chilling dimensions to the volume's two most riveting entries: Fattening for Gabon (one of the book's three novellas), about the systematic grooming of a Benin 10-year-old and his sister for sale to a sex-slavery ring; and the collection's title story, a harrowing plunge into the mind of a mixed-race girl during the Rwandan genocide. From the slurp of machetes slashing into flesh  to a toddler's oblivious stomping through blood puddling from his mother's crushed skull, Akpan tackles grisly violence head-on, but most of the stories, with the exception of the overlong, metaphor-laden  Luxurious Hearses,  are lifted above consciousness-raising shockers by Akpan's sure characterizations, understated details, and culturally specific dialect. Don't expect to emerge with redemption delivered on a silver platter. The stories' tattered hope comes indirectly, from the thirst for broader knowledge about Africa's postcolonial conflicts they'll engender, and from the possibility that the collection's opening map, with the featured nations labeled (as helpful as it is a glaring symbol of most Western readers' woeful ignorance), will someday prove superfluous.--Mattson, Jennifer Copyright 2008 Booklist
Library Journal (c) Copyright Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted. 9780316113786 Forthright language, scalding scenarios: an uncle tries to sell his niece and nephew into slavery, a girl sees her family slaughtered in Rwanda. Akpan, a Nigerian-based Jesuit priest, triumphs with a debut collection that illustrates the bone-crushing fate of Africa's children. (LJ 5/1/08) (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.
Publishers Weekly (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved 9781607883418 This brilliant collection of short stories by Nigerian-born Akpan invites listeners into a world of beauty and heartbreak where young people in the throes of adolescence struggle to survive harrowing violence and tragedy. Miles and the remarkable Graham meet the prose with their own intensity and bring flourishes to the realistic, empathetic characters. Graham is a true stand-out: he inhabits each character fully, aces accents, and excels at conveying an understated melancholy. A thrilling work of art. A Little, Brown hardcover. (Oct.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved
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2008
The Story of Edgar Sawtelle
Book Jacket   David Wroblewski
Publishers Weekly (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved This sprawling epic tale clocks in at 22 hours, but is well worth the time spent. Wroblewski captivates with a story of a young boy and his dogs cast into the wilderness after his father is murdered in rural Wisconsin. Richard Poe reads with a firm voice, both gripping and personal, fitting for this particular tale. Poe brings the story to life with such ease that listeners will forget they aren't actually reading the book. Steady pacing, realistic and imaginative characters and Poe's skilled performance make this a recording that (even at its length) listeners will want to hear again. This is an instant classic that will resonate for years to come. An Ecco hardcover (Reviews, Feb. 18). (Sept.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved
Publishers Weekly (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved 9780061374227 A literary thriller with commercial legs, this stunning debut is bound to be a bestseller. In the backwoods of Wisconsin, the Sawtelle family-Gar, Trudy and their young son, Edgar-carry on the family business of breeding and training dogs. Edgar, born mute, has developed a special relationship and a unique means of communicating with Almondine, one of the Sawtelle dogs, a fictional breed distinguished by personality, temperament and the dogs' ability to intuit commands and to make decisions. Raising them is an arduous life, but a satisfying one for the family until Gar's brother, Claude, a mystifying mixture of charm and menace, arrives. When Gar unexpectedly dies, mute Edgar cannot summon help via the telephone. His guilt and grief give way to the realization that his father was murdered; here, the resemblance to Hamlet resonates. After another gut-wrenching tragedy, Edgar goes on the run, accompanied by three loyal dogs. His quest for safety and succor provides a classic coming-of-age story with an ironic twist. Sustained by a momentum that has the crushing inevitability of fate, the propulsive narrative will have readers sucked in all the way through the breathtaking final scenes. (June) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved
Kirkus Copyright © Kirkus Reviews, used with permission. A stately, wonderfully written debut novel that incorporates a few of the great archetypes: a disabled but resourceful young man, a potential Clytemnestra of a mom and a faithful dog. Writing to such formulas, with concomitant omniscience and world-weariness, has long been the stuff of writing workshops. Wroblewski is the product of one such place, but he seems to have forgotten much of what he learned there: He takes an intense interest in his characters; takes pains to invest emotion and rough understanding in them; and sets them in motion with graceful language (and, in eponymous young Edgar's case, sign language). At the heart of the book is a pup from an extremely rare breed, thanks to a family interest in Mendelian genetics; so rare is Almondine, indeed, that she finds ways to communicate with Edgar that no other dog and human, at least in literature, have yet worked out. Edgar may be voiceless, but he is capable of expressing sorrow and rage when his father suddenly dies, and Edgar decides that his father's brother, who has been spending a great deal of time with Edgar's mother, is responsible for the crime. That's an appropriately tragic setup, and Edgar finds himself exiled to the bleak wintry woods—though not alone, for he is now the alpha of his own very special pack. The story takes Jungle Book-ish turns: "He blinked at the excess moonlight in the clearing and clapped for the dogs. High in the crown of a charred tree, an owl covered its dished face, and one branch down, three small replicas followed. Baboo came at once. Tinder had begun pushing into the tall grass and he turned and trotted back." It resolves, however, in ways that will satisfy grown-up readers. The novel succeeds admirably in telling its story from a dog's-eye view that finds the human world very strange indeed. An auspicious debut: a boon for dog lovers, and for fans of storytelling that eschews flash. Highly recommended. Copyright ©Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.
Library Journal (c) Copyright Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted. 9781436165082 Wroblewski's lyrical debut novel, about a young boy who runs away from home and into the Wisconsin backwoods with the loyal dogs he helped raise, is now available as an audio production, and Recorded Books couldn't have done a better job with it. Narrating is actor Richard Poe (The Sportswriter), whose readings are consistently strong, and whose deep, rumbling, assonant voice perfectly suits this psychologically complex and ultimately heartwarming material. An essential and rewarding purchase for all libraries. [With tracks every three minutes for bookmarking; audio clip available through www.audible.com; the Ecco hc received a starred review, LJ 3/15/08; was both an Oprah's Book Club and a Barnes & Noble Discover selection; and was ranked #1 on the New York Times bestsellers list.-Ed.]-Raya Kuzyk, Library Journal (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.
Book list From Booklist, Copyright © American Library Association. Used with permission. 9780061374227 Born without the ability to speak, Edgar Sawtelle grows up on a Wisconsin farm turned dog breeding and training kennel with his parents, using sign and gesture to aid the pursuit of perfecting canine companionship. Then, in an injection of Hamlet that one can almost map out point for point, the Sawtelle dream is poisoned. There is the murderous uncle who woos the widowed mother, a ghostly apparition of Edgar's father warning the boy of something rotten, and, most cleverly, a canine reenaction of the deadly deed before Edgar sets out into the wilderness with a trio of young pups. Wroblewski's debut novel is most revelatory in navigating the wordless avenues of communication running between man and animal, and in the thrilling, heartbreaking interiors of the Sawtelle dogs as they experience the world through differently tuned senses. Though the pacing is set somewhere between languorous and ponderous, more than just dog lovers will find themselves deeply immersed in Wroblewski's assured prose and broad swatches of carefully rendered imagery. High literary art from a talent that bears watching.--Chipman, Ian Copyright 2008 Booklist
Library Journal (c) Copyright Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted. 9780061374227 Set in Wisconsin, this deeply nuanced epic tells the story of a boy, his dog, and much more. Father, son, and even dog take turns narrating before the story is told primarily by the inexplicably mute Edgar Sawtelle. Part mystery, part Hamlet, the story opens with a sinister and seemingly unrelated scene that begins to make sense as the narrative progresses. The rich depiction of Edgar's family, who are breeders of unique dogs, creates a warm glow that contrasts sharply with the cold evil that their family contains. This tension, along with a little salting of the paranormal, makes this an excruciatingly captivating read. Readers examine the concept of choice, the choice of the dogs in their relationship with people, and the choice of people in their acquiescence to or rejection of their perceived destiny. Ultimately liberating, though tragic and heart-wrenching, this book is unforgettable; overwhelmingly recommended for all libraries.-Henry Bankhead, Los Gatos P.L., CA (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.
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2008
A New Earth
Book Jacket   Eckhart Tolle
Publishers Weekly (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved According to Tolle, who assumes the role of narrator as well, humans are on the verge of creating a new world by a personal transformation that shifts our attention away from our ever-expanding egos. This idea is well realized through Tolle's remarkably well-paced narration. Naturally, the author understands his material so thoroughly that he is able to convey it in an enjoyable manner, but Tolle's gentle tone and dialect begs his audience's attention simply through its straightforward approach. Something about this reading just seems profoundly important, whether one agrees with the material or not, and listeners' attention is sure to be captured within seconds of listening to Tolle's take on the universe in which we live. Originally released in 2005, both book and audiobook were reissued when Oprah Winfrey chose the title for her book club this year. A Penguin paperback. (Feb.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved
Library Journal (c) Copyright Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted. 9780525948025 Tolle follows up his successful The Power of Now-it's sold two million copies worldwide since 1997-with a plea to reject egotistic ways for a new form of consciousness. (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.
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2007
Pillars of the Earth
 Ken Follett
Book list From Booklist, Copyright © American Library Association. Used with permission. 9780688046590 A mystifying puzzle involving the execution of an innocent man is interwoven into this monumental story of medieval intrigue and ingenuity.
Kirkus Copyright © Kirkus Reviews, used with permission. Here, Follett sets the thrillers aside for a long, steady story about building a cathedral in 12th-century England. Bloodthirsty or adventure-crazed Follett readers will be frustrated, but anyone who has ever been moved by the splendors of a fine church will sink right into this highly detailed but fast-moving historical work--a novel about the people and skills needed to put up an eye-popping cathedral in the very unsettled days just before the ascension of Henry II. The cathedral is the brainchild of Philip, prior of the monastery at Kingsbridge, and Tom, an itinerant master mason. Philip, shrewd and ambitious but genuinely devout, sees it as a sign of divine agreement when his decrepit old cathedral burns on the night that Tom and his starving family show up seeking shelter. Actually, it's Tom's clever stepson Jack who has stepped in to carry out God's will by secretly torching the cathedral attic, but the effect is the same. Tom gets the commission to start the rebuilding--which is what he has wanted to do more than anything in his life. Meanwhile, however, the work is complicated greatly by local politics. There is a loathsome baron and his family who have usurped the local earldom and allied themselves with the powerful, cynical bishop--who is himself sinfully jealous of Philip's cathedral. There are the dispossessed heirs to earldom, a beautiful girl and her bellicose brother, both sworn to root out the usurpers. And there is the mysterious Ellen, Tom's second wife, who witnessed an ancient treachery that haunts the bishop, the priory, and the vile would-be earl. The great work is set back, and Tom is killed in a raid by the rivals. It falls to young Jack to finish the work. Thriller writing turns out to be pretty good training, since Follett's history moves like a fast freight train. Details are plenty, but they support rather than smother. It's all quite entertaining and memorable. Copyright ©Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.
Publishers Weekly (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved 9780143142386 Tom Builder's dream is to build a cathedral, but in the meantime, he must scrounge about to find a lord that will hire him. His search pulls him and his family into the politics of 12th-century England, as different lords vie to gain control of the throne in the wake of the recently deceased king. Prior Phillip, a man raised in the monastery since childhood, also finds himself drafted into the brewing storm as he must protect the interests of a declining church. Richard E. Grant seduces readers early on with a soft and deliberate voice that is like a loud whisper. However, his full range quickly reveals itself as he delves into characters with animated voices that exert their true essence. Even throughout the narrative, Grant musters a lively voice that imbues energy into the story. The only shortcoming is that the abridgment of Follett's 1989 novel proves to be too choppy. Though the story appears complete, there still remain abrupt moments throughout the tale. Penguin Audio's unabridged version is read by John Lee and runs 41 hours. (Dec.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved
Library Journal (c) Copyright Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted. 9780688046590 A radical departure from Follett's novels of international suspense and intrigue, this chronicles the vicissitudes of a prior, his master builder, and their community as they struggle to build a cathedral and protect themselves during the tumultuous 12th century, when the empress Maud and Stephen are fighting for the crown of England after the death of Henry I. The plot is less tightly controlled than those in Follett's contemporary works, and despite the wealth of historical detail, especially concerning architecture and construction, much of the language as well as the psychology of the characters and their relationships remains firmly rooted in the 20th century. This will appeal more to lovers of exciting adventure stories than true devotees of historical fiction. Literary Guild dual main selection.-- Cynthia Johnson Whealler, Cary Memorial Lib., Lexington, Mass. (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.
Publishers Weekly (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved 9780688046590 With this book, Follett risks all and comes out a clear winner, escaping the narrow genre of suspense thrillers to take credit for a historical novel of gripping readability, authentic atmosphere and detail and memorable characterization. Set in 12th-century England, the narrative concerns the building of a cathedral in the fictional town of Kingsbridge. The ambitions of three men merge, conflict and collide through four decades during which social and political upheaval and the internal politics of the church affect the progress of the cathedral and the fortunes of the protagonists. The insightful portrayals of an idealistic master builder, a pious, dogmatic but compassionate prior and an unscrupulous, ruthless bishop are balanced by those of a trio of independent, resourceful women (one of them quite loathesome) who can stand on their own as memorable characters in any genre. Beginning with a mystery that casts its shadow on ensuing events, the narrative is a seesaw of tension in which circumstances change with shocking but true-to-life unpredictability. Follett's impeccable pacing builds suspense in a balanced narrative that offers action, intrigue, violence and passion as well as the step-by-step description of an edifice rising in slow stages, its progress tied to the vicissitudes of fortune and the permutations of evolving architectural style. Follett's depiction of the precarious balance of power between monarchy and religion in the Middle Ages, and of the effects of social upheavals and the forces of nature (storms, famines) on political events; his ability to convey the fine points of architecture so that the cathedral becomes clearly visualized in the reader's mind; and above all, his portrayals of the enduring human emotions of ambition, greed, bravery, dedication, revenge and love, result in a highly engrossing narrative. Manipulating a complex plot in which the characters interact against a broad canvas of medieval life, Follett has written a novel that entertains, instructs and satisfies on a grand scale. 400,000 first printing; $400,000 ad/promo; Literary Guild main dual selection; author tour. (Sept.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved
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2007
Love in the Time of Cholera
 Gabriel Garcia Marquez
Publishers Weekly (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved 9780140119909 In this chronicle of a unique love triangle, the Nobel laureate's trademark ``ironic vision and luminous evocation of South America'' persist. ``It is a fully mature novel in scope and perspective, flawlessly translated, as rich in ideas as in humanity,'' praised PW . 250,000 first printing. (Apr.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved
Publishers Weekly (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved 9780394561615 The ironic vision and luminous evocation of South America that have distinguished Garcia Marquez's Nobel Prize-winning fiction since his landmark work, One Hundred Years of Solitude, persist in this turn-of-the-century chronicle of a unique love triangle. It is a fully mature novel in scope and perspective, flawlessly translated, as rich in ideas as in humanity. The illustrious and meticulous Dr. Juvenal Urbino and his proud, stately wife Fermina Daza, respectively past 80 and 70, are in the autumn of their solid marriage as the drama opens on the suicide of the doctor's chess partner. Jeremiah de Saint-Amour, a disabled photographer of children, chooses death over the indignities of old age, revealing in a letter a clandestine love affair, on the ``fringes of a closed society's prejudices.'' This scenario not only heralds Urbino's demise soon afterwhen he falls out of a mango tree in an attempt to catch an escaped parrotbut brilliantly presages the novel's central themes, which are as concerned with the renewing capacity of age as with an anatomy of love. We meet Florentino Ariza, more antihero than hero, a mock Don Juan with an undertaker's demeanor, at once pathetic, grotesque and endearing, when he seizes the memorably unseemly occasion of Urbino's funeral to reiterate to Fermina the vow of love he first uttered more than 50 years before. With the fine detailing of a Victorian novel, the narrative plunges backward in time to reenact their earlier, youthful courtship of furtive letters and glances, frustrated when Fermina, in the light of awaking maturity, realizes Florentino is an adolescent obsession, and rejects him. With his uncanny ability to unearth the extraordinary in the commonplace, Garcia Marquez smoothly interweaves Fermina's and Florentino's subsequent histories. Enmeshed in a bizarre string of affairs with ill-fated widows while vicariously conducting the liaisons of others via love poems composed on request, Florentino feverishly tries to fill the void of his unrequited passion. Meanwhile, Fermina's marriage suffers vicissitudes but endures, affirming that marital love can be as much the product of art as is romantic love. When circumstances both comic and mystical offer Fermina and Florentino a second chance, during a time in their lives that is often regarded as promising only inevitable degeneration toward death, Garcia Marquez beautifully reveals true love's soil not in the convention of marriage but in the simple, timeless rituals that are its cement. 100,000 first printing; first serial to the New Yorker; BOMC main selection. (April) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved
Book list From Booklist, Copyright © American Library Association. Used with permission. 9780140119909 The Colombian-born Nobel laureate, author of the internationally adored novel One Hundred Years of Solitude, writes an exquisite tale celebrating the limitless possibilities for finding true love.
Choice Copyright American Library Association, used with permission. 9780394561615 Stylistically halfway between the realism of No One Writes to the Colonel (CH, Apr '69) and the fantastic exuberance of One Hundred Years of Solitude (CH, Sep '70), this novel is a parody of popular romantic fiction with all its cliches and expectations. Its origin can be traced to a character's remark in Solitude, explaining her rejection of a suitor: "He says he is dying because of me, as if I were a bad case of colic." Now Garcia Marquez equates love to cholera, and characters wonder whether their physical symptoms are caused by their infatuation or by the disease. This wry humor permeates the novel, set against the cultural and sociopolitical background of a dying Caribbean city, between the late 1870s and early 1930s. The heroine, Fermina Daza, after a brief youthful epistolary romance with Florentino Ariza, marries the patrician Dr. Juvenal Urbino, pressured by her socially ambitious father. Florentino decides to wait for her--engaging in Rabelaisian sex during the interlude--and 50 years later makes her his mistress after Urbino's death. The implausible plot underlines a machista approach: Fermina is manipulated by her father, her wealthy suitor, and at the end by her lover. Although it has neither the richness and complexity of One Hundred Years of Solitude nor its larger-than-life and consistent characters, this is a tender novel about old age and hope, assertive in proposing the triumph of instinct against reason. Grossman's translation captures the rhythm and beauty of the author's prose very commendably. For university and public libraries. -J. A. Hernandez, Hood College
Library Journal (c) Copyright Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted. 9781482939712 Marquez's (One Hundred Years of Solitude) tale of romance and heartbreak spans decades. Florentino Ariza and Fermina Daza fall hopelessly in love in their youth, but when Fermina forsakes Florentino's love to marry a wealthy doctor, he is anything but dissuaded. He spends a lifetime waiting for her; no woman could ever fill her place in his heart. Romance is the only thing that he can live for, and as long as Fermina lives, even with another man, his heart will keep beating in the hope that he can win her back. This story of unrequited love is unsurpassed in its eloquence, tragedy, and redemption and beautifully read by Armando Duran, whose strong voice does an excellent job with the Spanish names and language. VERDICT A wonderful classic for fans of narrative and historical literature. ["This is a compelling exploration of the myths we make of love. Highly recommended," read the review of the Knopf hc, LJ 3/15/88.]-Erin Cataldi, Johnson Cty. P.L., Franklin, IN (c) Copyright 2014. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.
Kirkus Copyright © Kirkus Reviews, used with permission. Almost two decades after One Hundred Years of Solitude, Garcia Márquez has delivered another long, woolly, at times wonderful but consistently elective novel. Elective in the sense that, like One Hundred Years (a book more grazed-in than fully read, the candid reader will admit), you can loll in the lushness and the brilliant details and the generous metaphors, but getting up and walking out of Garcia Máquez's imagination is fairly easy to do: it's a book that doesn't hold on to you. But maybe here it doesn't mean to--it's a story of a decades-long love triangle that bridges the turn of the century in a Caribbean sea-coast town. The principals are a merchant-trader, Florentino Ariza; the sheltered and beautiful Fermina Daza; and the starchy physician who marries her, Dr. Juvenal Urbino de la Calle. Ariza is a born lover, patient beyond belief, in love with love (platonic and sexual), an eroticist of impressive concentration--and his conquests and griefs at least keep the book moving chronologically. Which it only rarely seems to want to do; Garcia Márquez's talent is for peripherals: tastes, comments, colors, sounds, all flocking spectacularly inside any given paragraph like iron filings. The style everywhere is rich and good-humored, but, except for isolated scenes (such as the doctor's confession to his wife of a late-in-life indiscretion), it focuses on the paragraph more than on the chapter. And little finally distinguishes these gorgeous paragraphs--story-turns never undermine them, and you suspect they're there to be admired more than felt. Still, there's almost nothing here (thankfully) of Garcia Márquez's cloying political ironies dressed up as mysteries and cosmogonies; and the stylish sexual histories are fun and will be popular. Broad and brilliant as it is, though, there's an awful lot about a little here--a candy-box of a novel: more paper slots and creamy centers than something hard to bite down on. Copyright ©Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.
Library Journal (c) Copyright Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted. 9780394561615 While delivering a message to her father, Florentino Ariza spots the barely pubescent Fermina Daza and immediately falls in love. What follows is the story of a passion that extends over 50 years, as Fermina is courted solely by letter, decisively rejects her suitor when he first speaks, and then joins the urbane Dr. Juvenal Urbino, much above her station, in a marriage initially loveless but ultimately remarkable in its strength. Florentino remains faithful in his fashion; paralleling the tale of the marriage is that of his numerous liaisons, all ultimately without the depth of love he again declares at Urbino's death. In substance and style not as fantastical, as mythologizing, as the previous works, this is a compelling exploration of the myths we make of love. Highly recommended. Barbara Hoffert, ``Library Journal'' (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.
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2007
The Measure of a Man: A Spiritual Autobiography
Book Jacket   Sidney Poitier
Library Journal (c) Copyright Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted. 9780694521968 Winner of this year's Grammy for Best Spoken Word Album, this production is a delight in every way, with the narration by Poitier appropriately dramatic and mellifluous. The story of his meteoric and fated rise to fame as a successful actor respected by his peers almost belies his hardscrabble beginnings on Cat Island off the coast of the Bahamas. And the "lucky star" Poitier falls under is actually the common denominator among all successful people: a willingness to work harder, and an innate resourcefulness, including the ability to listen to one's own instincts and to move when the time is right. If this sounds philosophical, it is; the book is much more than another celebrity memoir. It is not only Poitier's reflection on a long life in the world of arts and entertainment but also a statement of his personal views on what it means to be a good man, honed in discussions with friends and fellow travelers on life's journey who were themselves of a philosophical frame of mind. Highly recommended. Mark Pumphrey, Polk Cty. P.L., Columbus, NC (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.
Publishers Weekly (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved 9780062516077 Poitier's second memoir retains the soul-searching candor that marked his first (This Life, 1980), but lacks its narrative drive. After painting an idyllic portrait of his youth on Cat Island in the Bahamas ("a place of purity"), Poitier traces his path to Hollywood stardom with frustratingly broad strokes. (For the details of Poitier's journey, and his involvement in the civil rights movement, readers are left to consult his earlier work.) Poitier demonstrates the strength of his character with moving stories about his struggles with racism, and he includes anecdotes about his roles in such memorable productions as A Raisin in the Sun, Guess Who's Coming to Dinner, In the Heat of the Night and A Patch of Blue. But in the end, this book reads like the random thoughts of a sincere and honorable celebrity channeled through the pen of an experienced and jaded ghostwriter. As an autobiography, it is "spiritual" only in the loosest sense of the term. Poitier's relationship with God, whom he conceives in Hollywood terms as a vague cosmic consciousness, is not mentioned until one of the last chapters of the book. Throughout, he offers moralizing reflections on rage, forgiveness ("a sacred process"), marriage, parenting, prostate cancer and the burning question of whether Sidney Poitier has a dark side. "I had come to believe a little bit in my own press clippings," he notes, reflecting on his reputation as a man of unusual integrity and virtue; for better and for worse, this book contains little to complicate that belief. (May) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved
Publishers Weekly (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved 9780694521968 Given the personal nature of this narrative, it's impossible to imagine hearing anyone other than Poitier, with his distinctive, resonant voice and perfect enunciation, tell the story. In his second memoir Poitier talks about his childhood in the Caribbean, where he was terribly poor by American standards, but quite happy, swimming and climbing all he could. One of eight kids, Poitier was sent to live with an older brother in Miami when he started to get into difficulties as a teen. But frustrated by his inability to earn a living and by the disparaging way whites treated him, Poitier left Miami for New York. There he worked as a dishwasher, started a drama class and launched a celebrated acting career that led to starring roles in such classics as To Sir, with Love and Raisin in the Sun. Poitier's rendition of these events is so moving that listeners will wish this audio adaptation were twice as long. Simultaneous release with the Harper San Francisco hardcover (Forecasts, May 1). (Apr.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved
Publishers Weekly (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved Poitier's second memoir retains the soul-searching candor that marked his first (This Life, 1980), but lacks its narrative drive. After painting an idyllic portrait of his youth on Cat Island in the Bahamas ("a place of purity"), Poitier traces his path to Hollywood stardom with frustratingly broad strokes. (For the details of Poitier's journey, and his involvement in the civil rights movement, readers are left to consult his earlier work.) Poitier demonstrates the strength of his character with moving stories about his struggles with racism, and he includes anecdotes about his roles in such memorable productions as A Raisin in the Sun, Guess Who's Coming to Dinner, In the Heat of the Night and A Patch of Blue. But in the end, this book reads like the random thoughts of a sincere and honorable celebrity channeled through the pen of an experienced and jaded ghostwriter. As an autobiography, it is "spiritual" only in the loosest sense of the term. Poitier's relationship with God, whom he conceives in Hollywood terms as a vague cosmic consciousness, is not mentioned until one of the last chapters of the book. Throughout, he offers moralizing reflections on rage, forgiveness ("a sacred process"), marriage, parenting, prostate cancer and the burning question of whether Sidney Poitier has a dark side. "I had come to believe a little bit in my own press clippings," he notes, reflecting on his reputation as a man of unusual integrity and virtue; for better and for worse, this book contains little to complicate that belief. (May) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved
Library Journal (c) Copyright Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted. 9780062516077 There should be a rule that celebrities can't write memoirs until they are at least 70 to avoid the inevitable rehashing of one's life in a second or even third memoir. Poitier wrote his first autobiography (This Life) in 1980 and is following it up now with a second. However, in addition to rehashing some of the stories from the first book, he also wants to share his wisdom and ponder the meaning of life. He wistfully remembers the simplicity of growing up on Cat Island in the Bahamas and pities privileged children who have never experienced such an unspoiled life. He regrets his early divorce and the effects it had on his children. There is almost a sense of apology as Poitier examines his actions, but at the same time there is quite a bit of self-importance. By the end, he seems to have forgiven himself and figured it all out: "We're all imperfect, and life is simply a perpetual unending struggle against those imperfections." When he talks about acting technique, the book sizzles, but otherwise it is not a necessary purchase unless book promotion efforts generate requests. [Previewed in Prepub Alert, LJ 1/00.]--Rosellen Brewer, Monterey Cty. Free Libs., Salinas, CA (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.
Book list From Booklist, Copyright © American Library Association. Used with permission. 9780062516077 By any measure, Sidney Poitier has led a remarkably successful life. One of the legendary American actors, he has starred in more than 40 films and acted in many successful Broadway plays. His career is even more remarkable considering his background. Born dirt poor in the Bahamas, Poitier came to the U.S. penniless at age 15 in 1943. After working odd jobs and scraping by in Florida and New York City, Poitier landed, by chance, a small acting role. His performance was noticed by talent scouts, and with a combination of luck, grit, and sheer willpower, he went on to become Hollywood's first leading black actor and one of its greatest stars. In Measure, Poitier attempts to unravel for himself his own remarkable life story, looking at early life experiences, his family, and various themes that he believes have contributed to his success. Measure is not a chronological autobiography; the book emphasizes themes that have shaped his life. The author examines rural poverty, racism in "Jim Crow" Florida, morality, self-esteem, and the nature of being an "outsider" . Poitier is an excellent storyteller, and the book is anecdotally rich. Calling this autobiography--the author's second--"spiritual" may be somewhat misleading. Religion is a minor part of the story. Instead, Poitier's tale is an affirmation of the value of morality and personal integrity in leading a successful, fulfilling life. --Ted Leventhal
Library Journal (c) Copyright Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted. 9780060197179 Following his autobiography (This Life); something with a spiritual dimension. (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.
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2007
Middlesex: A Novel
Book Jacket   Jeffrey Eugenides
 
2007
The Road
 Cormac McCarthy
Publishers Weekly (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved 9780307265432 Violence, in McCarthy's postapocalyptic tour de force, has been visited worldwide in the form of a "long shear of light and then a series of low concussions" that leaves cities and forests burned, birds and fish dead and the earth shrouded in gray clouds of ash. In this landscape, an unnamed man and his young son journey down a road to get to the sea. (The man's wife, who gave birth to the boy after calamity struck, has killed herself.) They carry blankets and scavenged food in a shopping cart, and the man is armed with a revolver loaded with his last two bullets. Beyond the ever-present possibility of starvation lies the threat of roving bands of cannibalistic thugs. The man assures the boy that the two of them are "good guys," but from the way his father treats other stray survivors the boy sees that his father has turned into an amoral survivalist, tenuously attached to the morality of the past by his fierce love for his son. McCarthy establishes himself here as the closest thing in American literature to an Old Testament prophet, trolling the blackest registers of human emotion to create a haunting and grim novel about civilization's slow death after the power goes out. 250,000 announced first printing; BOMC main selection. (Oct.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved
Kirkus Copyright © Kirkus Reviews, used with permission. Even within the author's extraordinary body of work, this stands as a radical achievement, a novel that demands to be read and reread. McCarthy (No Country for Old Men, 2005, etc.) pushes his thematic obsessions to their extremes in a parable that reads like Night of the Living Dead as rewritten by Samuel Beckett. Where much of McCarthy's fiction has been set in the recent past of the South and West, here he conjures a nightmare of an indeterminate future. A great fire has left the country covered in layers of ash and littered with incinerated corpses. Foraging through the wasteland are a father and son, neither named (though the son calls the father "Papa"). The father dimly remembers the world as it was and occasionally dreams of it. The son was born on the cusp of whatever has happened—apocalypse? holocaust?—and has never known anything else. His mother committed suicide rather than face the unspeakable horror. As they scavenge for survival, they consider themselves the "good guys," carriers of the fire, while most of the few remaining survivors are "bad guys," cannibals who eat babies. In order to live, they must keep moving amid this shadowy landscape, in which ashes have all but obliterated the sun. In their encounters along their pilgrimage to the coast, where things might not be better but where they can go no further, the boy emerges as the novel's moral conscience. The relationship between father and son has a sweetness that represents all that's good in a universe where conventional notions of good and evil have been extinguished. Amid the bleakness of survival—through which those who wish they'd never been born struggle to persevere—there are glimmers of comedy in an encounter with an old man who plays the philosophical role of the Shakespearean fool. Though the sentences of McCarthy's recent work are shorter and simpler than they once were, his prose combines the cadence of prophecy with the indelible images of poetry. A novel of horrific beauty, where death is the only truth. Copyright ©Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.
Book list From Booklist, Copyright © American Library Association. Used with permission. 9780307265432 A man and a boy, father and son, each the other's world entire, walk a road in the ashes of the late world. In this stunning departure from his previous work, McCarthy ( No Country for Old Men, 2005) envisions a postapocalyptic scenario. Cities have been destroyed, plants and animals have died, and few humans survive. The sun is hidden by ash, and it is winter. With every scrap of food looted, many of the living have turned to cannibalism. The man and the boy plod toward the sea. The man remembers the world before; as his memories die, so, too dies that world. The boy was born after everything changed. The man, dying, has a fierce paternal love and will to survive--yet he saves his last two bullets for himself and his son. Although the holocaust is never explained, this is the kind of grim warning that leads to nightmares. Its spare, precise language is rich with other explorations, too: hope in the face of hopelessness, the ephemeral nature of our existence, the vanishing worlds we all carry within us. McCarthy evokes Beckett, using repetition and negation to crushing effect, showing us by their absence the things we will miss. Hypnotic and haunting, relentlessly dark, this is a novel to read in late-night solitude. Though the focus never leaves the two travelers, they carry our humanity, and we can't help but feel the world hangs in the balance of their hopeless quest. A masterpiece. --Keir Graff Copyright 2006 Booklist
Library Journal (c) Copyright Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted. 9780307265432 New territory for McCarthy: a postapocalyptic landscape where readers meet a man who recalls a better world and a boy who doesn't. (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.
Library Journal (c) Copyright Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted. 9780307265432 Winner of the National Book Award and the National Book Critics Circle Award, McCarthy (All the Pretty Horses) here offers a prescient account of a man and his son trying to survive in a devastated country where food is scarce and everyone has become a scavenger. The term survival of the fittest rings true here-very few people remain, and friends are extinct. Essentially, this is a story about nature vs. nurture, commitment and promises, and though there aren't many characters, there is abundant life in the prose. We are reminded how McCarthy has mastered the world outside of our domestic and social circles, with each description reading as if he had pulled a scene from the landscape and pasted it in the book. He uses metaphors the way some writers use punctuation, sprinkling them about with an artist's eye, showing us that literature from the heart still exists. Recommended for all libraries. [See Prepub Alert, LJ 5/1/06.]-Stephen Morrow, Columbus, OH (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.
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  Book Jacket
2006
Night
 Elie Wiesel
Library Journal (c) Copyright Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted. 9781883332402 Wiesel's perennial best-selling memoir-cum-novel of his year spent in four concentration camps as a 15-year-old during the Holocaust was first published in 1958 but never recorded. However, Wiesel, who had long opposed a recording, changed his mind and endorsed this version, read by actor Jeffrey Rosenblatt. (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.
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  Book Jacket
 
2005
A Million Little Pieces
Book Jacket   James Frey
Library Journal (c) Copyright Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted. 9780385507752 Who are you if you wake up on a plane, you don't know where it's going or where you've been, your front four teeth are gone, blood is all over your face and hands, and there's a hole the size of a finger in your cheek? You are Frey, 23, an alcoholic since ten and a crackhead for about as long, as well as a criminal wanted in three states, and you are just about to realize that you are fucked-royally. So, where do you go from here? Frey learns that his plane is going to Chicago, where his parents will meet him in a last-ditch attempt to convince him to go into rehab, and he agrees, knowing that there might not be another chance to say yes. He tells the rest of his story in the same gruesome detail, reconstructing how he got clean and sober. Although facets of Alcoholics Anonymous helped him, he ultimately rejects the 12-step program as anything he would be able to use, preferring to see his alcoholism as a personal weakness rather than a disease. Whatever his choices, they were effective enough to keep him sober for the last nine years. Luckily, he had many brain cells to spare, as this raw and intense book reveals a rare author whose approach to memoir writing is as original as his method to getting straight. Highly recommended. [Previewed in Prepub Alert, LJ 12/02.]-Rachel Collins, "Library Journal" (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.
Kirkus Copyright © Kirkus Reviews, used with permission. Frey's lacerating, intimate debut chronicles his recovery from multiple addictions with adrenal rage and sprawling prose. After ten years of alcoholism and three years of crack addiction, the 23-year-old author awakens from a blackout aboard a Chicago-bound airplane, "covered with a colorful mixture of spit, snot, urine, vomit and blood." While intoxicated, he learns, he had fallen from a fire escape and damaged his teeth and face. His family persuades him to enter a Minnesota clinic, described as "the oldest Residential Drug and Alcohol Facility in the World." Frey's enormous alcohol habit, combined with his use of "Cocaine . . . Pills, acid, mushrooms, meth, PCP and glue," make this a very rough ride, with the DTs quickly setting in: "The bugs crawl onto my skin and they start biting me and I try to kill them." Frey captures with often discomforting acuity the daily grind and painful reacquaintance with human sensation that occur in long-term detox; for example, he must undergo reconstructive dental surgery without anesthetic, an ordeal rendered in excruciating detail. Very gradually, he confronts the "demons" that compelled him towards epic chemical abuse, although it takes him longer to recognize his own culpability in self-destructive acts. He effectively portrays the volatile yet loyal relationships of people in recovery as he forms bonds with a damaged young woman, an addicted mobster, and an alcoholic judge. Although he rejects the familiar 12-step program of AA, he finds strength in the principles of Taoism and (somewhat to his surprise) in the unflinching support of family, friends, and therapists, who help him avoid a relapse. Our acerbic narrator conveys urgency and youthful spirit with an angry, clinical tone and some initially off-putting prose tics—irregular paragraph breaks, unpunctuated dialogue, scattered capitalization, few commas—that ultimately create striking accruals of verisimilitude and plausible human portraits. Startling, at times pretentious in its self-regard, but ultimately breathtaking: The Lost Weekend for the under-25 set. Copyright ©Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.
Book list From Booklist, Copyright © American Library Association. Used with permission. 9780385507752 At 23, Frey allowed his parents to check him into a rehabilitation facility in Minnesota. An alcoholic and a crack addict, Frey had hit absolute rock bottom. The doctor at the rehab center told him another drinking binge might kill him. To Frey, who was vomiting blood and dreaming of copious amounts of drugs and alcohol, there didn't seem to be another option. And then, on the night he attempted his escape from the center, a fellow patient named Leonard stopped him. And thus began the horrible, hard climb to sobriety. Frey was inundated with success stories and 12-step dogma, but he continued to resist both AA and the idea that only a belief in a higher power can save someone who has fallen so far. Leonard remained a constant friend in Frey's struggle, sharing the story of his own tragic past and bolstering Frey's determination. Frey found a different kind of support in Lilly, a vulnerable young woman with whom he fell in love. Anger, hurt, love, and pain are all laid bare; his writing style is as naked and forthright as the raw emotions that life in the rehab center brings to the surface. Starkly honest and mincing no words, Frey bravely faces his struggles head on, and readers will be mesmerized by his account of his ceaseless battle against addiction. Kristine Huntley
School Library Journal (c) Copyright Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted. 9780385507752 Adult/High School-Frey's high school and college years are a blur of alcohol and drugs, culminating in a full-fledged crack addiction at age 23. As the book begins, his fed-up friends have convinced an airline to let him on the plane and shipped him off to his parents, who promptly put him in Hazelden, the rehabilitation clinic with the greatest success rate, 20 percent. Frey doesn't shy away from the gory details of addiction and recovery; all of the bodily fluids make major appearances here. What really separates this title from other rehab memoirs, apart from the author's young age, is his literary prowess. He doesn't rely on traditional indentation, punctuation, or capitalization, which adds to the nearly poetic, impressionistic detail of parts of the story. Readers cannot help but feel his sickness, pain, and anger, which is evident through his language. Ken Kesey's One Flew over the Cuckoo's Nest (Viking, 1962) seems an apt comparison for this work-Frey maintains his principles and does not respect authority at all if it doesn't follow his beliefs. And fellow addicts are as much, if not more, help to him than the clinicians who are trying to preach the 12 steps, which he does not intend to follow in his path to sobriety. This book is highly recommended for teens interested in the darker side of human existence.-Jamie Watson, Enoch Pratt Free Library, Baltimore (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.
Library Journal (c) Copyright Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted. 9781565117785 Frey wakes up on an airplane with four broken teeth, a broken nose, a massive cut on his cheek, and unsure where he is or where he's going. Where he ends up is a residential treatment center based in Minnesota. This is the story of his experiences in that center as an addict and alcoholic. Listeners will meet the residents, including some who helped Frey continue his treatment and his work toward sobriety. The author's tale is brutal and honest, providing a realistic view of the life of an addict, something not for the faint of heart. It's full of profanity and graphic depictions of violence and drug use. In fact, Frey's description of the repair of his teeth without painkillers or anesthesia may keep people from ever going to the dentist again. That said, this presentation, read by Oliver Wyman, is an important addition for all library collections. Organizations that provide support for substance abusers, counseling centers, and prison libraries also should consider purchase.-Danna Bell-Russel, Library of Congress (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.
Publishers Weekly (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved 9780385507752 Frey is pretender to the throne of the aggressive, digressive, cocky Kings David: Eggers and Foster Wallace. Pre-pub comparisons to those writers spring not from Frey's writing but from his attitude: as a recent advance profile put it, the 33-year-old former drug dealer and screenwriter "wants to be the greatest literary writer of his generation." While the Davids have their faults, their work is unquestionably literary. Frey's work is more mirrored surface than depth, but this superficiality has its attractions. With a combination of upper-middle-class entitlement, street credibility garnered by astronomical drug intake and PowerPoint-like sentence fragments and clipped dialogue, Frey proffers a book that is deeply flawed, too long, a trial of even the most nave reader's credulousness-yet its posturings hit a nerve. This is not a new story: boy from a nice, if a little chilly, family gets into trouble early with alcohol and drugs and stays there. Pieces begins as Frey arrives at Hazelden, which claims to be the most successful treatment center in the world, though its success rate is a mere 17%. There are flashbacks to the binges that led to rehab and digressions into the history of other patients: a mobster, a boxer, a former college administrator, and Lilly, his forbidden love interest, a classic fallen princess, former prostitute and crack addict. What sets Pieces apart from other memoirs about 12-stepping is Frey's resistance to the concept of a higher power. The book is sure to draw criticism from the recovery community, which is, in a sense, Frey's great gimmick. He is someone whose problems seem to stem from being uncomfortable with authority, and who resists it to the end, surviving despite the odds against him. The prose is repetitive to the point of being exasperating, but the story, with its forays into the consciousness of an addict, is correspondingly difficult to put down. (Apr. 15) Forecast: Gus Van Sant, director of Drugstore Cowboy and Good Will Hunting, is negotiating to bring Pieces to the screen, so wise readers will not commit to 400 pages but wait for the 96-minute version, but booksellers should stock up as the chiseled Frey hits the interview circuit. (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved
Publishers Weekly (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved 9781565117785 For as long as he can remember, Frey has had within him something that he calls "the Fury," a bottomless source of anger and rage that he has kept at bay since he was 10 by obliterating his consciousness with alcohol and drugs. When this memoir begins, the author is 23 and is wanted in three states. He has a raw hole in his cheek big enough to stick a finger through, he's missing four teeth, he's covered with spit blood and vomit, and without ID or any idea where the airplane he finds himself on is heading. It turns out his parents have sent him to a drug rehab center in Minnesota. From the start, Frey refuses to surrender his problem to a 12-step program or to victimize himself by calling his addictions a disease. He demands to be held fully accountable for the person he is and the person he may become. If Frey is a victim, he comes to realize, it's due to nothing but his own bad decisions. Wyman's reading of Frey's terse, raw prose is ideal. His unforgettable performance of Frey's anesthesia-free dental visit will be recalled by listeners with every future dentist appointment. His lump-in-the-throat contained intensity, wherein he neither sobs nor howls with rage but appears a breath away from both, gives listeners a palpable glimpse of the power of addiction and the struggle for recovery. Simultaneous release with the Doubleday hardcover (Forecasts, Mar. 10). (May) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved
Library Journal (c) Copyright Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted. 9780385507752 An alcoholic and crack addict so physically mauled by his indulgences that doctors marveled that he was still alive, Frey finally cleaned himself up at age 23. Here he takes full responsibility for nearly destroying himself. (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.
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2005
As I Lay Dying
Book Jacket   William Faulkner
 
2005
The Sound and the Fury
 William Faulkner
  Book Jacket
2005
Light in August
 William Faulkner
Publishers Weekly (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved 9781455813032 Narrator Will Patton delivers a compelling performance in this audio version of Faulkner's classic novel of tangled racial and sexual relations in the American South that traces the stories of pregnant Lena Grove, searching for the father of her unborn child; a bootlegger named Joe Christmas; and the Rev. Gail Hightower. Capturing the spirit of the text, Patton's narration is expertly paced, rich, and hypnotic. He ably handles the tricky cadence of Faulkner's prose-and the racial slurs that riddle the story-narrating with a honeyed drawl that is undercut by brutal frankness. There are a few moments when Patton overacts and fails to allow the author's words to take center stage. However, Faulkner fans will likely overlook what amounts to a minor flaw in this otherwise enjoyable listen. A Random House /Vintage International paperback. (Aug.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.
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  Book Jacket
 
2004
The Good Earth
Book Jacket   Pearl Buck
Library Journal (c) Copyright Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted. 9781433204067 First published in 1931, this classic novel about Chinese peasant life around the turn of the 20th century seems a little dated now but still possesses enough emotional power to engage modern listeners. The book traces the slow rise of Wang Lung from humble peasant farmer to great landlord-a feat he achieves by steadily adding to his lands and making enormous sacrifices to retain them through hard times. As one of the first Western novels to explore the lives of ordinary Chinese, this work has had an enormous influence on American views of China, and it propelled Buck to the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1938. The novel's linear story line makes it ideal for listening, and actor Anthony Heald's perfectly modulated narration makes this audio edition a sure winner among library patrons. Highly recommended.-R. Kent Rasmussen, Thousand Oaks, CA (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.
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2004
Anna Karenina
Book Jacket   Leo Tolstoy
Choice Copyright American Library Association, used with permission. 9780199232086 An award-winning author and translator, Bartlett offers a fluid, conversational British English rendition of Anna Karenina. In common with earlier translators (from Constance Garnett to Richard Pevear and Larissa Volokhonsky), Bartlett sought to offer a translation that is both idiomatic and faithful to the original--which is the central challenge of translating this, or any, novel. Tolstoy had a penchant for repeated words and long, clause-laden sentences, and translators have sometimes "refined" the prose by deploying synonyms and smoothing out syntax. Bartlett respects Tolstoy's deliberate repetitions. However, where Tolstoy varied adjectives, Bartlett repeats her favorites, especially awful and smart, and she repeats the colloquial phrase "off you go," suggesting a dismissal that is not always indicated in the Russian. More grating is her preference of was over the correct conditional were (as in "it's just as if I was doing homework" [part 6, chapter 3]) and of like over as (as in "and like a hungry animal will pounce on every object it comes across" [part 5, chapter 8]). Pevear and Volokhonsky are more felicitous, preserving Tolstoy's repetitions and offering more nuanced translations where appropriate, with grammatical consistency. Still, this is a solid translation, and Bartlett includes an excellent introduction and indispensable endnotes. Summing Up: Recommended. Lower- and upper-division undergraduates, graduate students, general readers. --Nancy Tittler, SUNY at Binghamton
Choice Copyright American Library Association, used with permission. 9780300203943 There have been a few new translations of Anna Karenina in recent years, but Schwartz's rendering honors Tolstoy's well-documented disdain for affectations and the lofty prose that had become pervasive in the Russian literary language of his milieu. In contrast to other iterations that were corrections of Tolstoy's style and thereby disregarded his intent "to bend language to his will, as an instrument of his aesthetic and moral convictions" (to quote the Schwartz), Schwartz's translation embraces Tolstoy's unorthodox use of language and syntax. Previous translations frequently employed synonyms to reduce word and phrase repetition. Schwartz acknowledges that repetition was a literary device Tolstoy brought to bear to grant readers time to reflect on his ideas. She includes other linguistic quirks and adheres to the rhythm of the novel. Compared with other translations, this is devoid of abstraction, passive voice, and embellished phrases with additional adjectives. Many interpret the novel as the story of a romantic heroine who will make extraordinary sacrifices for love, but the present translation demonstrates that the novel also centers on Tolstoy's view of society. Schwartz's masterful approach to translation underscores the importance of preserving the novel's integrity. Summing Up: Essential. All readers. --Rachel Augello Erb, Colorado State University
Choice Copyright American Library Association, used with permission. 9780199232086 An award-winning author and translator, Bartlett offers a fluid, conversational British English rendition of Anna Karenina. In common with earlier translators (from Constance Garnett to Richard Pevear and Larissa Volokhonsky), Bartlett sought to offer a translation that is both idiomatic and faithful to the original--which is the central challenge of translating this, or any, novel. Tolstoy had a penchant for repeated words and long, clause-laden sentences, and translators have sometimes "refined" the prose by deploying synonyms and smoothing out syntax. Bartlett respects Tolstoy's deliberate repetitions. However, where Tolstoy varied adjectives, Bartlett repeats her favorites, especially awful and smart, and she repeats the colloquial phrase "off you go," suggesting a dismissal that is not always indicated in the Russian. More grating is her preference of was over the correct conditional were (as in "it's just as if I was doing homework" [part 6, chapter 3]) and of like over as (as in "and like a hungry animal will pounce on every object it comes across" [part 5, chapter 8]). Pevear and Volokhonsky are more felicitous, preserving Tolstoy's repetitions and offering more nuanced translations where appropriate, with grammatical consistency. Still, this is a solid translation, and Bartlett includes an excellent introduction and indispensable endnotes. Summing Up: Recommended. Lower- and upper-division undergraduates, graduate students, general readers. --Nancy Tittler, SUNY at Binghamton
Choice Copyright American Library Association, used with permission. 9780300203943 There have been a few new translations of Anna Karenina in recent years, but Schwartz's rendering honors Tolstoy's well-documented disdain for affectations and the lofty prose that had become pervasive in the Russian literary language of his milieu. In contrast to other iterations that were corrections of Tolstoy's style and thereby disregarded his intent "to bend language to his will, as an instrument of his aesthetic and moral convictions" (to quote the Schwartz), Schwartz's translation embraces Tolstoy's unorthodox use of language and syntax. Previous translations frequently employed synonyms to reduce word and phrase repetition. Schwartz acknowledges that repetition was a literary device Tolstoy brought to bear to grant readers time to reflect on his ideas. She includes other linguistic quirks and adheres to the rhythm of the novel. Compared with other translations, this is devoid of abstraction, passive voice, and embellished phrases with additional adjectives. Many interpret the novel as the story of a romantic heroine who will make extraordinary sacrifices for love, but the present translation demonstrates that the novel also centers on Tolstoy's view of society. Schwartz's masterful approach to translation underscores the importance of preserving the novel's integrity. Summing Up: Essential. All readers. --Rachel Augello Erb, Colorado State University
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2004
The Heart is a Lonely Hunter
 Carson McCullers
  Book Jacket
2004
One Hundred Years of Solitude
 Gabriel Garcia Marquez
Library Journal (c) Copyright Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted. 9780679444657 Two modern giants (LJ 2/15/70 and LJ 11/1/61, respectively) join Knopf's venerable "Everyman's Library." If you've been searching for quality hardcovers of these two eternally popular titles, look no further. (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.
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  Book Jacket
 
2003
Cry, the Beloved Country
Book Jacket   Alan Paton
Publishers Weekly (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved In search of missing family members, Zulu priest Stephen Kumalo leaves his South African village to traverse the deep and perplexing city of Johannesburg in the 1940s. With his sister turned prostitute, his brother turned labor protestor and his son, Absalom, arrested for the murder of a white man, Kumalo must grapple with how to bring his family back from the brink of destruction as the racial tension throughout Johannesburg hampers his attempts to protect his family. With a deep yet gentle voice rounded out by his English accent, Michael York captures the tone and energy of this novel. His rhythmic narration proves hypnotizing. From the fierce love of Kumalo to the persuasive rhetoric of Kumalo's brother and the solemn regret of Absalom, York injects soul into characters tempered by their socioeconomic status as black South Africans. (May) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved All rights reserved.
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2003
East of Eden
Book Jacket   John Steinbeck
 
2002
Sula
 Toni Morrison
Library Journal (c) Copyright Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted. 9780679460725 Hearing an author read her own work creates a special ambiance. To hear Morrison read a short, unabridged novel published 24 years ago, to hear in her voice how much she still values the writing, well, who could ask for more? The only drawback is that Morrison, while very much in tune with her characters, often lets her voice drop to a whisper, making these tapes difficult to listen to while driving and almost impossible on a highway with the window open. On the page, Sula is one of her more clearly defined novels?the friendship and later hatred that envelopes the lives of two black women from "the bottom"?but the imagistic nature of the writing means listeners may have to replay passages if they want to follow the action. A small price to pay for a masterpiece.?Rochelle Ratner, formerly with "Soho Weekly News," New York (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.
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  Book Jacket
2002
Fall on Your Knees
 Ann-Marie MacDonald
Publishers Weekly (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved 9780684833200 Not a single line is superfluous in this richly layered tale of the secrets within several generations of a Canadian family. Both feverishly intense and darkly humorous, the drama of the Piper family emerges amidst a backdrop of racial tension and social change in Canada during the first half of the 20th century. Piano tuner James Piper dotes on his beautiful and musically talented eldest daughter, Kathleen, almost to the exclusion of everyone else, including his Lebanese wife and his other daughters. After Kathleen's death during childbirth and his wife's suicide a few days later, James forbids any mention of Kathleen's name. But the bitter fruit of illicit passion will continue to take its toll on Kathleen's survivors. Though the mortality rate in this family sometimes challenges credibility, playwright and actress MacDonald's ambitious first novel displays a remarkable assurance of style, pacing and plotting as unexpected twists propel a complex story that builds inexorably to tragedy. MacDonald uses the surface tension and love between James and his daughters to explore the repercussions of repression, sin, guilt and violence that simmer beneath the family's delicately maintained equilibrium. Her gifts for character development, comic dialogue and vivid evocation of social milieu and specific background detail-from Cape Breton Island, Nova Scotia, to New York City in the 1920s-add texture to an entrancing narrative. Literary Guild and Doubleday Book Club alternate selections; author tour. (Apr.) FYI: MacDonald began this book as a play but finished it five years later as her first work of fiction. Fall on Your Knees was previously published in Canada, where it rose to the top of the bestseller lists. (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved
Book list From Booklist, Copyright © American Library Association. Used with permission. 9780684833200 A family pays the wages of lust in this memorable first novel, for it is most often lust that leads to unsuitable if not unholy couplings in the Piper family of Cape Breton Island, Nova Scotia, in the early part of this century. Eighteen-year-old piano tuner James Piper is so smitten with 12-year-old Materia Mahmoud that he entices her from her traditional Lebanese family to marry him. Before she's 14 the untutored Materia gives birth to Kathleen, the beautiful and gifted child whom she is unable to love but whom James takes to his heart. There are more daughters: Mercedes, the good girl who becomes the little mother; Other Lily, who dies unbaptized when one day old; Frances, the bad girl who becomes a bawdy entertainer and worse; and Kathleen's daughter, Lily, the saintly crippled girl who will learn the secrets and find resolution and redemption. Actress-playwright MacDonald is a talented storyteller with a crisp yet lilting prose style that captures equally well the atmospheres of World War I trenches and Harlem jazz clubs. --Michele Leber
Kirkus Copyright © Kirkus Reviews, used with permission. 9780684833200 From award-winning Canadian actress and playwright MacDonald comes a full-bodied, ever-rolling debut, the story of a talented Cape Breton family with more than its share of repression and tragedy. As the 19th century ends, young James Piper travels from the Breton hinterland to the civilized port of Sydney seeking his fortune, and in no time at all he acquires a child bride, a house built by his Lebanese father-in-law, and the everlasting enmity of his wife's powerful family. Although the ardor between James and his spouse soon cools, they now have a daughter, Kathleen, who seems destined for great things when her breathtaking voice and beauty begin to captivate all as she enters her teens. But another shadow falls on the family when James finds himself making improper advances to her. Appalled, he patches things up with his wife (two more daughters being the result), goes off to fight in WW I, and sends Kathleen to New York to study voice after he returns. All still isn't well, however, when she comes home pregnant six months later, then dies in childbirth when Mom slices her open to save her daughter's twins. One of them dies anyway, followed two days later by Mom, who commits suicide. James is left with three girls to raise, all of them scarred for life by the crisis: The newborn contracts polio when her aunt Frances, a child herself, tries to baptize her in a nearby creek; Frances is raped by James in his grief at losing Kathleen; the eldest, a witness to the rape, is also the one to find her mother's body. Such awful events, though quickly repressed, bode no good for the family, and ultimately tragedy overtakes them all. A plate piled dangerously high with calamities, perhaps, but the time, place, and people- -especially the children--all ring clear and true, making for an accomplished, considerably affecting saga.
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  Book Jacket
 
2001
A Fine Balance
Book Jacket   Rohinton Mistry
Kirkus Copyright © Kirkus Reviews, used with permission. 9780679446088 From the Toronto-based Mistry (Such a Long Journey, 1991), a splendid tale of contemporary India that, in chronicling the sufferings of outcasts and innocents trying to survive in the ``State of Internal Emergency'' of the 1970s, grapples with the great question of how to live in the face of death and despair. Though Mistry is too fine a writer to indulge in polemics, this second novel is also a quietly passionate indictment of a corrupt and ineluctably cruel society. India under Indira Gandhi has become a country ruled by thugs who maim and kill for money and power. The four protagonists (all victims of the times) are: Dina, 40-ish, poor and widowed after only three years of marriage; Maneck, the son of an old school friend of Dina's; and two tailors, Ishvar and his nephew Om, members of the Untouchable caste. For a few months, this unlikely quartet share a tranquil happiness in a nameless city--a city of squalid streets teeming with beggars, where politicians, in the name of progress, abuse the poor and the powerless. Dina, whose dreams of attending college ended when her father died, is now trying to support herself with seamstress work; Maneck, a tenderhearted boy, has been sent to college because the family business is failing; and the two tailors find work with Dina. Though the four survive encounters with various thugs and are saved from disaster by a quirky character known as the Beggarmaster, the times are not propitious for happiness. On a visit back home, Om and Ishvar are forcibly sterilized; Maneck, devastated by the murder of an activist classmate, goes abroad. But Dina and the tailors, who have learned ``to maintain a fine balance between hope and despair,'' keep going. A sweeping story, in a thoroughly Indian setting, that combines Dickens's vivid sympathy for the poor with Solzhenitsyn's controlled outrage, celebrating both the resilience of the human spirit and the searing heartbreak of failed dreams.
Publishers Weekly (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved 9780679446088 The setting of Mistry's quietly magnificent second novel (after the acclaimed Such a Long Journey) is India in 1975-76, when Prime Minister Indira Gandhi, defying a court order calling for her resignation, declares a state of emergency and imprisons the parliamentary opposition as well as thousands of students, teachers, trade unionists and journalists. These events, along with the government's forced sterilization campaign, serve as backdrop for an intricate tale of four ordinary people struggling to survive. Naïve college student Maneck Kohlah, whose parents' general store is failing, rents a room in the house of Dina Dalal, a 40-ish widowed seamstress. Dina acquires two additional boarders: hapless but enterprising itinerant tailor Ishvar Darji and his nephew Omprakash, whose father, a village untouchable, was murdered as punishment for crossing caste boundaries. With great empathy and wit, the Bombay-born, Toronto-based Mistry evokes the daily heroism of India's working poor, who must cope with corruption, social anarchy and bureaucratic absurdities. Though the sprawling, chatty narrative risks becoming as unwieldy as the lives it so vibrantly depicts, Mistry combines an openness to India's infinite sensory detail with a Dickensian rendering of the effects of poverty, caste, envy, superstition,corruption and bigotry. His vast, wonderfully precise canvas poses, but cannot answer, the riddle of how to transform a corrupt, ailing society into a healthy one. (Apr.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved
Library Journal (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted. 9780679446088 In mid-1970s urban India-a chaos of wretchedness on the streets and slogans in the offices-a chain of circumstances tosses four varied individuals together in one small flat. Stubbornly independent Dina, widowed early, takes in Maneck, the college-aged son of a more prosperous childhood friend and, more reluctantly, Ishvar and Om, uncle and nephew tailors fleeing low-caste origins and astonishing hardships. The reader first learns the characters' separate, compelling histories of brief joys and abiding sorrows, then watches as barriers of class, suspicion, and politeness are gradually dissolved. Even more affecting than Mistry's depictions of squalor and grotesque injustice is his study of friendships emerging unexpectedly, naturally. The novel's coda is cruel and heart-wrenching but deeply honest. This unforgettable book from the author of Such a Long Journey (LJ 4/15/91) is highly recommended.-Janet Ingraham, Worthington P.L., Ohio (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.
Choice Copyright American Library Association, used with permission. 9780679446088 A worthy successor to Mistry's award-winning Such a Long Journey, this wonderful, baggy, Dickensian narrative follows the fortunes of an independent widow, a college student, and two impoverished tailors who share a crowded apartment. The novel includes a large cast of memorable characters, whose stories range from brutal caste struggles in small villages to homelessness in flimsy shacks surrounding the sprawling city teeming with pavement dwellers, beggars, rent collectors, con men, and corrupt police. The novel's world is often cruel and unfeeling, but the characters struggle on, trying to achieve lives of dignity and meaning. Valmik (proofreader and sometime flack for a bogus guru) provides the novel's title: "The secret of life was to balance hope and despair." The Vishram Vegetarian Hotel cook tells the tailors, "You fellows are amazing.... Each time you come here you have a new adventure story." "It's not us; it's this city," replies the tailor, "a story factory, that's what it is, a spinning mill." Mistry's humorous and compassionate tangle of tales and characters is a story factory, too. And we listen spellbound to a master story spinner at work. D. R. Stoddard Anne Arundel Community College
Kirkus Copyright © Kirkus Reviews, used with permission. 9780679446088 From the Toronto-based Mistry (Such a Long Journey, 1991), a splendid tale of contemporary India that, in chronicling the sufferings of outcasts and innocents trying to survive in the ``State of Internal Emergency'' of the 1970s, grapples with the great question of how to live in the face of death and despair. Though Mistry is too fine a writer to indulge in polemics, this second novel is also a quietly passionate indictment of a corrupt and ineluctably cruel society. India under Indira Gandhi has become a country ruled by thugs who maim and kill for money and power. The four protagonists (all victims of the times) are: Dina, 40-ish, poor and widowed after only three years of marriage; Maneck, the son of an old school friend of Dina's; and two tailors, Ishvar and his nephew Om, members of the Untouchable caste. For a few months, this unlikely quartet share a tranquil happiness in a nameless city--a city of squalid streets teeming with beggars, where politicians, in the name of progress, abuse the poor and the powerless. Dina, whose dreams of attending college ended when her father died, is now trying to support herself with seamstress work; Maneck, a tenderhearted boy, has been sent to college because the family business is failing; and the two tailors find work with Dina. Though the four survive encounters with various thugs and are saved from disaster by a quirky character known as the Beggarmaster, the times are not propitious for happiness. On a visit back home, Om and Ishvar are forcibly sterilized; Maneck, devastated by the murder of an activist classmate, goes abroad. But Dina and the tailors, who have learned ``to maintain a fine balance between hope and despair,'' keep going. A sweeping story, in a thoroughly Indian setting, that combines Dickens's vivid sympathy for the poor with Solzhenitsyn's controlled outrage, celebrating both the resilience of the human spirit and the searing heartbreak of failed dreams.
Publishers Weekly (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved 9780679446088 The setting of Mistry's quietly magnificent second novel (after the acclaimed Such a Long Journey) is India in 1975-76, when Prime Minister Indira Gandhi, defying a court order calling for her resignation, declares a state of emergency and imprisons the parliamentary opposition as well as thousands of students, teachers, trade unionists and journalists. These events, along with the government's forced sterilization campaign, serve as backdrop for an intricate tale of four ordinary people struggling to survive. Naïve college student Maneck Kohlah, whose parents' general store is failing, rents a room in the house of Dina Dalal, a 40-ish widowed seamstress. Dina acquires two additional boarders: hapless but enterprising itinerant tailor Ishvar Darji and his nephew Omprakash, whose father, a village untouchable, was murdered as punishment for crossing caste boundaries. With great empathy and wit, the Bombay-born, Toronto-based Mistry evokes the daily heroism of India's working poor, who must cope with corruption, social anarchy and bureaucratic absurdities. Though the sprawling, chatty narrative risks becoming as unwieldy as the lives it so vibrantly depicts, Mistry combines an openness to India's infinite sensory detail with a Dickensian rendering of the effects of poverty, caste, envy, superstition,corruption and bigotry. His vast, wonderfully precise canvas poses, but cannot answer, the riddle of how to transform a corrupt, ailing society into a healthy one. (Apr.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved
Library Journal (c) Copyright Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted. 9780679446088 In mid-1970s urban India-a chaos of wretchedness on the streets and slogans in the offices-a chain of circumstances tosses four varied individuals together in one small flat. Stubbornly independent Dina, widowed early, takes in Maneck, the college-aged son of a more prosperous childhood friend and, more reluctantly, Ishvar and Om, uncle and nephew tailors fleeing low-caste origins and astonishing hardships. The reader first learns the characters' separate, compelling histories of brief joys and abiding sorrows, then watches as barriers of class, suspicion, and politeness are gradually dissolved. Even more affecting than Mistry's depictions of squalor and grotesque injustice is his study of friendships emerging unexpectedly, naturally. The novel's coda is cruel and heart-wrenching but deeply honest. This unforgettable book from the author of Such a Long Journey (LJ 4/15/91) is highly recommended.-Janet Ingraham, Worthington P.L., Ohio (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.
Choice Copyright American Library Association, used with permission. 9780679446088 A worthy successor to Mistry's award-winning Such a Long Journey, this wonderful, baggy, Dickensian narrative follows the fortunes of an independent widow, a college student, and two impoverished tailors who share a crowded apartment. The novel includes a large cast of memorable characters, whose stories range from brutal caste struggles in small villages to homelessness in flimsy shacks surrounding the sprawling city teeming with pavement dwellers, beggars, rent collectors, con men, and corrupt police. The novel's world is often cruel and unfeeling, but the characters struggle on, trying to achieve lives of dignity and meaning. Valmik (proofreader and sometime flack for a bogus guru) provides the novel's title: "The secret of life was to balance hope and despair." The Vishram Vegetarian Hotel cook tells the tailors, "You fellows are amazing.... Each time you come here you have a new adventure story." "It's not us; it's this city," replies the tailor, "a story factory, that's what it is, a spinning mill." Mistry's humorous and compassionate tangle of tales and characters is a story factory, too. And we listen spellbound to a master story spinner at work. D. R. Stoddard Anne Arundel Community College
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2001
The Corrections
Book Jacket   Jonathan Franzen
Kirkus Copyright © Kirkus Reviews, used with permission. 9780374129989 The recent brouhaha about the death of realistic fiction may well be put to rest by Franzen's stunning third novel: a symphonic exploration of family dynamics and social conflict and change that leaps light-years beyond its critically praised predecessors The Twenty-Seventh City (1998) and Strong Motion (1992). The story's set in the Midwest, New York City, and Philadelphia, and focused on the tortured interrelationships of the five adult Lamberts. Patriarch Alfred, a retired railroad engineer, drifts in and out of hallucinatory lapses inflicted by Parkinson's, while stubbornly clinging to passe conservative ideals. His wife Enid, a compulsive peacemaker with just a hint of Edith Bunker in her frazzled "niceness," nervously subverts Alfred's stoicism, while lobbying for "one last Christmas" gathering of her scattered family at their home in the placid haven of St. Jude. Eldest son Gary, a Philadelphia banker, is an unhappily married "materialist"; sister Denise is a rapidly aging thirtysomething chef rebounding from a bad marriage and unresolvable relationships with male and female lovers; and younger son Chip-the most abrasively vivid figure here-is an unemployable former teacher and failed writer whose misadventures in Lithuania, where he's been impulsively hired "to produce a profit-making website" for a financially moribund nation, slyly counterpoint the spectacle back home of an American family, and culture, falling steadily apart. Franzen analyzes these five characters in astonishingly convincing depth, juxtaposing their personal crises and failures against the siren songs of such "corrections" as the useless therapy treatment (based on his own patented invention) that Alfred undergoes, the "uppers" Enid gets from a heartless Doctor Feelgood during a (wonderfully depicted) vacation cruise, and the various panaceas and hustles doled out by the consumer culture Alfred rails against ("Oh, the myths, the childish optimism of the fix"), but is increasingly powerless to oppose. A wide-angled view of contemporary America and its discontents that deserves comparison with Dos Passos's U.S.A., if not with Tolstoy. One of the most impressive American novels of recent years.
Library Journal (c) Copyright Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted. 9780374129989 In this novel of breathtaking virtuosity, Franzen, whose debut, The Twenty-Seventh City, chronicled corruption and decline in St. Louis, MO, presents the dysfunctional Lambert family. Enid Lambert's husband, Al, a retired engineer, is going downhill fasthis Parkinson's disease is so bad that he has trouble sitting in a chair. The rest of the family isn't doing much better. The oldest son, Gary, a banker, is depressed and suicidal; Chip has just been fired from his teaching job; and Denise, a superstar chef at a trendy Philadelphia restaurant, is sexually involved with both her boss and his wife. The family is experiencing a series of lifestyle corrections analogous to sudden downturns in the stock market, and Enid tries to rebound by hosting an old-fashioned Christmas at their Midwestern home. From this soap opera premise, Franzen constructs a brilliant novel of ideas that compares the emerging postmodern America (East Coast) to the quickly disappearing traditional America (Midwest), with digressions on railroad history, pharmacology, post-glasnost politics, culinary trends, celebrity culture, and Wall Street. Wisely, Franzen pitches the book not as a polemic but as a farce, and the result is laugh-out-loud funny. Best of all, everything neatly dovetails, so that each digression seems immediately relevant to the main story. Recommended for all fiction collections. [Previewed in Prepub Alert, LJ 5/15/01.]Edward B. St. John, Loyola Law Sch. Lib., Los Angeles (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.
Library Journal (c) Copyright Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted. As her husband's health deteriorates, Enid faces the disappointments in her life including her three grown children.(c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.
Publishers Weekly (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved If some authors are masters of suspense, others postmodern verbal acrobats, and still others complex-character pointillists, few excel in all three arenas. In his long-awaited third novel, Franzen does. Unlike his previous works, The 27th City (1988) and Strong Motion (1992), which tackled St. Louis and Boston, respectively, this one skips from city to city (New York; St. Jude; Philadelphia; Vilnius, Lithuania) as it follows the delamination of the Lambert family Alfred, once a rigid disciplinarian, flounders against Parkinson's-induced dementia; Enid, his loyal and embittered wife, lusts for the perfect Midwestern Christmas; Denise, their daughter, launches the hippest restaurant in Philly; and Gary, their oldest son, grapples with depression, while Chip, his brother, attempts to shore his eroding self-confidence by joining forces with a self-mocking, Eastern-Bloc politician. As in his other novels, Franzen blends these personal dramas with expert technical cartwheels and savage commentary on larger social issues, such as the imbecility of laissez-faire parenting and the farcical nature of U.S.-Third World relations. The result is a book made of equal parts fury and humor, one that takes a dry-eyed look at our culture, at our pains and insecurities, while offering hope that, occasionally at least, we can reach some kind of understanding. This is, simply, a masterpiece. Agent, Susan Golomb. (Sept.)Forecast: Franzen has always been a writer's writer and his previous novels have earned critical admiration, but his sales haven't yet reached the level of, say, Don DeLillo at his hottest. Still, if the ancillary rights sales and the buzz at BEA are any indication, The Corrections should be his breakout book. Its varied subject matter will endear it to a genre-crossing section of fans (both David Foster Wallace and Michael Cunningham contributed rave blurbs) and FSG's publicity campaign will guarantee plenty of press. QPB main, BOMC alternate. Foreign rights sold in the U.K., Denmark, Holland, Italy, Norway, Portugal, Sweden and Spain. Nine-city author tour.(c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved
Library Journal (c) Copyright Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted. 9780374129989 As her husband's health deteriorates, Enid faces the disappointments in her life including her three grown children. (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.
Book list From Booklist, Copyright © American Library Association. Used with permission. 9780374129989 Ferociously detailed, gratifyingly mind-expanding, and daringly complex and unhurried, New Yorker writer Franzen's third and best-yet novel aligns the spectacular dysfunctions of one Midwest family with the explosive malfunctions of society-at-large. Alfred's simple values were in perfect accord with the iron orderliness of the railroad he so zealously served, but he is now discovering the miseries and entropy of Parkinson's disease. His wife, Enid, who has filled every cupboard and closet in their seemingly perfect house with riotous clutter in an unconscious response to her hunger for deeper experience, refuses to accept the severity of Alfred's affliction. Gary, the most uptight and bossiest of their unmoored adult offspring, is so undermined by his ruthlessly strategic wife that he barely avoids a nervous breakdown. Chip loses a plum academic job after being seduced and betrayed by a student, then nearly loses his life in Lithuania after perpetuating some profoundly cynical Internet fraud. And Denise detonates her career as a trendy chef by having an affair with her boss' wife. Heir in scope and spirit to the great nineteenth-century novelists, Franzen is also kin to Stanley Elkin with his caustic humor, satiric imagination, and free-flowing empathy as he mocks the absurdity and brutality of consumer culture. At once miniaturistic and panoramic, Franzen's prodigious comedic saga renders family life on an epic scale and captures the decadence of the dot-com era. Each cleverly choreographed fiasco stands as a correction to the delusions that precipitated it, and each step back from the brink of catastrophe becomes a move toward hope, integrity, and love. Donna Seaman
Publishers Weekly (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved 9780374129989 If some authors are masters of suspense, others postmodern verbal acrobats, and still others complex-character pointillists, few excel in all three arenas. In his long-awaited third novel, Franzen does. Unlike his previous works, The 27th City (1988) and Strong Motion (1992), which tackled St. Louis and Boston, respectively, this one skips from city to city (New York; St. Jude; Philadelphia; Vilnius, Lithuania) as it follows the delamination of the Lambert family Alfred, once a rigid disciplinarian, flounders against Parkinson's-induced dementia; Enid, his loyal and embittered wife, lusts for the perfect Midwestern Christmas; Denise, their daughter, launches the hippest restaurant in Philly; and Gary, their oldest son, grapples with depression, while Chip, his brother, attempts to shore his eroding self-confidence by joining forces with a self-mocking, Eastern-Bloc politician. As in his other novels, Franzen blends these personal dramas with expert technical cartwheels and savage commentary on larger social issues, such as the imbecility of laissez-faire parenting and the farcical nature of U.S.-Third World relations. The result is a book made of equal parts fury and humor, one that takes a dry-eyed look at our culture, at our pains and insecurities, while offering hope that, occasionally at least, we can reach some kind of understanding. This is, simply, a masterpiece. Agent, Susan Golomb. (Sept.) Forecast: Franzen has always been a writer's writer and his previous novels have earned critical admiration, but his sales haven't yet reached the level of, say, Don DeLillo at his hottest. Still, if the ancillary rights sales and the buzz at BEA are any indication, The Corrections should be his breakout book. Its varied subject matter will endear it to a genre-crossing section of fans (both David Foster Wallace and Michael Cunningham contributed rave blurbs) and FSG's publicity campaign will guarantee plenty of press. QPB main, BOMC alternate. Foreign rights sold in the U.K., Denmark, Holland, Italy, Norway, Portugal, Sweden and Spain. Nine-city author tour. (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved
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2001
Cane River
 Lalita Tademy
Book list From Booklist, Copyright © American Library Association. Used with permission. 9780446527323 Tademy halted a career as a high-powered technology executive to research her family's history. Her findings--four generations of strong-willed black women who survived slavery and racial injustices, maintained strong family ties, and left a legacy of faith and accomplishment--are transformed here into a powerful historical novel. The tale is told from the perspectives of Suzette, Philomene, and Emily, all born and raised in a small farming community in Louisiana. Suzette was raped by one of her master's relatives, and this set a pattern of race-mixing for her descendants. Philomene, Suzette's daughter, is desired by a powerful white man, Narcisse, and, after her slave husband is sold away and she loses her children, succumbs to his attentions. But she uses her sexual allure and a gift for premonition to secure protection and, after slavery ends, land and education for her family. Philomene's fierce determination reconstitutes the family on land she has secured from Narcisse. She is also determined that her daughter, Emily, will have every possible advantage, including, eventually, a wealthy white protector. Throughout three generations, however, none of the women escapes the social conventions forbidding interracial marriages; each is abandoned or driven away when her white protector wants to produce legal progeny. The incidental, progressive whitening of the family ends when Emily's son, T. O., marries a dark-skinned woman and reclaims his racial identity, inaugurating the line from which Tademy comes. Including old photographs and documents verifying the reality that underlies it, this fascinating account of American slavery and race-mixing should enthrall readers who love historical fiction. --Vanessa Bush
Kirkus Copyright © Kirkus Reviews, used with permission. 9780446527323 An accomplished first novel weaves fragments of real-life family lore into a vivid tale of four generations of African-American women struggling to hold their families together, first as slaves, then as freed people subject to Jim Crow laws and white vigilantism. The story opens in 1834, on a plantation on the Cane River in Louisiana, as Suzette turns nine. She's a house slave who often works in the kitchen with her mother Elisabeth, the cook and family matriarch whose love and wisdom will sustain them all in the years ahead. Though born in Virginia, where she had two sons by her white master, Elisabeth had to leave them when she was sold to the present French family, the Derbannes. It's a time when color divides both blacks and whites. Light-skinned freed slaves despise their darker enslaved kin, and white plantation owners sell their children by slave women when they need money. Elisabeth has high hopes for Suzette until her daughter is raped by visiting Eugene Daurat and bears him two children, Gerant and Philomene. As the plantation fails and the family scatters, the story turns to Philomene, who recalls how she became the mistress of white planter Narcisse Fredieu, a man who adores their beautiful daughter Emily. But although Narcisse gives Philomene land when slavery ends, prejudice and custom still prevail, as Emily learns when she falls in love with Frenchman Joseph Billes. Joseph, a rich farmer who marries a white woman when the locals threaten to ostracize him, tries to provide for Emily and their children?until a theft and murder intervene. Tademy's people are distinctive personalities, enough so to compensate for the slackening of narrative energy as the story moves into the 1930s. The result is a richly textured family saga that resonates with intelligence and empathy. $250,000 ad/promo; author tour
Library Journal (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted. 9780446527323 First novelist Tademy turns fact (the story of her antebellum Southern family) into fiction. (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.
Publishers Weekly (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved 9780446527323 Five generations and a hundred years in the life of a matriarchal black Louisiana family are encapsulated in this ambitious debut novel that is based in part upon the lives, as preserved in both historical record and oral tradition, of the author's ancestors. In 1834, nine-year-old Suzette, the "cocoa-colored" house servant of a Creole planter family, has aspirations to read, to live always in a "big house" and maybe even to marry into the relatively privileged world of the gens de couleur libre. Her plans are dashed, however, when at age 13 a French migr takes her as his mistress. Her "high yellow" daughter Philomene, in turn, is maneuvered into becoming the mother of Creole planter Narcisse Fredieu's "side family." After the Civil War, Philomene pins her hopes for a better future on her light-skinned daughter, Emily Fredieu, who is given a year of convent schooling in New Orleans. But Emily must struggle constantly to protect her children by her father's French cousin from terrorist "Night Riders" and racist laws. Tademy is candid about her ancestors' temptations to "pass," as their complexions lighten from the color of "coffee, to cocoa, to cream to milk, to lily." While she fully imagines their lives, she doesn't pander to the reader by introducing melodrama or sex. Her frank observations about black racism add depth to the tale, and she demonstrates that although the practice of slavery fell most harshly upon blacks, and especially women, it also constricted the lives and choices of white men. Photos of and documents relating to Tademy's ancestors add authenticity to a fascinating story. (Apr.) Forecasts: The success in recent years of similarly conceived nonfiction, like Edward Ball's Slaves in the Family, proves readers can't get enough of racially themed family history. Tademy, who left a high-level corporate job to research her family's story, should draw larger-than-average audiences for readings in 11 cities. (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved
Publishers Weekly (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved 9781586210625 Like the river of its title, Tademy's saga of strong-willed black women flows from one generation to the next, from slavery to freedom. Elisabeth is a slave on a Creole plantation, as is her daughter, Suzette. The family, based on Tademy's own ancestors, wins freedom after the Civil War, but Suzette's daughter, Philomene, must struggle to keep her family together and to achieve financial independence. The melodious, expressive voices of narrators Belafonte and Payton are a pleasure to listen to, while Moore's tougher, grittier tone conveys the hardships faced by the family. However, Belafonte and Payton sometimes ignore vocal directions provided by the novel. For example, Payton reads one passage in a whisper even though the text says "in her excitement, Philomene's voice rose... louder and louder." The complex, multigenerational tale suffers somewhat in abridgment: at times the narrative too abruptly jumps ahead by decades and some emotional situations are given short shrift, as when Philomene discovers that her daughter Bette, whom she was told died as a baby nearly 20 years earlier, is actually alive and living nearby. Still, the audio succeeds in evoking the struggles of black women to provide better lives for their children despite all odds. Simultaneous release with the Warner hardcover (Forecasts, Mar. 12). (Apr.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved
Book list From Booklist, Copyright © American Library Association. Used with permission. 9780446527323 Tademy halted a career as a high-powered technology executive to research her family's history. Her findings--four generations of strong-willed black women who survived slavery and racial injustices, maintained strong family ties, and left a legacy of faith and accomplishment--are transformed here into a powerful historical novel. The tale is told from the perspectives of Suzette, Philomene, and Emily, all born and raised in a small farming community in Louisiana. Suzette was raped by one of her master's relatives, and this set a pattern of race-mixing for her descendants. Philomene, Suzette's daughter, is desired by a powerful white man, Narcisse, and, after her slave husband is sold away and she loses her children, succumbs to his attentions. But she uses her sexual allure and a gift for premonition to secure protection and, after slavery ends, land and education for her family. Philomene's fierce determination reconstitutes the family on land she has secured from Narcisse. She is also determined that her daughter, Emily, will have every possible advantage, including, eventually, a wealthy white protector. Throughout three generations, however, none of the women escapes the social conventions forbidding interracial marriages; each is abandoned or driven away when her white protector wants to produce legal progeny. The incidental, progressive whitening of the family ends when Emily's son, T. O., marries a dark-skinned woman and reclaims his racial identity, inaugurating the line from which Tademy comes. Including old photographs and documents verifying the reality that underlies it, this fascinating account of American slavery and race-mixing should enthrall readers who love historical fiction. --Vanessa Bush
Kirkus Copyright © Kirkus Reviews, used with permission. 9780446527323 An accomplished first novel weaves fragments of real-life family lore into a vivid tale of four generations of African-American women struggling to hold their families together, first as slaves, then as freed people subject to Jim Crow laws and white vigilantism. The story opens in 1834, on a plantation on the Cane River in Louisiana, as Suzette turns nine. She's a house slave who often works in the kitchen with her mother Elisabeth, the cook and family matriarch whose love and wisdom will sustain them all in the years ahead. Though born in Virginia, where she had two sons by her white master, Elisabeth had to leave them when she was sold to the present French family, the Derbannes. It's a time when color divides both blacks and whites. Light-skinned freed slaves despise their darker enslaved kin, and white plantation owners sell their children by slave women when they need money. Elisabeth has high hopes for Suzette until her daughter is raped by visiting Eugene Daurat and bears him two children, Gerant and Philomene. As the plantation fails and the family scatters, the story turns to Philomene, who recalls how she became the mistress of white planter Narcisse Fredieu, a man who adores their beautiful daughter Emily. But although Narcisse gives Philomene land when slavery ends, prejudice and custom still prevail, as Emily learns when she falls in love with Frenchman Joseph Billes. Joseph, a rich farmer who marries a white woman when the locals threaten to ostracize him, tries to provide for Emily and their children?until a theft and murder intervene. Tademy's people are distinctive personalities, enough so to compensate for the slackening of narrative energy as the story moves into the 1930s. The result is a richly textured family saga that resonates with intelligence and empathy. $250,000 ad/promo; author tour
Library Journal (c) Copyright Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted. 9780446527323 First novelist Tademy turns fact (the story of her antebellum Southern family) into fiction. (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.
Publishers Weekly (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved 9780446527323 Five generations and a hundred years in the life of a matriarchal black Louisiana family are encapsulated in this ambitious debut novel that is based in part upon the lives, as preserved in both historical record and oral tradition, of the author's ancestors. In 1834, nine-year-old Suzette, the "cocoa-colored" house servant of a Creole planter family, has aspirations to read, to live always in a "big house" and maybe even to marry into the relatively privileged world of the gens de couleur libre. Her plans are dashed, however, when at age 13 a French migr takes her as his mistress. Her "high yellow" daughter Philomene, in turn, is maneuvered into becoming the mother of Creole planter Narcisse Fredieu's "side family." After the Civil War, Philomene pins her hopes for a better future on her light-skinned daughter, Emily Fredieu, who is given a year of convent schooling in New Orleans. But Emily must struggle constantly to protect her children by her father's French cousin from terrorist "Night Riders" and racist laws. Tademy is candid about her ancestors' temptations to "pass," as their complexions lighten from the color of "coffee, to cocoa, to cream to milk, to lily." While she fully imagines their lives, she doesn't pander to the reader by introducing melodrama or sex. Her frank observations about black racism add depth to the tale, and she demonstrates that although the practice of slavery fell most harshly upon blacks, and especially women, it also constricted the lives and choices of white men. Photos of and documents relating to Tademy's ancestors add authenticity to a fascinating story. (Apr.) Forecasts: The success in recent years of similarly conceived nonfiction, like Edward Ball's Slaves in the Family, proves readers can't get enough of racially themed family history. Tademy, who left a high-level corporate job to research her family's story, should draw larger-than-average audiences for readings in 11 cities. (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved
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  Book Jacket
2001
Stolen Lives: Twenty Years in a Desert Jail
 Malika Oufkir
Publishers Weekly (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved 9780786867325 While accounts of the unjust arrest and torture of political prisoners are by now common, we expect such victims to come with a just cause. Here, Oufkir tells of the 20-year imprisonment of her upper-class Moroccan family following a 1972 coup attempt against King Hassan II by her father, a close military aide. After her father's execution, Oufkir, her mother and five siblings were carted off to a series of desert barracks, along with their books, toys and French designer clothes in the family's Vuitton luggage. At their first posting, they complained that they were short on butter and sweets. Over the years, subsequent placements brought isolation cells and inadequate, vermin-infested rations. Finally, starving and suicidal, the innocents realized they had been left to die. They dug a tunnel and escaped. Recapture led to another five years of various forms of imprisonment before the family was finally granted freedom. Oufkir's experience does not fit easily into current perceptions of political prisoners victimized for their beliefs or actions. In fact, she was the adopted daughter of King Muhammad V, Hassan II's father, sent by her parents at age five to be raised in the court with the king's daughter as her companion and equal. Beyond horrifying images such as mice nibbling at a rich girl's face, this erstwhile princess's memoir will fascinate readers with its singular tale of two kindly fathers, political struggles in a strict monarchy and a family's survival of cruel, prolonged deprivation. (Apr.) Forecast: A bestseller in France, where Morocco is always a hot issue, this oddly gripping book should also do well here thanks to Oufkir's appearance soon on 60 Minutes and a five-city tour. Film adaptation is a distinct possibility, especially given the book's publisher. (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved
Library Journal (c) Copyright Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted. 9780786867325 Oufkir, the child of a general, was adopted at the age of five by King Mohammed and brought up as a companion to his daughter. Eleven years later, she returned home to a three-year adolescence of wealth and privilege, where she consorted with movie stars and royalty. In 1961, Hassin II succeeded his father as king, and Oufkir's father was executed after staging a coup against the new regime. For the next 15 years, Oufkir, her mother, and her five siblings were confined to a desert prison and subjected to inhuman conditions. Oufkir's description of their day-to-day survival during these years is the heart of the book. The family finally escaped by digging a tunnel, were recaptured, and today live in Paris, where Oufkir eventually found love and marriage with a French architect. A best seller in France, this riveting story will find an audience here, but just how much of an audience is yet to be determined. Recommended for all general collections. Frances Sandiford, Green Haven Correctional Facility Lib., Stormville, NY (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.
Book list From Booklist, Copyright © American Library Association. Used with permission. 9780786867325 The ways that people hurt one another are always hard to fathom, and why they do so is another mystery. It is true that General Oufkir probably led the 1972 attempted coup and assassination of King Hassan of Morocco. However, Oufkir's wife and children, including Malika, found out about it only after his execution. Still, guilt by association condemned them, without a trial, to more than 20 years of imprisonment, including more than a decade of near starvation and torture. What makes all this harder to understand is that Malika had been adopted by then king Mohammed when she was five. As the primary playmate of the king's beloved daughter, she was surrounded by luxury and treated as royalty. After the coup attempt, Malika and other members of her family were exiled to an abandoned fort in the countryside. Within four years they were moved to the Bir-Jdid prison, where their worst torment began. They would not see one another or sunlight for more than a decade. The physical toll of years of this treatment was bad enough, but the emotional toll was far more devastating. By the time they dug their way to freedom in 1987, they were emaciated skeletons. However, even then it would be another nine years before they were totally free. The question of why it happened is never really answered, but this is an extremely effective and graphic picture of what evil is like from the vantage point of its most innocent victims. --Marlene Chamberlain
Publishers Weekly (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved 9780786871049 Brychta's suave and subtle Arabic lilt perfectly capture this first-person narration of a Moroccan family's harsh exile as punishment for the transgressions of its patriarch. After enjoying a fairy tale upbringing as the adopted daughter of King Muhammad V in his palace, Oufkir, along with her mother and siblings, was imprisoned in a succession of desert jails after her father engineered a failed coup against the king's heir, King Hassan II, in 1972. The Oufkirs were forced to endure 20 years of solitude, infested prison cells and the ever-worsening depravity of their captors. Oufkir worked with Fitoussi to produce a crisp memoir that bristles with imagery, perhaps owing to Oufkir's continual storytelling in jail to try to keep her family's misery temporarily at bay. The production is gracefully laced with haunting Middle Eastern airs, which, in conjunction with Brychta's voice, render a truly otherworldly feel. A central tension here is in the currency of a story that seems possible only in an age long gone. A chronicle of endurance and the aftereffects of a grim ordeal, this engaging recording inspires as just as much indignation as it does admiration. Based on the Talk Miramax hardcover (Forecasts, Jan. 29). (July) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved
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  Book Jacket
 
2001
Icy Sparks
Book Jacket   Gwyn Hyman Rubio
Publishers Weekly (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved 9780670873111 The diagnosis of Tourette's Syndrome isn't mentioned until the last pages of Rubio's sensitive portrayal of a young girl with the disease. Instead, Rubio lets Icy Sparks tell her own story of growing up during the 1950s in a small Kentucky town where her uncontrollable outbursts make her an object of fright and scorn. "The Saturday after my [10th] birthday, the eye blinking and poppings began.... I could feel little invisible rubber bands fastened to my eyelids, pulled tight through my brain and attached to the back of my head," says Icy, who thinks of herself as the "frog child from Icy Creek." Orphaned and cared for by her loving grandparents, Icy weathers the taunts of a mean schoolteacher and, later, a crush on a boy that ends in disappointment. But she also finds real friendship with the enormously fat Miss Emily, who offers kindness and camaraderie. Rubio captures Icy's feelings of isolation and brings poignancy and drama to Icy's childhood experiences, to her temporary confinement in a mental institution and to her reluctant introduction?thanks to Miss Emily and Icy's grandmother?to the Pentecostal church through which she discovers her singing talent. If Rubio sometimes loses track of Icy's voice, indulges in unconvincing magical realism and takes unearned poetic license with the speech of her Appalachian grandparents ("`Your skin was as cold as fresh springwater, slippery and strangely soothing to touch'"), her first novel is remarkable for its often funny portrayal of a child's fears, loves and struggles with an affliction she doesn't know isn't her fault. Agent, Susan Golomb; editor, Jane von Mehren. (Aug.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved
Library Journal (c) Copyright Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted. 9780670873111 Kentucky writer Rubio's big-hearted first novel features Icy Sparks, a brave and lovable child with Tourette Syndrome. Her involuntary twitches, eye poppings, and repetitions isolate her from the life of her Appalachian community. She is hospitalized for several months and finally receives the correct diagnosis, and under the care of a kindly doctor she learns techniques to reduce the severity of her symptoms. Her loving grandparents and the friendship of the hugely fat Miss Emily, also isolated by her difference, sustain her for five years. During those years Miss Emily teaches her what she will need to know for college. By the end of those years Icy has learned to manage her disability and has used her pain and loneliness to grow into a wonderful young woman. In refusing defeat, she wins the love and respect of the reader. For all collections where there are tender hearts.?Judith Kicinski, Sarah Lawrence Coll. Lib., Bronxville, NY (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.
Library Journal (c) Copyright Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted. 9781565115125 This enthralling story takes us into the heart and mind of little Icy Sparks, where we learn firsthand what it is like to grow up with a serious disability. Raised in backwoods Kentucky by her maternal grandparents, Matanni and Patanni, Icy would have had a hard enough life even without the onset of Tourette's syndrome at the age of ten. The violent spasms, croaks, and popping eyes earn her the nickname "frog child," and we see how her childhood is marred by the humiliation of the illness. After an extremely bad episode, Icy is committed to a state hospital, where an attempt at diagnosis fails and a period of overmedication renders her senseless. It is not until college that the correct diagnosis is made, and Icy can reach true understanding. Her journey from childhood to adulthood, with all of its obstacles, is inspiring and truly touches the heart. This tale, read by Kate Miller, engenders love and empathy for the disabled, as it illustrates that while outwardly they may appear to be different, inside they are the same as everyone else. Highly recommended for all school and public libraries. Marjorie Lemon, SRCF-Mercer, PA (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.
Kirkus Copyright © Kirkus Reviews, used with permission. 9780670873111 An overwritten, underdeveloped story celebrating Appalachia and a young woman who suffers from Tourette's syndrome. Kentucky's backwoodsy mountains are the setting for this chronicle of a girl who, as an infant, was called ?Icy? by her dying mother because she was as ``cold as the bottom of Icy creek.'' Here in the hollows, where coal is still mined, country ways prevail: people are mostly kind, but ignorance and fear can also make them behave cruelly. Descriptions (of them and the countryside) augment the rather thin tale of Icy, for the most part a sequence of vivid and brutal set-pieces: the girl?s encounter with a sadistic fourth-grade teacher; her spell in the state asylum; her first and failed romance at 13. Icy also does a lot of walking around the hollows and visiting with her family and few good friends. Lovingly raised by her grandparents, and befriended by the overweight Miss Emily, who encourages Icy to dream of college and a different life, she first experiences alarming symptoms at age ten. When stressed, she begins croaking like a frog, her eyes pop, and she helplessly lets loose a string of offensive epithets. But it?s the 1950s, and not even the kindly asylum?s doctor knows what's wrong. Once she?s home again, Icy (called ?Frog Child? by some), now shunned by her peers and feared by the locals, leads a lonely life studying the books provided by Miss Emily and a generous school principal. When her grandfather dies, her grandmother joins a church, and Icy, persuaded to come along, learns that her beautiful singing voice can be an asset to the choir. Eventually, this will win her the acceptance she's long yearned for. An epilogue details the diagnosis she receives at college, which finally vindicates her. Well intentioned, for sure, but Icy is too much the poster child for great success as fiction.
Book list From Booklist, Copyright © American Library Association. Used with permission. 9780670873111 Growing up in a small town in Kentucky, young Icy Sparks is set apart from her classmates by her weird mannerisms and strange noises. Not until she becomes an adult does Icy learn that her tics, croaks, and groans are all part of Tourette's syndrome, a neurological disease of which few people in the 1950s were aware. As a child, Icy suffers through taunts and mockery by her classmates. Even the adults closest to her--her loving grandparents who raise her, her school principal, and her despicable fourth-grade teacher--view her with alarm. Icy is sent to a children's asylum, where doctors try to discover the cause of her disease. While she is in the asylum, Icy begins to see beyond her own differences to the sufferings of others far worse off than she. Although many of the characters in this first novel are portrayed so simplisticly that they are either very good or unbelievably bad, this is a fast-moving and enjoyable narrative. A good choice for public libraries. --Nancy Pearl
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2001
We Were the Mulvaneys
Book Jacket   Joyce Carol Oates
Kirkus Copyright © Kirkus Reviews, used with permission. 9780525942238 This wrenching saga, set in the fictional upstate New York town of Mount Ephraim, is one of the protean Oates's most skillful dramatizations of family unhappiness: A big, involving novel on a par with such successes as Them (1969), Bellefleur (1980), and What I Lived For (1994). The story, from the 1950s through the 1980s, tells of roofing contractor Mike Mulvaney, his beautiful and tenderhearted wife Corinne, and their four children: ``High school celebrity'' and football hero Mike Jr., intellectually gifted Patrick, sweet and simple Marianne, and troubled Judd, the youngest, who narrates, mixing ``conjecture'' with remembered facts as he recounts both his immediate family's shared experiences and the earlier lives of their parents. The resulting panorama offers both a brilliantly detailed and varied picture of family life and a succession of dramatic set pieces, the majority of which are ingeniously related to ``the events of 1976 when everything came apart for us.'' In that year, inexperienced Marianne either was raped or had consensual sex with a high-school boy she hardly knew--Oates keeps both possibilities teasingly in play--and in the aftermath of her disgrace, Mike Sr. became a helpless belligerent drunk, Patrick subverted his formidable powers of concentration to fantasies of ``executing justice,'' and the once-proud Mulvaneys began their long descent into financial ruin, estrangement, and death. Their harrowing story is leavened by Oates's matchless grasp of middle- class culture, and by a number of superbly orchestrated extended scenes and flashbacks. These are people we recognize, and she makes us care deeply about them. Just when you think Oates has finally run dry, or is mired in mechanical self-repetition, she stuns you with another example of her essential kinship with the classic American realistic novelists. Dreiser would have understood and approved the passion and power of We Were the Mulvaneys. (First printing of 75,000; author tour)
Publishers Weekly (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved 9780525942238 Elegiac and urgent in tone, Oates's wrenching 26th novel (after Zombie) is a profound and darkly realistic chronicle of one family's hubristic heyday and its fall from grace. The wealthy, socially elite Mulvaneys live on historic High Point Farm, near the small upstate town of Mt. Ephraim, N.Y. Before the act of violence that forever destroys it, an idyllic incandescence bathes life on the farm. Hard-working and proud, Michael Mulvaney owns a successful roofing company. His wife, Corinne, who makes a halfhearted attempt at running an antique business, adores her husband and four children, feeling "privileged by God." Narrator Judd looks up to his older brothers, athletic Mike Jr. ("Mule") and intellectual Patrick ("Pinch"), and his sister, radiant Marianne, a popular cheerleader who is 17 in 1976 when she is raped by a classmate after a prom. Though the incident is hushed up, everyone in the family becomes a casualty. Guilty and shamed by his reaction to his daughter's defilement, Mike Sr. can't bear to look at Marianne, and she is banished from her home, sent to live with a distant relative. The family begins to disintegrate. Mike loses his business and, later, the homestead. The boys and Corinne register their frustration and sadness in different, destructive ways. Valiant, tainted Marianne runs from love and commitment. More than a decade later, there is a surprising denouement, in which Oates accommodates a guardedly optimistic vision of the future. Each family member is complexly rendered and seen against the background of social and cultural conditioning. As with much of Oates's work, the prose is sometimes prolix, but the very rush of narrative, in which flashbacks capture the same urgency of tone as the present, gives this moving tale its emotional power. 75,000 first printing; author tour. (Sept.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved
Library Journal (c) Copyright Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted. 9780525942238 Everyone knows the Mulvaneys: Dad the successful businessman, Mike the football star, Marianne the cheerleader, Patrick the brain, Judd the runt, and Mom dedicated to running the family. But after what sometime narrator Judd calls the events of Valentine's Day 1976, this ideal family falls apart and is not reunited until 1993. Oates's (Will You Always Love Me, LJ 2/1/96) 26th novel explores this disintegration with an eye to the nature of changing relationships and recovering from the fractures that occur. Through vivid imagery of a calm upstate New York landscape that any moment can be transformed by a blinding blizzard into a near-death experience, Oates demonstrates how faith and hope can help us endure. At another level, the process of becoming the Mulvaneys again investigates the philosophical and spiritual aspects of a family's survival and restoration. Highly recommended.?Joshua Cohen, Mid-Hudson Lib. System, Poughkeepsie, NY (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.
Library Journal (c) Copyright Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted. 9780525942238 Oates limns a dysfunctional family. (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.
Book list From Booklist, Copyright © American Library Association. Used with permission. The staggeringly prolific Oates' latest novel is a tragic, compelling tale. She presents in sensuous prose the saga of the fall of the House of Mulvaney. The Mulvaneys, six of them, had been riding high; they lived on a prosperous farm in upstate New York and lived well. Now an adult, Judd, the youngest Mulvaney, recounts the events during which "everything came apart for us and was never again put together in quite the same way." At the core of the family troubles was one grievous incident, the rape of Judd's sister. Consequently, Judd, his father, and one of his brothers commit criminal deeds, and the family eventually loses the farm. Predictably for Oates, her impeccable psychological understanding of violence--its roots and ramifications--lies at the heart of a troubling yet ultimately inspiring story of how far down people can go but, holding on together as a family, rise to the surface again. Her legion of fans will be pleased. (Reviewed Aug. 1996)0525942238Brad Hooper
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2000
House of Sand and Fog
 Andre Dubus
Book list From Booklist, Copyright © American Library Association. Used with permission. 9780393046977 Reeling from her husband's abrupt departure, Kathy is living alone in the modest California bungalow she inherited from her father and has few material or emotional resources upon which to draw when a pair of sheriff's deputies appear like creatures in a nightmare and evict her. It's all a mistake, but before Kathy, a personification of fog, can straighten things out, Colonel Behrani, an exiled Iranian air force officer forced to work menial jobs to support his family, snaps up her home at auction for a third of its value, moves in, and prepares to resell it at a profit. Obdurate and full of fury and pride, Behrani is sand, and Dubus has set up a microcosmic conflict of profound cultural implication and tremendous dramatic impact. Narrating from both points of view, he renders each character utterly compelling and sympathetic. All Kathy wants is her home; Behrani cannot give up his dream, and they are headed for a resolution of stunningly tragic dimensions. Like Craig Nova, Dubus writes gorgeous prose with a noirish edge, holding his readers spellbound as hope and love are lost in fog and buried in sand. --Donna Seaman
Kirkus Copyright © Kirkus Reviews, used with permission. 9780393046977 In an enthralling tragedy built on a foundation of small misfortunes, Dubus (Bluesman, 1993, etc.) offers in detail the unraveling life of a woman who, in her undoing, brings devastation to the families of those in her path. It was bad enough when Kathy Lazaro stepped out of the shower one morning to find herself evicted from her house, a small bungalow to be auctioned the very next day in a county tax sale; bad enough that her recovering-addict husband had left her some time before, and that she had no friends at all in California to help her move or put her up. Then she also had to fall for the guy who evicted her, Deputy Les Burdon'married, with two kids. Sympathetic to her plight, Les lines up legal counsel and makes sure she has a place to stay, but his optimism (and the lawyer's) hits an immovable object in proud ex-Colonel Behrani, formerly of the Iranian Air Force, who fled his homeland with his family when the Shah was deposed and who has struggled secretly in San Francisco for years to maintain appearances until his daughter can make a good marriage. He's sunken his remaining life savings into buying Kathy's house, at a tremendous bargain, planning to reinvent himself as a real-estate speculator, and he has no wish to sell it back when informed that the county made a bureaucratic error. Hounded by both Kathy and Les'who has moved out, guiltily, on his family and brought his lover, herself a recovering addict, back to the bar scene'Behrani is increasingly unable to shield his wife and teenaged son from the ugly truth, but he still won't yield. Then Kathy tries to kill herself, and Les takes the law into his own hands . . . . No villains here, but only precisely rendered proof that the road to hell is paved with good intentions.
Library Journal Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. 9780393046977 In his second novel (after Bluesman, LJ 5/15/93), the son of noted writer Andre Dubus manages to get deep inside the heads of two very different characters who clash over a modest house in the San Francisco suburbs. Kathy is a recovering alcoholic and cokehead who loses her inherited bungalow for alleged nonpayment of taxes. Behmini, an Iranian who was an officer in the Shah's air force before fleeing the revolution, is now struggling to succeed in the United States. He buys the house at auction, planning to make a profit on the resale. Kathy skulks around the neighborhood and eventually confronts the family. When she becomes sexually involved with the policeman she met at her eviction, a married man with bad judgment and a drinking problem of his own, he takes up her cause with explosive results. Dubus's attention to detail and realistic prose style give the narrative a hard-edged, cinematic quality, but unlike many movies, its outcome is unexpected. Recommended for all fiction collections.Ã?Reba Leiding, James Madison Univ., Harrisonburg, VA
Publishers Weekly Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. 9780393046977 This powerfully written but bleak narrative is a mesmerizing tale of the American Dream gone terribly awry. Massoud Amir Behrani, a former colonel in the Iranian Air Force under the Shah, now lives in exile with his wife and teenage son near San Francisco. Working on a road crew as a "garbage soldier" by day and as a deli clerk by night, Behrani is obsessed with restoring his family to the position of glittering wealth and prestige it once enjoyed. At a county auction, he sinks his savings into a bungalow seized for non-payment of taxes, and quickly moves his family into it, planning to resell the house at a sizable profit. But when the house's previous occupant, recovering coke addict Kathy Lazaro, resurfaces with valid claims for repossession, Behrani's plan begins to unravel, and with it his tightly controlled facade of composure. Tensions between Lazaro and Behrani quickly escalate into violence, as Lazaro's lover, a married police officer with a weak spot for lost causes, decides to take matters into his own hands. The book's horrifying denouement offers readers a searing study in the wages of pride. Dubus (Bluesman) writes with an authority regarding the American lower middle class that is reminiscent of Russell Banks and Richard Ford, and his limber imagination is capable of drawing the inner lives of three very different main characters with such compassion that readers will find their sympathies hopelessly divided. If the tragedy that he so skillfully orchestrates cries out to be leavened with a little less desperation and some quiet glimpse of hope, the keenly perceptive and moving narrative is proof that the son and namesake of one of our most talented writers has embarked on a dazzling career in his own right. (Feb.)
Book list From Booklist, Copyright © American Library Association. Used with permission. 9780393046977 Reeling from her husband's abrupt departure, Kathy is living alone in the modest California bungalow she inherited from her father and has few material or emotional resources upon which to draw when a pair of sheriff's deputies appear like creatures in a nightmare and evict her. It's all a mistake, but before Kathy, a personification of fog, can straighten things out, Colonel Behrani, an exiled Iranian air force officer forced to work menial jobs to support his family, snaps up her home at auction for a third of its value, moves in, and prepares to resell it at a profit. Obdurate and full of fury and pride, Behrani is sand, and Dubus has set up a microcosmic conflict of profound cultural implication and tremendous dramatic impact. Narrating from both points of view, he renders each character utterly compelling and sympathetic. All Kathy wants is her home; Behrani cannot give up his dream, and they are headed for a resolution of stunningly tragic dimensions. Like Craig Nova, Dubus writes gorgeous prose with a noirish edge, holding his readers spellbound as hope and love are lost in fog and buried in sand. --Donna Seaman
Publishers Weekly (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved 9780694525799 Dubus has created a novel that is nearly perfectly suited to the audio format. Kathy Nicolo is a recovering addict whose husband has left her and who is making her way in the straight world with her own cleaning business. When her house in the California hills is mistakenly seized by the county for back taxes and sold at public auction, she finds herself living out of her car and on the brink of desperation. Once a wealthy and powerful man in Iran and a colonel in the army under the Shah's rule, Behrani is now a struggling immigrant who hopes that he can sell the house for a large profit, so that he can once again provide his family with a lifestyle like the one they enjoyed in Iran. Emotions take precedence over ethics, logic, love and the law as their paths collide in a surprising and tragic conclusion. The reading by the author and his wife is sublime. Dubus's performance as the hot-headed Behrani is frightening in its intensity. His wife captures Kathy's dispassionate disbelief with a flat distance that is as effectively realistic as it is palpable. Based on the Norton hardcover. (Jan.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved
Kirkus Copyright © Kirkus Reviews, used with permission. 9780393046977 In an enthralling tragedy built on a foundation of small misfortunes, Dubus (Bluesman, 1993, etc.) offers in detail the unraveling life of a woman who, in her undoing, brings devastation to the families of those in her path. It was bad enough when Kathy Lazaro stepped out of the shower one morning to find herself evicted from her house, a small bungalow to be auctioned the very next day in a county tax sale; bad enough that her recovering-addict husband had left her some time before, and that she had no friends at all in California to help her move or put her up. Then she also had to fall for the guy who evicted her, Deputy Les Burdon'married, with two kids. Sympathetic to her plight, Les lines up legal counsel and makes sure she has a place to stay, but his optimism (and the lawyer's) hits an immovable object in proud ex-Colonel Behrani, formerly of the Iranian Air Force, who fled his homeland with his family when the Shah was deposed and who has struggled secretly in San Francisco for years to maintain appearances until his daughter can make a good marriage. He's sunken his remaining life savings into buying Kathy's house, at a tremendous bargain, planning to reinvent himself as a real-estate speculator, and he has no wish to sell it back when informed that the county made a bureaucratic error. Hounded by both Kathy and Les'who has moved out, guiltily, on his family and brought his lover, herself a recovering addict, back to the bar scene'Behrani is increasingly unable to shield his wife and teenaged son from the ugly truth, but he still won't yield. Then Kathy tries to kill herself, and Les takes the law into his own hands . . . . No villains here, but only precisely rendered proof that the road to hell is paved with good intentions.
Library Journal (c) Copyright Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted. 9780393046977 In his second novel (after Bluesman, LJ 5/15/93), the son of noted writer Andre Dubus manages to get deep inside the heads of two very different characters who clash over a modest house in the San Francisco suburbs. Kathy is a recovering alcoholic and cokehead who loses her inherited bungalow for alleged nonpayment of taxes. Behmini, an Iranian who was an officer in the Shah's air force before fleeing the revolution, is now struggling to succeed in the United States. He buys the house at auction, planning to make a profit on the resale. Kathy skulks around the neighborhood and eventually confronts the family. When she becomes sexually involved with the policeman she met at her eviction, a married man with bad judgment and a drinking problem of his own, he takes up her cause with explosive results. Dubus's attention to detail and realistic prose style give the narrative a hard-edged, cinematic quality, but unlike many movies, its outcome is unexpected. Recommended for all fiction collections.ÄReba Leiding, James Madison Univ., Harrisonburg, VA (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.
Library Journal (c) Copyright Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted. 9780694525799 Through a careless bureaucratic error, Kathy Nicolo is evicted from her three-bedroom home in the California hills near San Francisco. Her marriage is over, her recovery from drug addiction is tenuous, and her income is almost nonexistent. Lester Burdon, the deputy sheriff who evicts her, also falls for her and vows to help her get the house back. Meanwhile, the house is sold at auction to Colonel Behrani, who hopes to resell it at enormous profit to help finance his return to his easy life in prerevolutionary Iran. The legal machinery grinds on slowly too slowly for the humans involved. The three main characters come from different cultures, religions, and social settings. The pleas, threats, arguments, and suggestions of each individual are incomprehensible to the others, escalating to a tragic and inevitable conclusion. Well produced, this book captures the hope, confusion, resolve, and uncertainty of all the characters. The frustration and anger are visceral, the tension intense. The actions of the players are made meaningful through the descriptions of their histories, cultures, and previous experiences. Read with feeling by the author and his wife, Fontaine Dubus; recommended. Joanna Burkhardt, Univ. of Rhode Island Coll. of Continuing Education Lib., Providence (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.
Publishers Weekly (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved 9780393046977 This powerfully written but bleak narrative is a mesmerizing tale of the American Dream gone terribly awry. Massoud Amir Behrani, a former colonel in the Iranian Air Force under the Shah, now lives in exile with his wife and teenage son near San Francisco. Working on a road crew as a "garbage soldier" by day and as a deli clerk by night, Behrani is obsessed with restoring his family to the position of glittering wealth and prestige it once enjoyed. At a county auction, he sinks his savings into a bungalow seized for non-payment of taxes, and quickly moves his family into it, planning to resell the house at a sizable profit. But when the house's previous occupant, recovering coke addict Kathy Lazaro, resurfaces with valid claims for repossession, Behrani's plan begins to unravel, and with it his tightly controlled facade of composure. Tensions between Lazaro and Behrani quickly escalate into violence, as Lazaro's lover, a married police officer with a weak spot for lost causes, decides to take matters into his own hands. The book's horrifying denouement offers readers a searing study in the wages of pride. Dubus (Bluesman) writes with an authority regarding the American lower middle class that is reminiscent of Russell Banks and Richard Ford, and his limber imagination is capable of drawing the inner lives of three very different main characters with such compassion that readers will find their sympathies hopelessly divided. If the tragedy that he so skillfully orchestrates cries out to be leavened with a little less desperation and some quiet glimpse of hope, the keenly perceptive and moving narrative is proof that the son and namesake of one of our most talented writers has embarked on a dazzling career in his own right. (Feb.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved
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  Book Jacket
2000
Drowning Ruth
 Christina Schwarz
Kirkus Copyright © Kirkus Reviews, used with permission. With quietly powerful prose and carefully nuanced description, a first-novelist creates a satisfying fictional world inhabited by complicated people painfully coming to terms with their common history. The plot revolves around a mystery, which is well handled but secondary to the characters' development. In 1919, when unmarried Amanda Starkey leaves her nursing job in Milwaukee under duress, she goes home to her sister, Mattie, and three-year-old niece, Ruth, in rural Wisconsin. One bitter winter night shortly before her wounded husband, Carl, is due to return from WWI, Mattie falls through the ice and drowns in the lake that surrounds their island farm. In the years that follow, Carl and Amanda share responsibility for raising Ruth, maintaining an uneasy truce even as he struggles against her evasions to understand exactly how and why Mattie drowned. The circumstances of that drowning are slowly revealed, and Schwarz avoids most of the pitfalls of the unravel-the-awful-secret genre. Yes, there are plenty of awful secrets to share or hide. Yes, Ruth almost drowned too, and yes, Amanda was hiding an illegitimate pregnancy, but the story never turns to melodrama. The author's concern is less with keeping readers in suspense than with exploring the damage inflicted by the human drive to protect not only oneself but those one loves. Schwarz keeps the focus on the choices, interactions, and all-too-frequent misunderstandings of her people, all of whom react to the effects of tragedy with surprising complexity. The narrative jumps from viewpoint to viewpoint a bit too jerkily at times, but the charm of its detail and the generous insight into even small, imperfect lives more than compensate for minor technical lapses. An engrossing debut from a writer to watch. Copyright ©Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.
Library Journal (c) Copyright Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted. 9780385499712 Why did Ruth's mother, Mathilda, drown on that fateful night in 1919 and Ruth survive? That is the central question that this novel sets out to answer. Mathilda's sister, Amanda, who has been nursing soldiers in Milwaukee (it is right after World War I), has returned to the family farm in rural Wisconsin. Mathilda and Ruth are there to help her return to a normal life. Yet a year later, Mathilda's husband returns from the war to find his wife drowned and his sister-in-law raising his daughter. So continues the tale through 1941, as we watch Ruth grow up and try to remember what happened that winter night. Along the way, Ruth befriends Imogene, who has a closer connection to the family than Ruth can imagine. The story is recounted partly through flashback and moves from first-person to third-person narrative. What results is a gripping tale of sisterly rivalry, family loyalty, and secret histories. Already optioned for a film by Miramax, to be directed by Wes Craven, this first novel is an engrossing read. Recommended for all public libraries.DRobin Nesbitt, Columbus Metropolitan Lib., OH (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.
Book list From Booklist, Copyright © American Library Association. Used with permission. 9780385499712 With all the realism of a Victorian morality play, this much-hyped first novel plays the tropes of dark family ties and darker family secrets, tied to a particular place. In Milwaukee, Amanda has been nursing soldiers home from World War I, but she returns, neurasthenic and tight-lipped, to the family farm on a lake. Her sister Matilda's husband, Carl, is off at war, and Mandy fits into Mattie's life with a fierce attachment to her and to her baby daughter, Ruth. But as the story moves back and forth in time, we learn that Mattie drowned in the lake one icy night; that Ruth remembers but Mandy denies her memories; and that Mandy has been mother to Ruth, filling her longing to have someone of her own. Carl's memories of his wife grow weak and suspicious; as Ruth gets older, other secrets Mandy holds grow in sinister importance. The tale is narrated in many voices and from multiple points of view, with every plotline and small detail coming round again. Unfortunately, the writing is stiff, and the armature of the plot is all too visible. Wes Craven may have a fierce old time turning this into a movie--rights have been optioned--but it isn't nearly of the intensity of, for example, Beth Gutcheon's More Than You Know [BKL F 15 00]. Buy as demand requires. --GraceAnne A. DeCandido
Publishers Weekly (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved 9780385499712 "Ruth remembered drowning." The first sentence of this brilliantly understated psychological thriller leaps off the page and captures the reader's imagination. In Schwarz's debut novel, brutal Wisconsin weather and WWI drama color a tale of family rivalry, madness, secrets and obsessive love. By March 1919, Nurse Amanda Starkey has come undone. She convinces herself that her daily exposure to the wounded soldiers in the Milwaukee hospital where she works is the cause of her hallucinations, fainting spells and accidents. Amanda journeys home to the family farm in Nagawaukee, where her sister, Mathilda (Mattie), lives with her three-year-old daughter Ruth, awaiting the return of her war-injured husband, Carl Neumann. Mattie's ebullient welcome convinces Amanda she can mend there. But then Mattie drowns in the lake that surrounds the sisters' island house and, in a rush of confusion and anguish, Amanda assumes care of Ruth. After Carl comes home, Amanda and he manage to work together on the farm and parent Ruth, but their arrangement is strained: Amanda has a breakdown and recuperates at a sanatorium. As time passes, Ruth grows into an odd, guarded child who clings to perplexing memories of the night her mother drowned. Why does Amanda have that little circle of scars on her hand? What is Amanda's connection to Ruth's friend Imogene and why does she fear Imogene's marriage to Clement Owen's son? Schwarz deftly uses first-person narration to heighten the drama. Her prose is spare but bewitching, and she juggles the speakers and time periods with the surety of a seasoned novelist. Rather than attempting a trumped-up suspenseful finale, Schwarz ends her novel gently, underscoring the delicate power of her tale. Agent, Jennifer R. Walsh at the Writers Shop. Literary Guild, Doubleday Book Club, Teen People and Mango Book Club main selections; film rights optioned by Miramax, Wes Craven to direct; foreign rights sold in Germany, France, the U.K., Japan, Italy, the Netherlands, Finland, Sweden and Denmark. (Aug.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved
School Library Journal (c) Copyright Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted. 9780385499712 YA-A wonderfully constructed gothic suspense novel set on a stark Wisconsin farm in 1919. The story goes backward and forward in time and is told by Amanda, her niece Ruth, and an omniscient narrator. The ties that bind the two women are as fragile as they are fierce and have their origin in the relationship of two sisters, Amanda and her sister Mattie, Ruth's mother. The narrative begins with Amanda as she recounts her childhood and the responsibility she came to feel for her younger sister and the parents who favored her younger sibling. Amanda finally wrests herself away from home to become a nurse, but her independence is short-lived. Overwhelmed and sickened by the care of the wounded, and heartsick over the love of a married man, she suffers a nervous breakdown and seeks solace by returning to the farm to help Mattie care for her tiny daughter as they await the return of Mattie's husband from World War I. But tragedy follows with Mattie's mysterious drowning during a winter blizzard and guilty lies soon engulf Amanda and threaten to change the lives of several others in the small rural community. A compelling complex tale of psychological mystery and maddeningly destructive provincial attitudes.-Jackie Gropman, Kings Park Library, Fairfax, VA (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.
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  Book Jacket
 
2000
Open House
Book Jacket   Elizabeth Berg
Kirkus Copyright © Kirkus Reviews, used with permission. The eighth effortless novel from soft-pedaling specialist Berg (Until the Real Thing Comes Along, 1999, etc.) is an emotional slurpee/comedy featuring the newly separated mother of a near-teenaged son who finds the man of her dreams in spite of herself. What's a woman to do after her husband of 20 years packs a bag and walks out? Take a page from Martha Stewart's book, apparently, by getting dressed to the nines, making an elegant breakfast, and then trying to make the kid go along with the charade. Unfortunately for Samantha Morrow, she isn't Martha Stewart, and her son Travis is unflinchingly frank. So Sam goes to Tiffany's and writes a $12,000 check for silver flatware instead, whereupon her husband, David, takes all the money out of their joint account, and she has to start renting out rooms. The first boarder to move in is the mother of her grocery store's cashier, a sweet, capable lady who comes complete with a devoted boyfriend—and the hulk named King who moved her in is a sweetie, too. So what if the woman snores and keeps Travis awake? He and Sam adjust, and everything would be fine if she didn't keep hoping David would come back. But he has the good life and a girlfriend, while she's started temping (on King's recommendation) and dating (at her mother's insistence), the latter with disastrous results. The little old lady marries her boyfriend, another renter proves clinically depressed, and Sam has trouble adjusting to the working life. Even a distress call to Martha Stewart's 800 number doesn't help. Then, when she least expects it, love is in the air. Skillfully crafted, with a fluidity and snap that will delight Berg's fans but, when all is said and done, a distressingly familiar story. Copyright ©Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.
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2000
The Poisonwood Bible
Book Jacket   Barbara Kingsolver
Publishers Weekly (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved In this risky but resoundingly successful novel, Kingsolver leaves the Southwest, the setting of most of her work (The Bean Trees; Animal Dreams) and follows an evangelical Baptist minister's family to the Congo in the late 1950s, entwining their fate with that of the country during three turbulent decades. Nathan Price's determination to convert the natives of the Congo to Christianity is, we gradually discover, both foolhardy and dangerous, unsanctioned by the church administration and doomed from the start by Nathan's self-righteousness. Fanatic and sanctimonious, Nathan is a domestic monster, too, a physically and emotionally abusive, misogynistic husband and father. He refuses to understand how his obsession with river baptism affronts the traditions of the villagers of Kalinga, and his stubborn concept of religious rectitude brings misery and destruction to all. Cleverly, Kingsolver never brings us inside Nathan's head but instead unfolds the tragic story of the Price family through the alternating points of view of Orleanna Price and her four daughters. Cast with her young children into primitive conditions but trained to be obedient to her husband, Orleanna is powerless to mitigate their situation. Meanwhile, each of the four Price daughters reveals herself through first-person narration, and their rich and clearly differentiated self-portraits are small triumphs. Rachel, the eldest, is a self-absorbed teenager who will never outgrow her selfish view of the world or her tendency to commit hilarious malapropisms. Twins Leah and Adah are gifted intellectually but are physically and emotionally separated by Adah's birth injury, which has rendered her hemiplagic. Leah adores her father; Adah, who does not speak, is a shrewd observer of his monumental ego. The musings of five- year-old Ruth May reflect a child's humorous misunderstanding of the exotic world to which she has been transported. By revealing the story through the female victims of Reverend Price's hubris, Kingsolver also charts their maturation as they confront or evade moral and existential issues and, at great cost, accrue wisdom in the crucible of an alien land. It is through their eyes that we come to experience the life of the villagers in an isolated community and the particular ways in which American and African cultures collide. As the girls become acquainted with the villagers, especially the young teacher Anatole, they begin to understand the political situation in the Congo: the brutality of Belgian rule, the nascent nationalism briefly fulfilled in the election of the short-lived Patrice Lumumba government, and the secret involvement of the Eisenhower administration in Lumumba's assassination and the installation of the villainous dictator Mobutu. In the end, Kingsolver delivers a compelling family saga, a sobering picture of the horrors of fanatic fundamentalism and an insightful view of an exploited country crushed by the heel of colonialism and then ruthlessly manipulated by a bastion of democracy. The book is also a marvelous mix of trenchant character portrayal, unflagging narrative thrust and authoritative background detail. The disastrous outcome of the forceful imposition of Christian theology on indigenous natural faith gives the novel its pervasive irony; but humor is pervasive, too, artfully integrated into the children's misapprehensions of their world; and suspense rises inexorably as the Price family's peril and that of the newly independent country of Zaire intersect. Kingsolver moves into new moral terrain in this powerful, convincing and emotionally resonant novel. Agent, Frances Goldin; BOMC selection; major ad/promo; author tour. (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved
Library Journal (c) Copyright Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted. It's been five years since Kingsolver's last novel (Pigs in Heaven, LJ 6/15/93), and she has used her time well. This intense family drama is set in an Africa on the verge of independence and upheaval. In 1959, evangelical preacher Nathan Price moves his wife and four daughters from Georgia to a village in the Belgian Congo, later Zaire. Their dysfunction and cultural arrogance proves disastrous as the family is nearly destroyed by war, Nathan's tyranny, and Africa itself. Told in the voices of the mother and daughters, the novel spans 30 years as the women seek to understand each other and the continent that tore them apart. Kingsolver has a keen understanding of the inevitable, often violent clashes between white and indigenous cultures, yet she lets the women tell their own stories without being judgmental. An excellent novel that was worth the wait and will win the author new fans. [Previewed in Prepub Alert, LJ 7/98.]--Ellen Flexman, Indianapolis-Marion Cty. (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.
Library Journal (c) Copyright Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted. 9780060175405 It's been five years since Kingsolver's last novel (Pigs in Heaven, LJ 6/15/93), and she has used her time well. This intense family drama is set in an Africa on the verge of independence and upheaval. In 1959, evangelical preacher Nathan Price moves his wife and four daughters from Georgia to a village in the Belgian Congo, later Zaire. Their dysfunction and cultural arrogance proves disastrous as the family is nearly destroyed by war, Nathan's tyranny, and Africa itself. Told in the voices of the mother and daughters, the novel spans 30 years as the women seek to understand each other and the continent that tore them apart. Kingsolver has a keen understanding of the inevitable, often violent clashes between white and indigenous cultures, yet she lets the women tell their own stories without being judgmental. An excellent novel that was worth the wait and will win the author new fans. [Previewed in Prepub Alert, LJ 7/98.]?Ellen Flexman, Indianapolis-Marion Cty. P.L. (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.
Publishers Weekly (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved In this risky but resoundingly successful novel, Kingsolver leaves the Southwest, the setting of most of her work (The Bean Trees; Animal Dreams) and follows an evangelical Baptist minister's family to the Congo in the late 1950s, entwining their fate with that of the country during three turbulent decades. Nathan Price's determination to convert the natives of the Congo to Christianity is, we gradually discover, both foolhardy and dangerous, unsanctioned by the church administration and doomed from the start by Nathan's self-righteousness. Fanatic and sanctimonious, Nathan is a domestic monster, too, a physically and emotionally abusive, misogynistic husband and father. He refuses to understand how his obsession with river baptism affronts the traditions of the villagers of Kalinga, and his stubborn concept of religious rectitude brings misery and destruction to all. Cleverly, Kingsolver never brings us inside Nathan's head but instead unfolds the tragic story of the Price family through the alternating points of view of Orleanna Price and her four daughters. Cast with her young children into primitive conditions but trained to be obedient to her husband, Orleanna is powerless to mitigate their situation. Meanwhile, each of the four Price daughters reveals herself through first-person narration, and their rich and clearly differentiated self-portraits are small triumphs. Rachel, the eldest, is a self-absorbed teenager who will never outgrow her selfish view of the world or her tendency to commit hilarious malapropisms. Twins Leah and Adah are gifted intellectually but are physically and emotionally separated by Adah's birth injury, which has rendered her hemiplagic. Leah adores her father; Adah, who does not speak, is a shrewd observer of his monumental ego. The musings of five- year-old Ruth May reflect a child's humorous misunderstanding of the exotic world to which she has been transported. By revealing the story through the female victims of Reverend Price's hubris, Kingsolver also charts their maturation as they confront or evade moral and existential issues and, at great cost, accrue wisdom in the crucible of an alien land. It is through their eyes that we come to experience the life of the villagers in an isolated community and the particular ways in which American and African cultures collide. As the girls become acquainted with the villagers, especially the young teacher Anatole, they begin to understand the political situation in the Congo: the brutality of Belgian rule, the nascent nationalism briefly fulfilled in the election of the short-lived Patrice Lumumba government, and the secret involvement of the Eisenhower administration in Lumumba's assassination and the installation of the villainous dictator Mobutu. In the end, Kingsolver delivers a compelling family saga, a sobering picture of the horrors of fanatic fundamentalism and an insightful view of an exploited country crushed by the heel of colonialism and then ruthlessly manipulated by a bastion of democracy. The book is also a marvelous mix of trenchant character portrayal, unflagging narrative thrust and authoritative background detail. The disastrous outcome of the forceful imposition of Christian theology on indigenous natural faith gives the novel its pervasive irony; but humor is pervasive, too, artfully integrated into the children's misapprehensions of their world; and suspense rises inexorably as the Price family's peril and that of the newly independent country of Zaire intersect. Kingsolver moves into new moral terrain in this powerful, convincing and emotionally resonant novel. Agent, Frances Goldin; BOMC selection; major ad/promo; author tour. (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved
Library Journal (c) Copyright Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted. 9780060175405 Fiery evangelist Nathan Price takes his wife and four daughters to the Belgian Congo in 1959, where they find that they are more transformed than transforming. Kingsolver's first since Pigs in Heaven. (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.
Library Journal (c) Copyright Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted. 9781455800940 An enduringly popular story of one family's existence in postcolonial Africa, often found on "best of the best" lists of audiobooks. Narrated with an anthropological tone by Dean Robertson. (c) Copyright 2014. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.
Library Journal (c) Copyright Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted. It's been five years since Kingsolver's last novel (Pigs in Heaven, LJ 6/15/93), and she has used her time well. This intense family drama is set in an Africa on the verge of independence and upheaval. In 1959, evangelical preacher Nathan Price moves his wife and four daughters from Georgia to a village in the Belgian Congo, later Zaire. Their dysfunction and cultural arrogance proves disastrous as the family is nearly destroyed by war, Nathan's tyranny, and Africa itself. Told in the voices of the mother and daughters, the novel spans 30 years as the women seek to understand each other and the continent that tore them apart. Kingsolver has a keen understanding of the inevitable, often violent clashes between white and indigenous cultures, yet she lets the women tell their own stories without being judgmental. An excellent novel that was worth the wait and will win the author new fans. [Previewed in Prepub Alert, LJ 7/98.]--Ellen Flexman, Indianapolis-Marion Cty. (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.
Publishers Weekly (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved 9780060175405 In this risky but resoundingly successful novel, Kingsolver leaves the Southwest, the setting of most of her work (The Bean Trees; Animal Dreams) and follows an evangelical Baptist minister's family to the Congo in the late 1950s, entwining their fate with that of the country during three turbulent decades. Nathan Price's determination to convert the natives of the Congo to Christianity is, we gradually discover, both foolhardy and dangerous, unsanctioned by the church administration and doomed from the start by Nathan's self-righteousness. Fanatic and sanctimonious, Nathan is a domestic monster, too, a physically and emotionally abusive, misogynistic husband and father. He refuses to understand how his obsession with river baptism affronts the traditions of the villagers of Kalinga, and his stubborn concept of religious rectitude brings misery and destruction to all. Cleverly, Kingsolver never brings us inside Nathan's head but instead unfolds the tragic story of the Price family through the alternating points of view of Orleanna Price and her four daughters. Cast with her young children into primitive conditions but trained to be obedient to her husband, Orleanna is powerless to mitigate their situation. Meanwhile, each of the four Price daughters reveals herself through first-person narration, and their rich and clearly differentiated self-portraits are small triumphs. Rachel, the eldest, is a self-absorbed teenager who will never outgrow her selfish view of the world or her tendency to commit hilarious malapropisms. Twins Leah and Adah are gifted intellectually but are physically and emotionally separated by Adah's birth injury, which has rendered her hemiplagic. Leah adores her father; Adah, who does not speak, is a shrewd observer of his monumental ego. The musings of five- year-old Ruth May reflect a child's humorous misunderstanding of the exotic world to which she has been transported. By revealing the story through the female victims of Reverend Price's hubris, Kingsolver also charts their maturation as they confront or evade moral and existential issues and, at great cost, accrue wisdom in the crucible of an alien land. It is through their eyes that we come to experience the life of the villagers in an isolated community and the particular ways in which American and African cultures collide. As the girls become acquainted with the villagers, especially the young teacher Anatole, they begin to understand the political situation in the Congo: the brutality of Belgian rule, the nascent nationalism briefly fulfilled in the election of the short-lived Patrice Lumumba government, and the secret involvement of the Eisenhower administration in Lumumba's assassination and the installation of the villainous dictator Mobutu. In the end, Kingsolver delivers a compelling family saga, a sobering picture of the horrors of fanatic fundamentalism and an insightful view of an exploited country crushed by the heel of colonialism and then ruthlessly manipulated by a bastion of democracy. The book is also a marvelous mix of trenchant character portrayal, unflagging narrative thrust and authoritative background detail. The disastrous outcome of the forceful imposition of Christian theology on indigenous natural faith gives the novel its pervasive irony; but humor is pervasive, too, artfully integrated into the children's misapprehensions of their world; and suspense rises inexorably as the Price family's peril and that of the newly independent country of Zaire intersect. Kingsolver moves into new moral terrain in this powerful, convincing and emotionally resonant novel. Agent, Frances Goldin; BOMC selection; major ad/promo; author tour. (Nov.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved
Kirkus Copyright © Kirkus Reviews, used with permission. 9780060175405 The first novel in five years from the ever-popular Kingsolver (Pigs in Heaven, 1993, etc.) is a large-scale saga of an American family's enlightening and disillusioning African adventure. It begins with a stunningly written backward look: Orleanna Price's embittered memory of the uncompromising zeal that impelled her husband, Baptist missionary Nathan Price, to take her and their four daughters to the (then) Belgian Congo in 1959, and remain there despite dangerous evidence of the country's instability under Patrice Lumumba's ill-starred independence movement, Belgian and American interference and condescension, and Joseph Mobutu's murderous military dictatorship. The bulk of the story, which is set in the superbly realized native village of Kilanga, is narrated in turn by the four Price girls: Leah, the ``smart'' twin, whose worshipful respect for her father will undergo a rigorous trial by fire; her ?retarded'' counterpart Adah, disabled and mute (though in the depths of her mind articulate and playfully intelligent); eldest sister Rachel, a self-important whiner given to hilarious malapropisms (``feminine tuition''; ``I prefer to remain anomalous''); and youngest sister Ruth May, whose childish fantasies of union with the surrounding, smothering landscape are cruelly fulfilled. Kingsolver skillfully orchestrates her characters? varied responses to Africa into a consistently absorbing narrative that reaches climax after climax?and that, even after you're sure it must be nearing its end, continues for a wrenching hundred pages or more, spelling out in unforgettable dramatic and lyric terms the fates of the surviving Prices. Little recent fiction has so successfully fused the personal with the political. Better even than Robert Stone in his otherwise brilliant Damascus Gate, Kingsolver convinces us that her characters are, first and foremost, breathing, fallible human beings and only secondarily conduits for her book?s vigorously expressed and argued social and political ideas. A triumph. (Author tour)
Publishers Weekly (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved In this risky but resoundingly successful novel, Kingsolver leaves the Southwest, the setting of most of her work (The Bean Trees; Animal Dreams) and follows an evangelical Baptist minister's family to the Congo in the late 1950s, entwining their fate with that of the country during three turbulent decades. Nathan Price's determination to convert the natives of the Congo to Christianity is, we gradually discover, both foolhardy and dangerous, unsanctioned by the church administration and doomed from the start by Nathan's self-righteousness. Fanatic and sanctimonious, Nathan is a domestic monster, too, a physically and emotionally abusive, misogynistic husband and father. He refuses to understand how his obsession with river baptism affronts the traditions of the villagers of Kalinga, and his stubborn concept of religious rectitude brings misery and destruction to all. Cleverly, Kingsolver never brings us inside Nathan's head but instead unfolds the tragic story of the Price family through the alternating points of view of Orleanna Price and her four daughters. Cast with her young children into primitive conditions but trained to be obedient to her husband, Orleanna is powerless to mitigate their situation. Meanwhile, each of the four Price daughters reveals herself through first-person narration, and their rich and clearly differentiated self-portraits are small triumphs. Rachel, the eldest, is a self-absorbed teenager who will never outgrow her selfish view of the world or her tendency to commit hilarious malapropisms. Twins Leah and Adah are gifted intellectually but are physically and emotionally separated by Adah's birth injury, which has rendered her hemiplagic. Leah adores her father; Adah, who does not speak, is a shrewd observer of his monumental ego. The musings of five- year-old Ruth May reflect a child's humorous misunderstanding of the exotic world to which she has been transported. By revealing the story through the female victims of Reverend Price's hubris, Kingsolver also charts their maturation as they confront or evade moral and existential issues and, at great cost, accrue wisdom in the crucible of an alien land. It is through their eyes that we come to experience the life of the villagers in an isolated community and the particular ways in which American and African cultures collide. As the girls become acquainted with the villagers, especially the young teacher Anatole, they begin to understand the political situation in the Congo: the brutality of Belgian rule, the nascent nationalism briefly fulfilled in the election of the short-lived Patrice Lumumba government, and the secret involvement of the Eisenhower administration in Lumumba's assassination and the installation of the villainous dictator Mobutu. In the end, Kingsolver delivers a compelling family saga, a sobering picture of the horrors of fanatic fundamentalism and an insightful view of an exploited country crushed by the heel of colonialism and then ruthlessly manipulated by a bastion of democracy. The book is also a marvelous mix of trenchant character portrayal, unflagging narrative thrust and authoritative background detail. The disastrous outcome of the forceful imposition of Christian theology on indigenous natural faith gives the novel its pervasive irony; but humor is pervasive, too, artfully integrated into the children's misapprehensions of their world; and suspense rises inexorably as the Price family's peril and that of the newly independent country of Zaire intersect. Kingsolver moves into new moral terrain in this powerful, convincing and emotionally resonant novel. Agent, Frances Goldin; BOMC selection; major ad/promo; author tour. (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved
Library Journal (c) Copyright Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted. It's been five years since Kingsolver's last novel (Pigs in Heaven, LJ 6/15/93), and she has used her time well. This intense family drama is set in an Africa on the verge of independence and upheaval. In 1959, evangelical preacher Nathan Price moves his wife and four daughters from Georgia to a village in the Belgian Congo, later Zaire. Their dysfunction and cultural arrogance proves disastrous as the family is nearly destroyed by war, Nathan's tyranny, and Africa itself. Told in the voices of the mother and daughters, the novel spans 30 years as the women seek to understand each other and the continent that tore them apart. Kingsolver has a keen understanding of the inevitable, often violent clashes between white and indigenous cultures, yet she lets the women tell their own stories without being judgmental. An excellent novel that was worth the wait and will win the author new fans. [Previewed in Prepub Alert, LJ 7/98.]--Ellen Flexman, Indianapolis-Marion Cty. (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.
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2000
While I Was Gone
 Sue Miller
Kirkus Copyright © Kirkus Reviews, used with permission. Now, in a richly textured but emotionally cool novel, Miller (The Distinguished Guest, 1995, etc. ) limns a fall from grace and the hard climb back to redemption as a woman tempted to take a timeout from her marriage almost destroys all the good things in her life. Jo Becker, a veterinarian in a small Massachusetts town, is intensely aware of all those seemingly inconsequential yet important daily habits—taking walks with the family dogs, cooking dinner, going fishing—that form part of the marital glue. The mother of three grownup daughters, and married to local pastor Daniel, fiftyish Jo considers herself fortunate until Eli Mayhew, new in town, brings his ailing dog to her and reminds her of their shared past. In the weeks that follow, as she prepares for Thanksgiving and Christmas, she recalls her failed first marriage and her flight from her parents to a new identity and life in Boston (where she and Eli had once been housemates). After a mutual friend's grisly and unsolved murder, Jo returned to her family, became a vet, and met Daniel. But as she starts to reminisce with Eli, now a distinguished scientist, she finds herself yearning for her old freedom—and beginning an affair with Eli. A horrifying admission frightens her into offering a parallel confession of her own to her husband. Terribly hurt, he finds it hard to forgive her, but the marriage slowly begins to mend in spite of it. Jo, conscious of what it will cost her to regain his trust and love, tries "to accept the changes I made when I didn't intend to." Despite being a finely tuned take on a good marriage suddenly imperiled by the vagaries of the heart, this latest from the popular Miller is more a perceptive study than absorbing story. Both Joe and Daniel—never very credible to begin with—remain one- dimensional ideas rather than full-blooded characters. Copyright ©Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.
Library Journal (c) Copyright Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted. 9780375401121 Thirty years ago, Joey Becker's carefree bohemian life was shattered by the brutal, unsolved murder of her best friend, Dana. Joey coped with her loss while building a career, marrying, and raising a family. She thinks she is happy, but ever since her children have left home Joey has felt a vague sense of disappointment. She cannot share the depth of her feelings for Dana with anyone, even her husband. Then Eli, Joey and Dana's former housemate, arrives in town. Joey and Eli are first drawn to each other because they both loved Dana and still mourn her, but their mutual attraction grows until it threatens Joey's marriage and her relationship with her daughter. Miller (The Good Mother, LJ 5/15/86) presents a suspenseful, penetrating look at the tenuous bonds of love, the ease with which even a good marriage can be destroyed, and the need to forgive ourselves for the mistakes of the past. Highly recommended for all public libraries. [Previewed in Prepub Alert, LJ 10/1/98.]?Karen Anderson, Superior Court Law Lib., Phoenix (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.
Book list From Booklist, Copyright © American Library Association. Used with permission. 9780375401121 The domestic scene is Miller's terrain, a place where steadiness is hoped for by all parties involved but where earthquakes are bound to come along and disassemble the landscape. So it was in perhaps her most famous novel, The Good Mother (1986), about a child-custody battle, and so it is in her latest effort, about the incredibly unexpected results of a close encounter with marital infidelity. Joey Becker is 52, a successful veterinarian and married to a man she deeply loves. She has three children who present her with motherly concerns, but, overall, they are an asset to her life. Then one day a man she had lived with in a community of other young people, at a time when she had fled from her first husband, reappears. But something had happened to one of their housemates back then: she was brutally murdered. When this man from Joey's past reappears, Joey is attracted to him like a moth to a flame. But her attraction leads to his confession of the killing so many years ago. The horror of this knowledge traumatizes her, and the fact that she instigated a rendezvous with the man in the first place threatens to ruin her happy marriage. In her signature straightforward prose, Miller captures the thrill of the unknown and the draw of the known. --Brad Hooper
Library Journal (c) Copyright Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted. 9780375401121 Thirty years after she discovers her best friend murdered, Jo Becker finds her now-happy life unraveling. (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.
Publishers Weekly (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved 9780375401121 The shadowy and inexorable nemesis of past secrets to a reclaimed life, and the inability even of those who are intimates to really know one another, are poignant themes in Miller's resonant fifth novel. Narrator Jo Becker, now a veterinarian married to a minister in a small Massachusetts town, was once a runaway bride who assumed a false name and lived with other dissaffected '60s bohemians in a group house in Cambridge. Her special friend in the house was sweet-spirited and generous Dana Jablonski, whose shocking?and unsolved?murder broke up the group and left Jo with unresolved questions about her own identity. She manages to ignore the memories of that time until, almost three decades later, one of the former housemates, Eli Mayhew, moves to her town. Eli, now a distinguished research scientist, provides a revelation that acts as the catalyst provoking Jo to face her guilt about her past behavior?and to act impulsively once again. Her moral conundrum occasions a heartrending change in her heretofore strong marriage and undermines her relationship with her three grown daughters. As usual, Miller (The Good Mother; Family Pictures) renders the details of quotidian domesticity with bedrock veracity and a sensitivity to minute calibrations of family dynamics, especially the nuances of sibling rivalry. But while the pacing, tone and measured exposition are handled with masterly skill, the way in which Jo's decision to make amends for her past rebounds on her present life seems staged and convoluted, since her husband and children seem to think that retribution for a murder should take second place to their own emotional needs. That cavil aside, Miller's narrative is a beautifully textured picture of the psychological tug of war between finding integrity as an individual and satisfying the demands of spouse, children and community. 150,000 first printing; Random House audio; BOMC selection; author tour. (Feb.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved
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  Book Jacket
2000
The Bluest Eye
 Toni Morrison
  Book Jacket
 
2000
Back Roads
Book Jacket   Tawni O'Dell
Library Journal (c) Copyright Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted. 9780694522910 In a small Pennsylvania town depressed by coal mine closings, a young man of 19 finds himself thrust into the role of parent. Harley has become the guardian of his three younger sisters as the result of their mother going to jail for the shooting death of their father. Each sibling finds his or her own way of coping with this family tragedy. During his regular visits with a psychotherapist Harley finds some comfort while at the same time feeling disdain for this woman. He is able to satisfy his youthful urges by beginning a series of sexual encounters with an older woman whose daughter is a playmate of his youngest sister. The characterizations are vivid, and each family member generates sympathy. Reader Dylan Baker does a satisfactory job of interpreting Harley's sense of frustration and cynicism. An absorbing novel worth purchasing for fiction collections.DCatherine Swenson, Norwich Univ. Lib., Northfield, VT (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.
Book list From Booklist, Copyright © American Library Association. Used with permission. 9780670887606 Harley Altmyer, a 19-year-old living in the Pennsylvania backwoods, works two jobs to support himself and three younger sisters, all orphaned when their mother is imprisoned for killing their abusive father. Harley is frustrated by his dreary, duty-filled life, resentful that his best friend is away at college and has escaped the dead-end existence of the small town. He resents his mother, who, albeit in prison, has escaped the relentless demands of a seriously dysfunctional family: oversexed Amber searches for love in every boy she meets; Misty wears as a bracelet the collar of her pet cat who died in mysterious circumstances; and Jody, only recently recovered from total withdrawal, compulsively makes to-do lists. Harley's affair with Callie Mercer, the mother of Jody's friend, marks his sexual and emotional awakening, but it won't permit an escape from family secrets. He regularly visits a state-funded psychologist but responds with sarcasm, indifference, and denial until a family crisis rewakens memories that lead him to a truth more awful than the apparent reality of his miserable life. Harley's first-person account of the deterioration of his family and his own slow-motion meltdown is harrowing. O'Dell, a native of western Pennsylvania, renders finely detailed characters and settings in a desperate and failed mining town. This is a riveting first novel of violence, incest, murder, and madness. --Vanessa Bush
Publishers Weekly (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved 9780670887606 Nineteen-year-old Harley is left to rear his three younger sisters after their mother is imprisoned for murdering their abusive father in this searing, hardscrabble Party of Five set in Pennsylvania mining country. Doubly resentful because his best friend is off at college, Harley spends his days slogging as a Shop Rite bagger and appliance-shop delivery person, coming home to cold cereal dinners prepared by six-year-old Jody. Harley is bitter about having to take over for his motherÄ"she still had us kids but we didn't have her"Äand he can't shake the feeling that she prefers prison to their home life; a mystery lingers around his father's death. Meanwhile, 16-year-old Amber is sleeping her way through the town's teenage boys and flaunting her body in front of Harley; middle sister Misty, once her father's favorite and his hunting companion, practices shooting. Desperate for relief, Harley finds solace in rough but exhilarating encounters with married Callie Mercer, little Jody's best friend's mother, losing his virginity to her on a muddy creek bank and reveling in her sophisticated, sensitive words. But memories are stirring in his subconscious, and erotic dreams of the Virgin Mary metamorphose into nightmarish sexual visions. In his sessions with a court-appointed therapist, Harley edges closer to understanding his family's twisted dynamic, but it is only when the horrors of the present begin to catch up with those of the past that a series of shattering truths are revealed. By then it is too late for Harley to save everyone he loves, but in sacrificing himself, however hopelessly, he introduces a note of grace. O'Dell's scorching tale touches on all the tropes of dysfunctional families, but her characters fight free of stereotypes, taking on an angry, authentic glow. (Jan.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved
Kirkus Copyright © Kirkus Reviews, used with permission. 9780670894185 A strong, thoughtful first novel that hews to time-honored fiction traditions, rooting a voyage of personal discovery in beautifully rendered particulars of character and place. We don't know exactly what kind of trouble 20-year-old Harley Altmyer is in when the story begins with him being interrogated by police officers, but we quickly learn that he's seen plenty of bad times already. It's been two years since his mother went to jail for shooting his father, and two now dead-end jobs are barely enough to support Harley and his three younger sisters in a dying western Pennsylvania town poisoned and abandoned by the coal industry. Sixteen-year-old Amber screws every guy in sight, daring Harley to do anything about it. Twelve-year-old Misty, favorite of their deceased father'which means he beat her more than he did the other three'seems not to care about anything. Six-year-old Jody writes notes to herself ('FEED DINUSORS/ EAT BREKFIST') and keeps secrets she's not quite aware she possesses. Harley keeps his court-mandated appointments with a psychiatrist, but resists her efforts to make him open up. Smart and sharply funny though he is'hardly anyone catches his irony'Harley is trapped in the man's role he knows is a crock but can't let go. O'Dell does an impressive job of getting inside the head of a member of the opposite sex, creating a first-person narration of painful veracity as Harley rants against his mother and defends his father ('He didn't like his job, but he went to it every day . . . . He was a flesh-and-blood man who couldn't stand it if you spilled something'). The dysfunctional dynamics of a family scarred by domestic violence and incestuous longings lead to some luridly melodramatic twists, but the author's compassion and love for her characters shine throughout. When O'Dell's plotting achieves the maturity of her character development, she's going to write a really extraordinary novel. This one is pretty darn good. (Book-of-the-Month Club main selection)
Library Journal (c) Copyright Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted. 9780670887606 Harley Altmyer might be the only 20-year-old virgin in the small Pennsylvania coal town where he lives, but for sure he is the only one with custody of three younger siblingsÄa responsibility inherited when his mother killed his abusive father and went to prison for life. While he works two dead-end jobs to support his sisters, Harley lusts after a married neighbor, Callie Mercer. When Callie indicates that she's attracted to him, too, the resulting sexual fireworks set off a series of events with tragic consequences. First novelist O'Dell, a trained journalist and a former exotic dancer, knows a lot about raging hormones, and she clearly has a good deal of affection for Harley (which the reader will share). She is less comfortable, however, with the demands of plot and character development. The last third of the novel is unnecessarily convoluted and rests uneasily on characters who are too sketchy to support the pieces of plot that they're carrying. Once O'Dell learns how to harness the runaway energy she brings to fiction, she'll be a writer to read; until then, only large public libraries should consider this for purchase.ÄNancy Pearl, Washington Ctr. for the Book, Seattle (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.
Kirkus Copyright © Kirkus Reviews, used with permission. 9780670887606 A strong, thoughtful first novel that hews to time-honored fiction traditions, rooting a voyage of personal discovery in beautifully rendered particulars of character and place. We don't know exactly what kind of trouble 20-year-old Harley Altmyer is in when the story begins with him being interrogated by police officers, but we quickly learn that he's seen plenty of bad times already. It's been two years since his mother went to jail for shooting his father, and two now dead-end jobs are barely enough to support Harley and his three younger sisters in a dying western Pennsylvania town poisoned and abandoned by the coal industry. Sixteen-year-old Amber screws every guy in sight, daring Harley to do anything about it. Twelve-year-old Misty, favorite of their deceased father'which means he beat her more than he did the other three'seems not to care about anything. Six-year-old Jody writes notes to herself ('FEED DINUSORS/ EAT BREKFIST') and keeps secrets she's not quite aware she possesses. Harley keeps his court-mandated appointments with a psychiatrist, but resists her efforts to make him open up. Smart and sharply funny though he is'hardly anyone catches his irony'Harley is trapped in the man's role he knows is a crock but can't let go. O'Dell does an impressive job of getting inside the head of a member of the opposite sex, creating a first-person narration of painful veracity as Harley rants against his mother and defends his father ('He didn't like his job, but he went to it every day . . . . He was a flesh-and-blood man who couldn't stand it if you spilled something'). The dysfunctional dynamics of a family scarred by domestic violence and incestuous longings lead to some luridly melodramatic twists, but the author's compassion and love for her characters shine throughout. When O'Dell's plotting achieves the maturity of her character development, she's going to write a really extraordinary novel. This one is pretty darn good. (Book-of-the-Month Club main selection)
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2000
Daughter of Fortune
Book Jacket   Isabel Allende
Book list From Booklist, Copyright © American Library Association. Used with permission. 9780060194918 The latest novel by one of the most internationally appreciated writers draws on two of the environments about which Allende knows much: Chile, her native land, and California, where she currently resides. Allende proves she has learned history well and that she knows characters instinctively as she reaches back into both Chile's and California's past to construct a story of family conflict, romantic love, and true adventure, all these threads spun into a fine, even beautiful, narrative of admirable force. Her tale begins in an intriguing milieu: that of the British colony in the Chilean city of Valparaiso (for which, of course, Allende has a wonderful feel) at the middle of the nineteenth century. A year and a half after Rose and Jeremy Sommers, sister and brother (the latter in the import-export business), arrived at the Chilean port city, they took in an orphan left at their doorstep; and little Eliza is raised with privilege, with the hopes of her making a smart marriage. But, as one might have predicted, Eliza falls for a young man much lower on the social scale than she; and when he goes popping off to California to partake of the gold rush there, Eliza, left pregnant, decides to steal away to follow him. En route she meets her soulmate, a Chinese herbalist called Tao Chi'en; and learning from both his and her own experiences in the California goldfields, Eliza grows up quickly, gaining an incredible reserve of strength and character. --Brad Hooper
Publishers Weekly Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. 9780060194918 Allende expands her geographical boundaries in this sprawling, engrossing historical novel flavored by four culturesÄEnglish, Chilean, Chinese and AmericanÄand set during the 1849 California Gold Rush. The alluring tale begins in Valpara¡so, Chile, with young Eliza Sommers, who was left as a baby on the doorstep of wealthy British importers Miss Rose Sommers and her prim brother, Jeremy. Now a 16-year-old, and newly pregnant, Eliza decides to follow her lover, fiery clerk Joaqu¡n Andieta, when he leaves for California to make his fortune in the gold rush. Enlisting the unlikely aid of Tao Chi'en, a Chinese shipboard cook, she stows away on a ship bound for San Francisco. Tao Chi'en's own storyÄrichly textured and expansively toldÄbegins when he is born into a peasant family and sold into slavery, where it is his good fortune to be trained as a master of acupuncture. Years later, while tending to a sailor in colonial Hong Kong, he is shanghaied and forced into service at sea. During the voyage with Eliza, Tao nurses her through a miscarriage. When they disembark, Eliza is disguised as a boy, and she spends the next four years in male attire so she may travel freely and safely. Eliza's search for Joaqu¡n (rumored to have become an outlaw) is disappointing, but through an eye-opening stint as a pianist in a traveling brothel and through her charged friendship with Tao, now a sought-after healer and champion of enslaved Chinese prostitutes, Eliza finds freedom, fulfillment and maturity. Effortlessly weaving in historical background, Allende (House of the Spirits; Paula) evokes in pungent prose the great melting pot of early California and the colorful societies of Valpara¡so and Canton. A gallery of secondary characters, developed early on, prove pivotal to the plot. In a book of this scope, the narrative is inevitably top-heavy in spots, and the plot wears thin toward the end, but this is storytelling at its most seductive, a brash historical adventure. Major ad/promo; BOMC dual main selection; 11-city author tour. (Oct.) FYI: This book will also be released in a HarperLibros Spanish edition, Hija del la Fortuna (ISBN 0-06-019492-8). Copyright 1999 Cahners Business Information.
Kirkus Copyright © Kirkus Reviews, used with permission. 9780060194918 Allende's first novel in six years (The Infinite Plan, 1993, etc.) delivers her gentle, often plush style at extravagant length to tell the life of Eliza Sommers, a Chilean woman who immigrates to San Francisco in the 1840s. Abandoned as a baby in the British colony of Valparaiso, Eliza is raised by Jeremy and Rose Sommers, a prosperous pair of siblings who consider the girl a gift. For unmarried Rose, Eliza is compensation for the child she's always lacked; brother Jeremy is pleased that the infant legitimizes their odd cohabitation. A thriving seaport, Valparaiso welcomes sailors and hucksters in abundance: Jeremy is a ship's captain, and one Jacob Todd a Bible salesman without official sanction. Todd quickly falls for Rose, though she misunderstands him and thinks he's fallen in love with young Eliza. Some 200 pages later, Eliza falls in love with Joaqu¡n Andieta, who her pregnant and then sails for the promise of gold in California. Eliza follows, miscarries during her passage north, and is befriended by Tao Chi'en, a Chinese physician. (His early struggles and departure from Asia are treated in detail.) Meanwhile, Eliza wanders through California with undiminished hope. This takes years, and along the way Tao Chi'en is transformed from his traditional ways, while Eliza adopts the role of a man and encounters dozens of curious people. Back in Valparaiso, the Sommers pair regret their loss but are given hope of tracking Eliza down when Todd'now a newspaper reporter'tells them he's seen her. Finally, after Eliza discovers that Joaqu¡n, having become a bandit, has been murdered, she and Tao Chi'en are free to explore their (so-far unexpressed) love for each other. Allende has clearly enjoyed providing rich elaborations that don't particularly advance the story here but affirm her theme of personal discovery. Each of her characters finds 'something different from what we were looking for.' With this novel, the same may not be said of readers who enjoy Allende's fiction. (Book-of-the-Month Club dual main selection; author tour)
Book list From Booklist, Copyright © American Library Association. Used with permission. 9780060194918 The latest novel by one of the most internationally appreciated writers draws on two of the environments about which Allende knows much: Chile, her native land, and California, where she currently resides. Allende proves she has learned history well and that she knows characters instinctively as she reaches back into both Chile's and California's past to construct a story of family conflict, romantic love, and true adventure, all these threads spun into a fine, even beautiful, narrative of admirable force. Her tale begins in an intriguing milieu: that of the British colony in the Chilean city of Valparaiso (for which, of course, Allende has a wonderful feel) at the middle of the nineteenth century. A year and a half after Rose and Jeremy Sommers, sister and brother (the latter in the import-export business), arrived at the Chilean port city, they took in an orphan left at their doorstep; and little Eliza is raised with privilege, with the hopes of her making a smart marriage. But, as one might have predicted, Eliza falls for a young man much lower on the social scale than she; and when he goes popping off to California to partake of the gold rush there, Eliza, left pregnant, decides to steal away to follow him. En route she meets her soulmate, a Chinese herbalist called Tao Chi'en; and learning from both his and her own experiences in the California goldfields, Eliza grows up quickly, gaining an incredible reserve of strength and character. --Brad Hooper
Publishers Weekly (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved 9780060194918 Allende expands her geographical boundaries in this sprawling, engrossing historical novel flavored by four culturesÄEnglish, Chilean, Chinese and AmericanÄand set during the 1849 California Gold Rush. The alluring tale begins in Valpara¡so, Chile, with young Eliza Sommers, who was left as a baby on the doorstep of wealthy British importers Miss Rose Sommers and her prim brother, Jeremy. Now a 16-year-old, and newly pregnant, Eliza decides to follow her lover, fiery clerk Joaqu¡n Andieta, when he leaves for California to make his fortune in the gold rush. Enlisting the unlikely aid of Tao Chi'en, a Chinese shipboard cook, she stows away on a ship bound for San Francisco. Tao Chi'en's own storyÄrichly textured and expansively toldÄbegins when he is born into a peasant family and sold into slavery, where it is his good fortune to be trained as a master of acupuncture. Years later, while tending to a sailor in colonial Hong Kong, he is shanghaied and forced into service at sea. During the voyage with Eliza, Tao nurses her through a miscarriage. When they disembark, Eliza is disguised as a boy, and she spends the next four years in male attire so she may travel freely and safely. Eliza's search for Joaqu¡n (rumored to have become an outlaw) is disappointing, but through an eye-opening stint as a pianist in a traveling brothel and through her charged friendship with Tao, now a sought-after healer and champion of enslaved Chinese prostitutes, Eliza finds freedom, fulfillment and maturity. Effortlessly weaving in historical background, Allende (House of the Spirits; Paula) evokes in pungent prose the great melting pot of early California and the colorful societies of Valpara¡so and Canton. A gallery of secondary characters, developed early on, prove pivotal to the plot. In a book of this scope, the narrative is inevitably top-heavy in spots, and the plot wears thin toward the end, but this is storytelling at its most seductive, a brash historical adventure. Major ad/promo; BOMC dual main selection; 11-city author tour. (Oct.) FYI: This book will also be released in a HarperLibros Spanish edition, Hija del la Fortuna (ISBN 0-06-019492-8). (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved
Kirkus Copyright © Kirkus Reviews, used with permission. 9780060194918 Allende's first novel in six years (The Infinite Plan, 1993, etc.) delivers her gentle, often plush style at extravagant length to tell the life of Eliza Sommers, a Chilean woman who immigrates to San Francisco in the 1840s. Abandoned as a baby in the British colony of Valparaiso, Eliza is raised by Jeremy and Rose Sommers, a prosperous pair of siblings who consider the girl a gift. For unmarried Rose, Eliza is compensation for the child she's always lacked; brother Jeremy is pleased that the infant legitimizes their odd cohabitation. A thriving seaport, Valparaiso welcomes sailors and hucksters in abundance: Jeremy is a ship's captain, and one Jacob Todd a Bible salesman without official sanction. Todd quickly falls for Rose, though she misunderstands him and thinks he's fallen in love with young Eliza. Some 200 pages later, Eliza falls in love with Joaqu¡n Andieta, who her pregnant and then sails for the promise of gold in California. Eliza follows, miscarries during her passage north, and is befriended by Tao Chi'en, a Chinese physician. (His early struggles and departure from Asia are treated in detail.) Meanwhile, Eliza wanders through California with undiminished hope. This takes years, and along the way Tao Chi'en is transformed from his traditional ways, while Eliza adopts the role of a man and encounters dozens of curious people. Back in Valparaiso, the Sommers pair regret their loss but are given hope of tracking Eliza down when Todd'now a newspaper reporter'tells them he's seen her. Finally, after Eliza discovers that Joaqu¡n, having become a bandit, has been murdered, she and Tao Chi'en are free to explore their (so-far unexpressed) love for each other. Allende has clearly enjoyed providing rich elaborations that don't particularly advance the story here but affirm her theme of personal discovery. Each of her characters finds 'something different from what we were looking for.' With this novel, the same may not be said of readers who enjoy Allende's fiction. (Book-of-the-Month Club dual main selection; author tour)
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1999
Gap Creek
 Robert Morgan
Book list From Booklist, Copyright © American Library Association. Used with permission. Whatever trials Job suffered were nothing compared to the tribulations that befall Julie Harmon Richards. Following the deaths of her younger brother and father, 17-year-old Julie takes one look at 18-year-old Hank Richards and falls in love. Following their marriage a month later, the two move from their North Carolina homes to Gap Creek, South Carolina, where Hank works at a cotton mill and Julie cooks and cleans for a Mr. Pendergast in exchange for room and board. Pendergast is fatally injured trying to rescue his hidden savings during a devastating fire, and Julie, now pregnant, gives all of Pendergast's money to a man who tells her he is the lawyer for the bank that holds the mortgage on the house. Gap Creek floods and the house is ruined. Julie's baby lives only for a few months. Finally, Pendergast's heirs show up, so Hank and Julie, now pregnant again, leave Gap Creek for an uncertain future. Although Morgan, author of The Truest Pleasure (1995), has written better novels, even readers numbed by the seemingly endless series of disasters will respect Julie's strength of character and wish her well. (Reviewed September 1, 1999)1565122429Nancy Pearl
Library Journal (c) Copyright Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted. 9781565113862 Hard work and suffering seem to be Julie Harmon's lot in life. The ablest bodied of her family and in her teens, she works like a man in the fields to support the rest. After her younger brother dies in her arms, and her father follows, little wonder that she jumps at the chance to marry handsome Hank. He hits her and proves unable to hold a job, though their lovemaking sometimes becomes a rare respite from her life's misery. A fire during a vividly described hog-rendering scene kills their landlord, throwing their future into doubt. By the eviction scene, many listeners will be rolling their eyes. Authenticity redeems the novel, along with Julie's first-person narrationDsimple, uneducated, but ringing true. Reader Jill Hill captures Julie's voice wonderfully, adding a nervous little giggle that endears. She sometimes stops between sentences, though, slowing the narrative flow. Morgan's novel was Oprah Winfrey's January 2000 selection, so patrons will want this title.DJohn Hiett, Iowa City P.L. (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.
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  Book Jacket
1999
A Map of the World
 Jane Hamilton
Library Journal (c) Copyright Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted. 9780385473101 This second novel by Hamilton (The Book of Ruth, LJ 11/1/88) is a stunning exploration of how one careless moment can cause irrevocable and devastating change. Alice Goodwin is caring for her best friend's children when two-year-old Lizzy Collins wanders to the pond on the Goodwin farm and drowns. The consequences of this tragedy reverberate through a small Wisconsin community, which never accepted Howard and Alice Goodwin. Theresa Collins, bereft at losing a child and a dear friend, draws on her Catholic religion and finds forgiveness. Alice, immobilized by guilt and grief and unable to function as a wife or mother to her own two daughters, is charged with abusing children in her part-time job as a school nurse. Lizzy's death is ever present-especially in the bond growing between Theresa and Howard while Alice is in jail-and the pain of it is echoed in Alice's primary young accuser and in Alice as a child, drawing her own map of the world after her mother died. Reminiscent of Rosellen Brown's Tender Mercies (1978), this compelling, multilayered fiction belongs in all collections.-Michele Leber, Fairfax Cty. P.L., Va. (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.
Publishers Weekly (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved 9780385473101 Booksellers should send up three cheers of greeting for this haunting second novel by the author of The Book of Ruth , a beautifully developed and written story reminiscent of the work of Sue Miller and Jane Smiley. A piercing picture of domestic relationships under the pressure of calamitous circumstances, it poignantly addresses the capricious turns of fate and the unyielding grip of regret. Alice and Howard Goodwin and their two young daughters live on the last remaining dairy farm on the outskirts of Racine, Wisc. The farm is Howard's dream, realized with infusions of money from his disapproving mother; but Alice, who is disorganized, skittery and emotionally volatile, is constitutionally unsuited to be a farmer's wife. Her solace is her best friend Theresa, who also has two little girls for whom they alternate days of babysitting. One hot, dry June morning, in the middle of a soul-parching drought, Alice daydreams for a few, crucial minutes while the four girls play. She has rediscovered the map of the world that she made after her own mother died when she was eight; it was an attempt to imagine a place where she would always feel safe and secure. In that short time, one of Theresa's daughters drowns in the Goodwins' pond. As outsiders from the city, the Goodwins have never been accepted in their small community, which now closes forces against them. Still grieving and filled with remorse, Alice, a school nurse, is accused by an opportunistic mother of sexually molesting her son. She is arrested, and since Howard cannot raise bail, she remains in jail, where she suffers but also learns a great deal about human frailty and solidarity. Meanwhile, Howard and the girls undergo their own crucible of fire. Among Hamilton's gifts is a perfect ear for the interchanges of domestic life. The voices of Alice and Howard, who narrate the tale, have an elegiac, yet compelling tone as they look back on the events that swept them into a horrifying nightmare. In counterpoint to the shocks that transform their existence, the drudgery of the daily routine of farm life has rarely been conveyed with such fidelity. Fittingly, however, the death of their hopes as a family coincides with Howard's realization that the farmer's way of life is disappearing as well. The last third of the book, detailing Alice's incarceration among mainly black inmates, is astonishingly perceptive and credible, opening new dimensions in the narrative. One wants to read this powerful novel at one sitting, mesmerized by a story that has universal implications. BOMC and QPB selection. (June) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved
Book list From Booklist, Copyright © American Library Association. Used with permission. 9780385473101 Hamilton's first novel, The Book of Ruth, was widely praised and won the 1989 PEN/Hemingway Foundation Award for best first novel. Her second centers on a few months in the lives of Alice and Howard Goodwin and their little girls, Emma and Claire. The Goodwins live on a dairy farm in Wisconsin, a few hundred acres surrounded by housing tracts. Because they are the only farm family left, and because they are somewhat eccentric and proud of their self-sufficiency, they are isolated from most of their neighbors. Their only friends are the Collins family. One day, Theresa Collins brings her daughters to stay at the farm while she goes to work. In the few minutes that Alice spends looking for a bathing suit, two-year-old Lizzie Collins runs to the pond and drowns. Alice blames herself for Lizzie's death, but that's not all. The mother of Robbie Mackessy, a little boy who is one of Alice's most frequent patients in her job as a part-time school nurse, accuses her of sexual child abuse, and Alice is arrested. The rest of the book traces Alice's time in jail, her family's efforts to cope while she is gone, and her trial. Hamilton has a great gift for characterization, and she can express the smallest nuances of behavior, from those of adults under extreme stress to those of very small children. Heartbreaking, harrowing, extremely well done. ~--Mary Ellen Quinn
Kirkus Copyright © Kirkus Reviews, used with permission. 9780385473101 Hamilton's second novel will inevitably invite comparison with Jane Smiley's A Thousand Acres--it too is a big book about a farm family's fall from grace--but the author of The Book of Ruth (1988), winner of the PEN/Hemingway award for the best first novel, carves out her own territory in a strong, compelling story. Alice Goodwin, 30ish, is a school nurse and the mother of two young daughters, Emma and Claire. Her husband, Howard, runs the dairy farm they live on in Prairie Center, Wisc. Farming is not just his job but his passion; the words ``Golden Guernsey'' hold all the magic of poetry in his ears. Alice admires but can't share this fervor. For her, passion seems long-buried under a heap of day-to-day responsibilities she feels only half-good at. One sunny June day, her safe life is shattered by an unthinkable tragedy: A small child under her care has an accident and dies. After that, as if a doorway to darkness has been opened, Alice finds herself in more trouble, accused of terrible crimes, wrenched from her family and locked in jail. From farm wife to felon is a big leap, but Hamilton makes it completely believable by portraying a woman whose strengths are also her downfall. As a child, Alice designed her own map of the world to find her bearings. Now, as an adult, she has to find her own way again, through a thicket of lies and a maze of ill will, just to get back to the solid ground she took for granted before. Unforgettably, beat by beat, Hamilton maps the best and worst of the human heart and all the mysterious, uncharted country in between. (Book-of-the-Month Club alternate selection; Quality Paperback Book Club alternate selection; author tour)
Book list From Booklist, Copyright © American Library Association. Used with permission. 9780385473101 The accidental drowning of a child in her care completely reroutes Emma Goodwin's placid existence. Hamilton is adept at showing how easily life can be tipped from the ordinary into the nightmarish and how decent people cope under extreme stress.
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  Book Jacket
 
1999
Vinegar Hill
Book Jacket   A. Manette Ansay
Library Journal (c) Copyright Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted. 9780670852536 First novelist Ansay here focuses on a beleaguered Midwest family. With their two children, James and Ellen have moved back to the town where they grew up and into the house of James's very difficult parents. James, who is utterly controlled by his brutal father, gets a job selling farm machinery, while Ellen teaches in a Catholic school. Through powerful vignettes, the reader witnesses the unraveling of James and Ellen's marriage and Ellen's emerging sense of self. Reminiscent of the works of Jane Smiley or a more bitter Jon Hassler, this book is recommended for all collections.-Patricia C. Heaney, Nassau Community Coll. Lib., Garden City, N.Y. (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.
Publishers Weekly (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved 9780670852536 Set in 1972, Ansay's debut novel revolves around Ellen Grier's struggle for liberation-liberation from her marriage to James, from her virtual enslavement to her sanctimonious, cruel in-laws and from what she see as the stultifying demands of her religion, Roman Catholicism. Financial difficulties have forced James and Ellen, along with their two children, to move back to the small Wisconsin town where they grew up and where they now share an acrimonious and joyless life with James's parents. Virtually every character is victimized by a private misery that causes pain and alienation and that in turn victimizes others. Ansay, who teaches creative writing at Vanderbilt, is adept at delineating these worlds of suffering, and her language can be both apt and beautiful. But she offers too many descriptions of the nightmares and waking bad dreams that seem to afflict all of her characters, and the reader begins to share the sense of being caught in a bad dream. As the story concentrates more on Ellen's search for identity-a familiar tale presented here in a familiar way-this sense of nightmare is intensified by an impression of déjà vu. Though uneven, the novel offers glimpses of Ansay's potential to deliver a more coherent book next time. (Sept.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved
Book list From Booklist, Copyright © American Library Association. Used with permission. 9780670852536 Set a decade ago, this novel is about gritty small-town life in Wisconsin. Ellen along with her unemployed husband, James, and their two young children, Amy and Herbert, have returned to live with her in-laws, a bitter and narrow-minded couple, irascible and tough as the farm life they've endured, carefully cloaking their dark secrets. For Ellen, the pressures of her teaching job and raising a family often collide with life in this morbid household, and her marriage to a distant man, still under his father's thumb, is crumbling. It doesn't help that when James does find a job, it is as a salesman of out-of-date farm machinery, which keeps him on the road. But in the end, Ellen triumphs over a multitude of domestic and marital problems to grasp her emerging sense of self. Ansay writes with a diamond clarity tempered by compassion. ~--Theresa Ducato
Library Journal (c) Copyright Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted. 9780380730131 Ellen must go with her unemployed husband to live with her in-laws. Their home in Hollysfield, WI, is a place of unrelenting negativity and rigidity. In the early 1970s, when women are just begnning to recognize their choices, Ellen must decide whether she will stick with her marriage or save herself and her children. (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.
Kirkus Copyright © Kirkus Reviews, used with permission. 9780670852536 First-time author Ansay, a 1992 recipient of the Nelson Algren Prize, subjects her readers to a small-town family's legacy of abuse and despair. In 1972, Jimmy and Ellen Grier, a young couple with two children, move back to their German-American rural Wisconsin hometown and into the oppressive house of Jimmy's parents, a bitter couple who allow no joy or warmth at their hearth. Ellen longs to leave, but Jimmy refuses to budge, maintaining that he knows what is best for his family, which includes reverting to a kid in the presence of his mother, Mary-Margaret, and a defenseless sap in front of his abusive father, Fritz. To his children, Jimmy is an eccentric, distant man, and they are most comfortable when he is away selling farm equipment for days or weeks at a time; then they can steal some moments alone with their mother and give in to their inherent good natures. The early chapters are almost unbearable to read, as vulnerable Ellen is forced by convention into an unhappy life. The pain only intensifies as the narrative reveals the stories of Mary-Margaret, her sister Salome, Jimmy, and his twin brothers who died at birth; we see that the family's regressive behavior can be attributed to Fritz's brutality. Ellen's defense is to take prescription pills that numb her. She almost becomes another victim until she learns about an audacious act once committed by Mary-Margaret's mother, the only relative with a lick of sense. Inspired by camaraderie with this long-dead woman, Ellen flushes her pills away, packs up her kids, and plans to move on- -just when it looks like Jimmy may be breaking out of his stupor. The clichéd ending does not resolve a hitherto sensitive, probing story about the lasting scars of abuse. Lovely prose, but only for those who can stomach the content.
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1999
River, Cross My Heart
Book Jacket   Breena Clarke
Library Journal (c) Copyright Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted. 9780316144230 YA-Set in Georgetown, this poignant coming-of-age story begins with the drowning death of six-year-old Clara Bynum. Johnnie May, at 12, was supposed to be minding her the morning the children went down to the river, knowing they were not allowed to play near it, much less swim in it. The Bynums had come to Washington, DC, from North Carolina looking for a better life, and life for the colored in Georgetown in the 1920s was better: plenty of work and good schools for the children. But Johnnie May's independent spirit causes trouble from the beginning. She is always asking why-why couldn't she swim in the pool on Volta Place, right across from Aunt Ina's house? Why does she always have to mind her little sister and clean up after her? Johnnie May is a natural leader, and "knowing her place" is a struggle. The story, which follows the Bynum family and friends in Georgetown for about a year, ends in triumph as Johnnie May wins a swim meet held in the new pool built for black people. Much of the book describes Johnnie May's relationships with her mother, her relatives, and her friends, painting a revealing picture of a river, a family, and a community.-Molly Connally, Kings Park Library, Fairfax County, VA (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.
Book list From Booklist, Copyright © American Library Association. Used with permission. 9780316144230 Ten-year-old Johnnie Mae Bynum is haunted by the memory of her sister Clara, who drowned in the Potomac River at a point where the neighborhood children had been routinely warned against swimming. Five years older, Johnnie Mae had always been charged with Clara's care, so Clara's death stirs up guilt and confusion. Had she pushed Clara into the water or was she only guilty of neglect? The drowning changes the dynamics within the Bynum family, still coping with the move from South Carolina to the Georgetown area at the insistence of the mother, the strong-willed Alice Bynum, who wants opportunities for her children that she perceives exist in the North of the 1920s. Hence Alice both admires and fears Johnnie Mae's defiant resistance to segregated swimming pools, which chafes her own sense of racial injustice and political expedience. Clarke's first novel beautifully ties together themes of family tensions after the death of a child, a young girl's coming-of-age, and racial animosities in a small community. --Vanessa Bush
Kirkus Copyright © Kirkus Reviews, used with permission. 9780316144230 An anemic first novel so well-intentioned that it's almost painful to point out its myriad deficiencies. In the mid-1920s, Willie Bynum and his wife Alice have moved from North Carolina to Georgetown, D.C., in hopes of a better life for themselves and their daughters, Johnnie Mae and Clara. They warn the girls never to swim in the Potomac River, but ten-year-old Johnnie Mae goes there anyway with a group of friends, and five-year-old Clara accidentally drowns. The novel's focus is blurred; Clarke can't seem to decide if the story is about the aftermath of a drowning, Johnnie Mae's coming of age, or the struggles of an African-American family new to the ways of the city. Unmemorable, underdeveloped characters come and go: a white woman who employs Alice; neighbors and relatives; an almost-mute girl Johnnie Mae befriends. Far too mature for a girl of ten, Johnnie Mae discovers swimming and suffers racial prejudice when she enters a competition. To demonstrate her independent mind, she and a friend sneak into a segregated pool to swim in the dead of night. None of these random events ever come together, though, and the significance of the birth of a baby boy to replace the dead Clara is never explored. Meanwhile, several chapters are little more than filler; late in the story, a beautician and her doctor admirer take up several pages, then fade away. We're told that Johnnie Mae's true father is a North Carolina Indian named Sam Logan, but this fact proves to be a red herring and is never utilized. Action is sparse, and the author lacks the linguistic facility necessary for a novel of ideas'not that there are many new ones here. Clarke's one strength is her use of seemingly authentic period details. Otherwise, an only fair-to-middling effort.
Publishers Weekly (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved 9780316144230 Debut writer and Washington, D.C., native, Clarke has written a novel as lyric and alternately beguiling and confounding as its title. It is the story of the drowning of a six-year-old child, and the tragedy's ramifications for her family and neighbors in the black area of Georgetown in 1925 D.C. Clarke's scene-building skills are the novel's strengths and occasionally its weaknesses, as each chapter is an intense set piece that sometimes provokes more questions than answers. The story is ultimately that of the effects of Clara Bynum's death on her 12-year-old sister, Johnnie Mae, who was babysitting Clara at the time she fell into the river. Johnnie Mae suffers guilt, fear and loss, endures dreams, imaginings and confusion as she sees visions of her sister everywhere: in a trauma-stung classmate who wears braids like Clara's, and the vapor from a boiling pot of green beans that resembles her sister's face. Against a felt, poignant and meticulously detailed panorama of the African-American (then called "colored") community of Georgetown, Johnnie Mae struggles to find her bearings, to cope with institutional and family expectations, and with puberty and race. Johnnie Mae ultimately derives strength from her element, the water, as she becomes a talented swimmer, but her parents Alice and Willie struggle with inextinguishable grief. From the first vivid description of the Potomac, liquid elements provide themes and narrative tension in this plangent coming-of-age story, granting the reader a necessary, if temporary, distancing from the blunt fact of a dead child. Indeed, Clarke's research about African-American Georgetown in the early 20th century revisits a time and place as intricate as any, but so remote from most memories that the historical details are fascinating footnotes to an era. While authorial asides are sometimes intrusive, this is a haunting story. Agent, Cynthia Cannell. (July) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved
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1999
Tara Road
 Maeve Binchy
Library Journal (c) Copyright Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted. 9780385333955 Abandoned by her husband, a Dublin woman named Ria meets American Marilyn via the phone, and they end up swapping houses?with surprise results. (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.
Library Journal (c) Copyright Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted. 9780385315814 Fans of beloved Irish writer Binchy (Evening Class, LJ 2/1/97) will be transported to reader's heaven by her latest. With words, she paints sensitive portraits of a variety of women connected by a Dublin address: Tara Road. Dubliner Ria Lynch, cheerily domestic wife and mother, suffers from a series of betrayals dealt by her charming husband. Meanwhile, in Connecticut, Marilyn Vine's grief for her dead son transforms her into a cold, unloving person. These two strangers seize an opportunity to swap homes for a summer, each crossing an ocean to look for a way to begin again. As the two very different women inherit each other's neighbors, families, and lifestyles, they discover their strengths and their futures. The novel's other characters are vividly drawn?the reader never has to stop to remember who is who. And Binchy adds a spark of magic: a fortuneteller serves as a thread connecting the characters through time. Every public library will want this one; lucky ones can afford multiple copies. [Previewed in Prepub Alert, LJ 1/99.]?Carol J. Bissett, Dittlinger Memorial Lib., New Braunfels, TX (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.
Kirkus Copyright © Kirkus Reviews, used with permission. 9780385315814 Once again, Binchy (The Glass Lake, 1995, etc.) memorably limns the lives of ordinary people caught in the traps sprung by life and loving hearts. When Danny Lynch and his young bride-to-be Ria Norris buy No. 16, a large, derelict Victorian house, Tara Road is a rundown Dublin street. Lovingly restored, the house soon becomes a gathering place as neighbors stop by to chat, help out, or eat one of Ria's delicious meals. Ria has loved handsome Danny, a realtor who works for high-flying property tycoon Barney McCarthy, since first meeting him. She enjoys managing her busy domestic life and two children, Annie and Brian; her friends, like Gertie, whose husband beats her; Colm, who's opened a restaurant nearby and worries about his drug-addicted sister; and Rosemary, a beautiful, unmarried businesswoman who owns one of No. 32's new apartments. But the summer when Annie is fourteen and Brian nine, Ria learns that Danny has been dallying with a ``fancy woman,'' now pregnant with his child, and that he wants to marry her. Stunned, Ria impulsively accepts an American woman's surprise telephone request to trade houses for the summer. Marilyn, living in New England, is married but still mourning the death of her teenaged son, Dale, and covets time alone. Once ensconced in her Connecticut home, Ria soon makes new friends, finds work as a caterer, and even begins dating'while also learning the truth about Dale's death. Meanwhile, in Dublin, Ria's pals continue to drop in, at first overwhelming Marilyn, who gradually involves herself in their lives, grows a garden, and discovers one friend's unsuspected betrayal of Ria. The two women, each strengthened by her season abroad, meet briefly before Marilyn flies home. Grateful for one another's support, each feels less heart-sore and more hopeful of happiness ahead. One of Binchy's best. (Book-of-the-month main selection; author tour)
Publishers Weekly (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved 9780385315814 In her latest engaging novel, prolific Irish author Binchy returns to the notion of sea change, addressed in her early work Light a Penny Candle (1983), which chronicled the story of an English girl during WWII who goes to live in Ireland. Here, two women who are strangers to each other?one American, one Irish?trade houses for a summer, each to assuage a terrible loss. Ria, happily married to handsome, prosperous (if slick) real estate developer Danny Lynch, lives in a beautiful old home on Dublin's Tara Road, an enviable address. For nearly 20 years, such world as matters to Ria Lynch congregates in her kitchen: her mother and sister, her two children, many friends, kids' chums and Danny's associates, a whole bright web of connection. When Danny, out of the blue, announces he's leaving home to live with his young pregnant mistress, Ria's life explodes, and the fallout touches everyone. In coping with this shattering blow, Ria agrees to an offered house trade with an American woman who once had real estate dealings with her husband. Ria will live two months in suburban Connecticut, while American Marilyn Vine will come to Ireland to absorb (or evade) her own sorrow?her son's recent death. Once installed on Tara Road, however, the uptight, remote Marilyn is drawn into Ria's neighborhood dramas; Ria brightens Marilyn's American life as well. While the novel asks questions about marriage (how can basically decent people shred their families, hopes and assumptions, and somehow reconstitute their lives?), the real roots of the story lie in female friendship as a source of strength. The pleasures Binchy offers readers are her lively depiction of social connections, feuds and friendships; secrets, lies, alliances, in short, the thicket of Irish everyday life. The American scenes and characters pale by contrast. As usual, all the characters are basically decent people struggling through the morass of daily existence. While the beginning is slow and the end overtidy, once into the heat of the story, readers will find it a charmer. Major ad/promo; BOMC selection; author tour; 20-city TV satellite tour; simultaneous BDD Audio release. (Mar.) FYI: Tara Road is #1 on the London Times bestseller list. (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved
Book list From Booklist, Copyright © American Library Association. Used with permission. 9780385315814 Binchy has forged a solid reputation with solid novels about domestic situations. Her latest work may not draw new readers, but her fans will find Binchy's talents undiminshed, perhaps even keener. She is a careful writer--a conscientious plotter, to be specific. Detail is slowly layered upon detail as she raises, like a strong edifice, the background to her characters' lives. From there, she weaves an intricate, tightly integrated story--in this instance, about two women, one Irish and the other American, who, at low points in their lives, embark on an interesting mutual experiment: they switch homes for the summer. Ria, in Dublin, goes to live in Marilyn's house in Connecticut and vice versa. Both women seemed to have had it all: husband, nice home, children, and a good environment in which they can thrive in their old age. But coasting along is not to be their lots, and when they spend this peculiar summer ensconced in each other's homes, they also find themselves inhabiting each other's lives. What each woman learns about the other, and, more importantly, what they learn about themselves as they get involved in their odd project is the sum and substance of this warm novel. "Yes, we really took a chance, didn't we?" Ria says to Marilyn at the end of the house-and-life swap. "And how very well it worked out," Marilyn responds. That is what readers will say about the novel, too--how well it worked out. --Brad Hooper
Library Journal (c) Copyright Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted. 9780553525656 Ria Lynch is a charming woman who seems to have everythingÄa great marriage, family, and a beautiful home in Dublin. The bottom drops out of her world when her handsome husband leaves her for his young, pregnant girlfriend. Three thousand miles away in Connecticut, Marilyn is trying to cope with the death of her beloved teenaged son. The two women exchange houses and, in a sense, experience a summer that gives each a new perspective and begins the complex processes of healing. Binchy (Evening Class) is a master at drawing readers into her beguiling domestic romances. The characters are distinctly and vividly drawn, and there's even a fortuneteller who appears from time to time in the women's lives to add a few wisps of magic. The Irish voice of Terry Donnelly is a beautiful match to the story's location and strong characters. Donnelly is especially skilled at interpreting the voices of the several children who live at Tara Road. Though some of the novel's pacing is lost in the abridgment, this is still a fine production and sure to be popular with listeners.ÄBarbara Valle, El Paso P.L., TX (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.
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  Book Jacket
1999
Mother of Pearl
 Melinda Haynes
Publishers Weekly (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved 9780786864850 In prose both rugged and beautiful, Haynes plumbs the secrets of the South in her stunning debut novel. Set in Petal, Miss., across the Leaf River from Hattiesburg, the narrative opens in the summer of 1956, shortly after Even Grade, a 27-year-old black man, has met Joody Two Sun, a seer whos known as a witch, and not long after Valuable Korner, the 14-year-old daughter of the towns one loose woman, gets her Blessing of Blood, as Joody Two Sun calls it. Evenso named from the note his mother left when she abandoned him at a Memphis orphanageis a decent man, kindheartedly building a family of friends; while Valuable, the daughter of a dying Southern line, an orphan of sorts herself, is deeply in need of family. Valuable and Jackson McLain, the boy down the street, fall in love, and Haynes captures that phenomenon delicately and persuasively. In a heartbeat Valuable is pregnant, and as Jackson is forced to move away, Valuable turns to Joody and Even for support as she carries the baby she comes to think of as Pearl. Despite Evens help, Valuable, whose family hides secrets far darker than this pregnancy, seems doomed to pay for the sins of the past. Indeed, Hayness capacious novel is very much about the justice wrought by destiny, but it is also about finding family, people who nurture, forgive and care for each other; in the novels resolution, those most deserving of love are brought together. Haynes is fearless in portraying her characters flaws, their pettiness and racism, their erring thoughts, but shes also merciful, letting them grow and change during the course of the narrative. While perhaps too many of the characters take the stage, each with tragic accounts of their lives, Haynes nevertheless triumphs with a rare and memorable ensemble. This wise, luminous novel demonstrates her great giftsfor language, courageous storytelling and compassion. BOMC and QPB selections. (June) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved
Library Journal (c) Copyright Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted. 9780786864850 This fascinating first novel tells the intertwining stories of Valuable, a young white girl whose mother is the town whore; Even Grade, a black man raised in an orphanage; Joody Two Sun, a mysterious seer; Canaan, a misfit intellectual; and Joleb, a white boy raised by Grace Johnson, a black woman hired as his wet-nurse after the death of her baby. Each is searching for love and identity in Mississippi in 1956, when blacks and whites rarely interacted. When Valuable's mother abandons her and Val becomes pregnant, she turns to Even and the others. They forge a makeshift family based on love and acceptance, not blood or race. Haynes has written a monumental novel of love, grace, and hope amid the trials and terrors of everyday life. The story takes place in the segregated South, but it is timeless, and the characters are unforgettable. Highly recommended for public and academic libraries.ÄKaren Anderson, Superior Court Law Lib., Phoenix (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.
Library Journal (c) Copyright Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted. 9780786864850 YA-Set in the 1950s in Petal, MS, Mother of Pearl follows the intertwining stories of Even Grade, a 28-year-old black man, and Valuable Korner, the pregnant 15-year-old white daughter of the town whore. Even meets Valuable through his love interest, Joody Two Sun, a black woman whose ability to see the future makes her a constant consultant for the community. Val is searching for love and a family, and makes some unlikely connections. Elderly, self-educated Canaan, a custodian, works on his thesis, The Reality of the Negro, and reads Greek classics in the town library at night-after he's finished cleaning it; as a black man, he is not allowed admittance during its open hours. A hard-edged spinster shrewdly negotiates with a potential suitor, who is the town mortician with definite ideas of his own. Although much of the action involves the emotional well-being of the characters, there is a swiftly moving chapter that describes a raging flood and its aftermath. This realistic novel unflinchingly captures the bigotry of the times through actions and dialogue. The characters are fully drawn and the author conveys a good sense of time and place. The themes of identity, belonging, abandonment, and motherhood are examined with Southern angst edged with a sharp eye to reality.-Jean Johnston, Fairfax County Public Library, VA (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.
Book list From Booklist, Copyright © American Library Association. Used with permission. 9780786864850 Set in Petal, Mississippi, amid the social and economic challenges of the Deep South in 1956, this phenomenal and completely captivating novel highlights basic human longings and aspirations common to us all--love, community, identity, and security. Even Grade is a 28-year-old black man, an orphan who never knew his family. He can't seem to get enough of the untamed, natural woman Joody Two Sun, a seer who can "read" peoples' lives. Valuable Korner is the white, 15-year-old, tenderly vulnerable daughter of a known prostitute and an unknown father; her relationship with her childhood best friend Jackson has recently undergone a profound transformation. The story centers on the unusual circumstances that lead these characters and others to an unlikely connection. The events of a single year forever alter the way they see the world and their places in it. Both richly humorous and deeply tragic, this story leaves one wiser, made to understand something meaningful and important about life and human nature. Haynes speaks the truth in a story that is astonishingly powerful. A commanding debut novel. --Grace Fill
Kirkus Copyright © Kirkus Reviews, used with permission. 9780786864850 Newcomer Haynes writes swaying, shaded sentences in a promising debut that nicely realizes the atmosphere of Pearl, Mississippi, in the 1950s but that lacks an emotional decisiveness able to justify its prodigious length. What immediately strikes the reader is Haynes's style: grainy, rhythmic sentences whose music sometimes needs to be read aloud. As style, her prose is often beautiful and full of grace, but as communication it can be confusing, especially because one of the writer's narrative habits is to plop the reader down in the aftermath of an undescribed event and then describe it pages later. The story opens this way, and violently. A bottle is thrown at Canaan's head and he bleeds his way home. That incident sets the tone for the tale's other, mostly harmless oddities and personalities: Judy Tucson/Two Sun, who lives down by the river with sticks in her hair, issuing predictions given to her by the moon; lesbians Bea and Neva, guardians of Valuable, a motherless 15-year-old girl who furtively writes poetry and aches for companionship and love; Even Grade, a lonely young black man who falls in love with Judy; Jackson, a white boy who impregnates Valuable and leaves town; and Canaan himself, an elderly and sage janitor who reads Aeschylus and is composing a treatise on 'The Reality of the Negro.' Haynes's first is what might be called an 'atmospheric' novel: curiosities of dialect and strange usages richly evoke a Mississippi town. The plot itself'a simple affair in which Valuable dies during childbirth, followed by subsequent reconciliations among the story's participants'is a thin string along which Haynes drapes her alluring language and sensibility. Few of the characters, though, achieve permanence in the reader's memory. What lingers are moments, sayings, and the marvelous descriptions of sights and sounds in Pearl.
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  Book Jacket
 
1999
The Pilot's Wife
Book Jacket   Anita Shreve
Book list From Booklist, Copyright © American Library Association. Used with permission. 9780316789080 From the initial knock on the door at 3 a.m. to some five months later, Katharine Lyons finds herself in the grips of extreme emotion. Her pilot husband Jack's plane, with 103 passengers aboard, has exploded off the coast of Ireland. A union rep, Robert Hart, guides her through the first hours of grief and shock, fending off phone calls and bringing her soup. When aircrash investigators indicate they suspect a bomb and that Jack is somehow implicated, Hart becomes instrumental in protecting Katharine and her daughter from both the media and the airline, which is desperate to find a scapegoat for the disaster. As Katharine is forced to repeatedly absorb startling new information about her husband, she must face the fact that she did not really know the man she had been happily married to for 16 years. Shreve (The Weight of Water [BKL Ja 1 & 15 97]) is a graceful writer who knows just what she's doing--weaving a compelling plot through which she explores deeper issues, such as intimacy and grief. --Joanne Wilkinson
Kirkus Copyright © Kirkus Reviews, used with permission. Though sacrificing depth and credibility for speed, Shreve's sixth (The Weight of Water, 1997, etc.) is another suspenseful portrait of a modern marriage rent by betrayal and loss. After her pilot husband's plane blows up off the coast of Ireland, Kathryn discovers bit by bit how little she knew Jack Lyons. First, she faces a media frenzy when the flight recorder makes clear that Jack was carrying a bomb in his flight bag. Her illusions of a her so-called good marriage crumble, despite her belief in the love she and Jack had and the need to keep Jack's memory pure for teenage daughter Mattie. As she navigates the dark days with the priest-like assistance of Robert, the pilot union's grievance expert, Kathryn increasingly feels compelled to come to grips with Jack's hidden life. Following up on a phone number she discovers among his papers, she and Robert go to London, where she finds Jack's other family: Muire, an unrepentant Irish beauty and former flight attendant, and her two young children. By now the plot is fairly screaming IRA bombers!, but instead of guns and M15 surveillance teams we get Kathryn's long, sad walk in the rain and an attempt at consolation by a now-doting Robert. The next morning, Kathryn, still lagging two beats behind the reader, has the whole thing explained to her at breakfast by a remorseful Muire, who's now forced to go on the run. Then Kathryn's staggered by Robert's revelation that he didn't come along just to keep her company-but that he's part of the investigation (though he makes no move to detain Muire). Kathryn sulks, but by story's end Robert is back in her good graces, his seeming betrayal well on its way to being forgotten. An evocative but obvious thriller, rather like a domesticated Patricia Highsmith, that keeps you reading--even as you're regretting the opportunities for intrigue and angst that the narrative consistently ignores. Copyright ©Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.
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1999
The Reader
Book Jacket   Bernhard Schlink
 
1999
Jewel
 Bret Lott
Publishers Weekly (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved 9780671740399 Jewel Hilburn, the strong-willed narrator of this haunting novel set in rural Mississippi, lavishes the parental love she never received upon her own child, who is afflicted with Down's syndrome. (Nov.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved
Book list From Booklist, Copyright © American Library Association. Used with permission. 9780671740382 Jewel Hilburn is a plainspoken woman who tells her story and opens her soul and comes alive as few literary characters do. Her lessons came early in rural Mississippi: an orphan sent to a correctional school, she learned to take responsibility for her life. Her marriage to Leston was solid and loving and produced five fine children and a comfortable living during the relative prosperity of World War II. Then Brenda Kay was born with Down's syndrome, and Jewel's life split in two. There are echoes of Sue Miller's Family Pictures in the portrayal of the effects of an exceptional child on a family, but there is added depth and dimension here, as Jewel spends decades making what she can of her youngest child's life, while regretting what she is unable to give to the rest of her family. When jobs are scarce and doctor bills high in the postwar years, Jewel fixes on California to provide a better life for them all, and she works for what she wants despite the cost to the good man she loves. Jewel's story of a life and its legacy moves at its own pace with strength and dignity, captivating with its moments of aching tenderness and undertow of quiet power. ~--Michele Leber
Kirkus Copyright © Kirkus Reviews, used with permission. 9780671740382 An author of small domestic fictions (A Dream of Old Leaves, 1989; A Stranger's House, 1988; etc.) takes on larger issues in this resonant novel about simple people who reach a state of grace through human tragedy. Jewel and Leston Hilburn are poor Mississippi ``crackers'' and the glad parents of five ordinary children during WW II. Jewel- -whose strong, maternal voice narrates--hears the prophetic words that will change her life forever when Cathedral, a ``niggerwoman servant,'' tells her ``the baby you be carrying be your hardship, be yo test in this world.'' Five months after the birth of Brenda Kay, Jewel learns that this sixth and last child is a ``Mongolian Idiot,'' not expected to live beyond the age of two. But over the next 41 years Jewel realizes the ``giant blessing and curse of a retarded child''--her love for Brenda Kay so fierce and so blinding it runs roughshod over everyone else close to her. Rather than accept a future for her baby in a dead place, she nearly destroys Leston--the only man she's ever loved--by twice uprooting him from Mississippi to California. Consumed by rage and blame, she humiliates Cathedral, her one true friend, because of an accidental fire that leaves Brenda Kay scarred for life. She accepts emotional gaps with her other children--words spoken too late, an embrace interrupted--because she is so bound up in Brenda Kay's salvation. Yet, with all the sacrifice, the glory, and the pain, Brenda Kay's triumphs seem small in the end: she learns to whisper; she can hum a tuneless tune, she writes the letter B, she sometimes laughs. But, though she never grows beyond the mental age of six, Brenda Kay is deeply loved, her very existence a sign of ``the Lord smiling down'' on these good people. A quiet, at times slow-moving novel with exquisite moments of tenderness and the gift for elevating the commonplace to the sublime.
Library Journal (c) Copyright Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted. 9780671740382 Jewel Hilburn is 39 years old and the mother of five when Brenda Kay is born. A Down's Syndrome child, Brenda Kay becomes the focus of her mother's world and forever alters the life of the Hilburns. Jewel tells her own story, but her life becomes so intertwined with that of her daughter that such milestones as Brenda Kay's first step at age two and her learning to write the letter ``B'' at age 18 become joint achievements. Based on the lives of the author's grandmother and aunt, Jewel captures the intricate details of raising a retarded child--the total dedication demanded of a mother, the child's impact on the rest of the family, the joy and heartbreak of having a child who will remain eternally six years old. Lott has produced a powerful novel that warrants its selection as a Literary Guild Alternate.-- Thomas L. Kilpatrick, Southern Illinois Univ. at Carbondale Lib. (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.
Publishers Weekly (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved 9780671740382 Jewel Hilburn, the strong-willed narrator of this acutely affecting work, lavishes the parental love she never received upon her own exceptional child. Her adult life in rural Mississippi with two daughters, three sons and a devoted husband, Leston, has been one of domestic stability until the arrival in 1943 of her sixth child, Brenda Kay, afflicted with Down's syndrome. Brenda Kay becomes Jewel's, and necessarily her family's, sole focus: Leston's dream of owning a lumber company dies as medical costs mount, a lifelong friend is spitefully and unjustly blamed for an accident involving Brenda Kay, Jewel's decision to move the family to California to ensure the child's education sparks an excruciating battle of wills with Leston. Lott ( A Dream of Old Leaves ), who based his main characters on his own grandmother and aunt, expertly realizes a stubborn, faithful mother and her phenomenally unselfish, supportive family. Readers will suffer with Jewel, share her enthusiasm at Brenda Kay's progress, turn against her as she deliberately tries to break Leston's spirit. This haunting novel, imbued with an almost unbearable authenticity, runs the gamut of emotions associated with marriage and parenthood and acknowledges love's limitless potential. (Nov.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved
Library Journal (c) Copyright Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted. 9780671043087 Listeners will love this audio abridgment of a book chosen for Oprah's Book Club. It's about a struggling Mississippi mother whose iron will conquers all obstacles to getting quality care for her fifth child, Brenda Kay, who is born with Down's syndrome. When a local doctor gives the child two years to live, a black maid uses religion as a weapon of empowerment, prophesying that Brenda Kay will be both her mother Jewel's greatest burden and God's way of smiling on her and her family. Jewel is not daunted; resisting the odds, she uproots her family and reestablishes them in Southern California, near a special school where her daughter will get the best education. This loving portrait of a woman of determination is inspired writing. In the end, God has smiled on Jewel and her family by giving them a special child to care for, challenging and enhancing all their lives. The narration by Celia Weston is perfect. Highly recommended.ÄMark Pumphrey, Polk Cty. P.L., Columbus, NC (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.
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  Book Jacket
1998
Where the Heart Is
 Billie Letts
Kirkus Copyright © Kirkus Reviews, used with permission. 9780446519724 A debut novel whose rose-colored glasses yield a happy-go- lucky portrait of the down-home lives of uneducated poor folks in Sequoyah, Oklahoma. Letts's determinedly optimistic novel portrays a world where all races coexist harmoniously, and where the splintery realities of American rural life--poverty, teen pregnancy, single motherhood, homelessness, child sexual abuse--are palatably presented beneath a thick coat of Brothers Grimm varnish. It all begins when Novalee Nation, 17, pregnant, and heading west in an old Plymouth, is abandoned en route by good-for-nothing boyfriend Willy Jack Pickens in a Wal-Mart parking lot. Not disturbed by this momentary setback, Novalee quickly befriends the local color: Sister Husband, an AA- convert who hands out Xeroxed chapters of the Bible; Moses Whitecotton, descendant of slaves and an infant-portrait photographer; Benny Goodluck, a Native American nursery owner who gives Novalee a buckeye tree; and Forney Hull, the town librarian. Penniless, Novalee lives in Wal-Mart until the birth of her daughter (Americus) on the store's floor makes her a temporary celebrity. The story continues to track Novalee and her quest for roots, history, and home, depending primarily on the quirky tics of its characters for forward motion and throwing in the occasional tragedy to jump-start the plot (Americus' kidnapping, a tornado, a few untimely deaths). By the close, loose ends are neatly sewn up, unrequited loves requited, and the underlying theme--home is where the heart is--pounded home. A simple, lighthearted depiction of a rural America that's not: entertaining, good for a tear or two, but lacking in substance. (Film rights to 20th Century Fox)
Book list From Booklist, Copyright © American Library Association. Used with permission. 9780446519724 The tribulations of 17-year-old Novalee Nation, daughter of the Tennessee trailer parks, make up a surprisingly long, none-too-subtle tale. The story opens with pregnant Novalee, abandoned by boyfriend Willie Jack Pickens, living in a small, dusty Oklahoma town's Wal-Mart. After she is discovered writhing in labor and rushed to the hospital, Sam Walton (Wal-Mart's late, billionaire owner) offers her a job. Conveniently, her housing dilemma is solved, too, when she moves in with the local eccentric with a heart-of-gold. The rest of the book (300-plus pages) follows the next five years in the lives of Novalee and her daughter. We meet more idiosyncratic yet lovable characters and learn the fate of Willie Jack. Although the book's emotional manipulation may be distasteful to some, others may find its soap-opera plot and Forrest Gump-ish optimism appealing. Film rights buyer 20th Century-Fox sure hopes so. --Kathleen Hughes
School Library Journal (c) Copyright Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted. 9780446519724 YA?Novalee Nation, 17 and pregnant, finds herself stranded outside a Wal-Mart in Sequoyah, Oklahoma, with $7.77 in her pocket and no one to turn to for help. This is an unlikely beginning for a humorous and hopeful novel, but that is just what this is. As she sits outside the store taking stock of her situation, plucky Novalee meets several of the town's more unusual inhabitants: Sister Husband, who presents her with a shop-worn welcome-wagon basket; black photographer Moses Whitecotton, who conveys to her the importance of a name for her unborn child; and Indian Benny Goodluck, who gives her a buckeye tree for good luck. These and other Sequoyah citizens rally around Novalee when she has her baby on the floor of Wal-Mart, and form the basis for this most enjoyable novel.?Pamela B. Rearden, Centreville Regional Library, Fairfax County, VA (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.
Publishers Weekly (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved 9780446519724 Readers immersed in the offbeat world of Letts's lively, affecting first novel will forgive its occasional forced quirkiness. For 17-year-old Novalee Nation, seven months pregnant, the phrase ``home is where your history begins'' has a special meaning. Leaving behind a trail of foster homes in Tennessee trailer parks to live in a real house with her boyfriend, Willy Jack Pickens, Novalee instead finds herself abandoned in front of a Wal-Mart in Sequoyah, Okla. With nowhere to turn, she cleverly conceals herself within the store, keeping careful accounts until giving birth to the ``Wal-Mart baby'' turns her into a local celebrity. Happily, the community reaches out to Novalee and baby Americus. Sequoyah's one-woman welcoming committee, Sister Husband, takes them in; cultured librarian Forney Hull takes a shine to them; photographer Moses Whitecotton encourages Novalee's raw talent for photography by teaching her all he knows; Lexie Coop, who has a huge appetite for food, diet fads and the wrong men, befriends her; and legendary Wal-Mart founder Sam Walton gives her a job. Meanwhile, Willy Jack, an aspiring musician, gets a shot at the big time before hitting bottom and realizing what he's left behind. Letts's wacky characters are depicted with humor and hope, as well as an earnestness that rises above the story's uneven conceits, resulting in a heartfelt and gratifying read. Film rights sold to 20th Century Fox. (July) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved
Publishers Weekly (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved Letts's debut novel concerns a pregnant teenage girl who finds a new life among the quirky inhabitants of a small town in Oklahoma. (July) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved
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  Book Jacket
 
1998
Midwives
Book Jacket   Chris Bohjalian
1998
What Looks Like Crazy on an Ordinary Day
Book Jacket   Pearl Cleage
Library Journal (c) Copyright Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted. 9780380975846 In her first novel, Cleage, a playwright and essayist, focuses on an HIV-positive woman who seeks solace and refuge for the summer in her hometown with her widowed sister. (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.
Publishers Weekly (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved 9780380975846 After so much contemporary African American fiction that strains to be hip and funny but refuses to look seriously at the problems faced by real black people, first-time novelist Cleage, without succumbing to didacticism, delivers a work of intelligence and integrity. Fiery Ava Johnson's fast life as the owner of an Atlanta beauty parlor comes to a sudden end when she discovers that she is HIV positive. Shunned by her peers in Atlanta, Ava decides to start a new life in more broad-minded San Francisco?but first she visits her older sister, Joyce, at their childhood home in Idlewild, Mich. A former all-black resort, Idlewild is now just a small rural town crumbling fast under the weight of big city problems. Soon Ava's visit extends into something more permanent as she joins Joyce's efforts to teach teenage mothers. When one of the mothers abandons her baby, Joyce and Ava are granted temporary guardianship. Meanwhile, Ava meets Eddie, a tender-yet-tough introvert who has conquered his own demons and is willing to help Ava tackle hers. Cleage pays serious attention to problems that face young African Americans, including AIDS, teenage motherhood, joblessness, crack, low self-esteem and lack of sex education. What is even more impressive is her ability to work all this into an engaging plot with witty prose that's wonderfully free of clichés. Cleage may be accused of trying to squeeze too much into the novel's last few pages, but it's a tiny flaw, especially since it helps produce a fitting climax to a memorable tale. (Dec.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved
Book list From Booklist, Copyright © American Library Association. Used with permission. 9780380975846 Cleage opens her riveting novel with the heroine's confession that she has tested positive for HIV, a revelation guaranteed to render ordinary life extraordinary. Ava Johnson's journey home to a devastated small town in Michigan after a fast life and successful career in Atlanta is the journey of a woman who has to learn a new way to live for as long as she may. Ava comes home to a loving sister engaged in a battle for young women trapped in destructive relationships, and to discover what has evaded her in the superficially promising environs of a big city. Her plans to move on to San Francisco and whatever follows for the HIV-positive are derailed by her sister's campaign, a baby born to and abandoned by a crack-addicted mother, and a gentle man with a brutal past. Despite the early bad news, Cleage's funny, irreverent, and hopeful novel is stunningly real and evocative of the conditions behind the high unemployment, aimlessness, and drug culture that permeate the urban landscape and have invaded smaller towns as well. --Vanessa Bush
Kirkus Copyright © Kirkus Reviews, used with permission. 9780380975846 It takes talent to make a love story between an AIDS victim and a convicted murderer work, but playwright/essayist Cleage (Deals with the Devil, 1993, etc.) more than meets the challenge in this gutsy, very likable fiction debut. As a teenager, Ava Johnson couldn't wait to move away from tiny Idlewild, Michigan, a lakefront village originally conceived- -and enjoyed for decades--as a resort town for people of color. Now just a half-abandoned dot on the map like any other (except that most of the residents are still black), Idlewild offers the only safe haven when Ava, now nearly 30, learns she's contracted the HIV virus and is forced to close down her hair salon in Atlanta. Telling herself she's just visiting her older sister, Joyce, for a few weeks before she moves on to San Francisco, sophisticated Ava (whose voice is always feisty and humorous, even when the subject is death) is nevertheless impressed by bighearted Joyce's efforts to help the teenaged girls in her small community. She's also intrigued by handsome, sexily ``together'' Eddie Jefferson, a once- wild childhood acquaintance who's returned to Idlewild to raise vegetables, grow dreadlocks, and practice t'ai. While giving support to Joyce as she fights her conservative church for the right to teach birth to adolescents, and assisting (a bit skeptically) when Joyce takes in an addict's abandoned baby, Ava finds herself falling hard for sensitive, nurturing Eddie. Obviously, he's interested, too--but won't he run once he learns she's carrying the virus? Ava hardly dares hope for a final chance at love, even when Eddie reveals his own terrible--and, finally, forgivable--past. Lively, topical, and fantasy-filled. Watch out, Terry McMillan. Cleage is on your tail.
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1998
I Know This Much is True
 Wally Lamb
Book list From Booklist, Copyright © American Library Association. Used with permission. 9780060391621 In this long-winded successor to Lamb's She's Come Undone (1992), the novel that created much ballyhoo after being named an Oprah book, 40-year-old housepainter Dominick is facing many obstacles to happiness. He doesn't know who his real father is, his own marriage is defunct, and his current relationship with the woman in his life is tricky. However, these problems pale in comparison to the much bigger situation he has to deal with: his schizophrenic twin brother, Thomas. Having already presented Dominick with a lifetime of problems, Thomas has now mutilated himself; he severed his own hand out of some misplaced notion of religious sacrifice and political protest. Interspersed with the narrative history of the many awful situations Thomas' mental instability has forced the two to face over the years is the story of the twins' grandfather, whom Dominick learns about from the old man's memoir. Through the help of a counselor, Dominick comes to realize that the manuscript can be read as a "parable of failure" that can teach him how to get free of an abiding self-pity. The reader aches for Dominick to find peace, but this empathy is certainly tested over the novel's many, many pages. This overly long story would have been more pungent in a more succinct form. But expect high demand from the many readers of the author's previous novel. --Brad Hooper
Library Journal (c) Copyright Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted. 9780788724916 After reading the book twice and listening to 32 hours of this recording, I still can't express what it is that one is missing if they have not experienced this saga from the author of She's Come Undone. Maybe the plot is so all-encompassing as to be like "real" life; maybe the characters are so engrossing that you can relate to them as "real" people; and maybe the knowledge that you come away with about the human condition and nature vs. nurture makes you more sympathetic, therefore, a better person. George Guidall, an extremely accomplished reader, gives a performance worthy of "Best Audio of the Year." His fully voiced range of characters complements the text perfectly. Very highly recommended.ÄKristin M. Jacobi, Eastern Connecticut State Univ., Willimantic (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.
Library Journal (c) Copyright Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted. 9780060391621 In his second novel (after She's Come Undone, LJ 5/1/92), Lamb details the pain and perversions of generations of dysfunctional families in the struggle between twin brothers at midlife. The Birdsey brothers are as different in nature as they are identical in appearance: Thomas, the sweet one, favors their meek, harelipped mother, while Dominick is strong and angry like the Sicilian grandfather for whom he was named. When paranoid schizophrenic Thomas, believing himself an agent of God, cuts off his right arm in the public library to try to avert war in the Persian Gulf, DominickÄhis love for Thomas tainted by guilt and resentmentÄonce again becomes his brother's protector. But the psychologist treating Thomas sees Dominick as the twin who might be saved, and together they examine Dominick's childhood with a bullying stepfather, the marriage that failed after the death of an infant daughter, and the newly recovered autobiography of his grandfather. Lamb's craftsmanship and characterizations are exceptional, but this litany of suffering is overwhelming, leavened only slightly by the last few pages, and the ongoing analysis leaves little for thoughtful readers to ponder or discuss. Fine work, relentless in its effect.ÄMichele Leber, Fairfax Cty. P.L., Arlington, VA (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.
Publishers Weekly (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved 9780060391621 This much is true for sure: Lamb's second novel (after the bestselling, Oprah-selected She's Come Undone) is a hefty read. Some may be daunted by its length, its seemingly obsessive inclusion of background details and its many digressions. The topics it unflinchingly exploresÄmental illness, dysfunctional families, domestic abuseÄare rendered with unsparing candor. But thanks to well-sustained dramatic tension, funky gallows humor and some shocking surprises, this sinuous story of one family's dark secrets and recurring patterns of behavior largely succeeds in its ambitious reach. The narrative explores the theme of sibling responsibility, depicting the moral and emotional conundrum of an identical twin whose love for his afflicted brother is mixed with resentment, bitterness and guilt. Narrator Dominick Birdsey, once a high-school history teacher and now, at 40, a housepainter in upstate Connecticut, relates the process that led to his twin Thomas's schizophrenic paranoia and the resulting chaos in both their lives. The book opens with a horrific scene in which Thomas slices off his right hand, declaring it a sacrifice demanded by God. Flashbacks illuminate the boys' difficult childhoods: illegitimate, they never knew their father; diffident, gentle Thomas was verbally and physically abused by their bullying stepfather, who also terrorized their ineffectual mother. Scenes from the pivotal summer of 1969, when Dominick betrayed Thomas and others in crucial ways, are juxtaposed with his current life: his frustrating relationship with his scatterbrained live-in, Joy; his enduring love for his ex-wife, Dessa; his memories of their baby's death and of his mother's sad and terrified existence. All of this unfolds against his urgent need to release Thomas from a mental institution and the psychiatric sessions that finally force Dominick to acknowledge his own self-destructive impulses. Lamb takes major risks in spreading his narrative over more than 900 pages. Long stretches are filled with the raunchy, foul-mouthed humor of teenaged Dominick and his friends. Yet the details of working-class life, particularly the prevalence of self-righteous male machismo and domestic brutality, ring absolutely true. Though the inclusion of a diary written by the twins' Sicilian immigrant grandfather may seem an unnecessary digression at first, its revelations add depth and texture to the narrative. Lastly, what seems a minor subplot turns out to hold the key to many secrets. In tracing Dominick's helplessness against the abuse of power on many levels, Lamb creates a nuanced picture of a flawed but decent man. And the questions that suspensefully permeate the novelÄthe identity of the twins' father; the mystery of the inscription on their grandfather's tomb; the likelihood of Dominick's reconciliation with his ex-wifeÄcontribute to a fully developed and triumphantly resolved exploration of one man's suffering and redemption. BOMC main selection; author tour; simultaneous audio. (June) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved
Library Journal (c) Copyright Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted. 9780694519408 Actor Ken Howard gives an excellent reading of Lamb's (She's Come Undone, Audio Reviews, LJ 5/15/97) gripping drama. Dominick and Thomas Birdsey are identical twin brothers born on New Year's Eve 1949-50. By the late 1960s, Thomas is a paranoid schizophrenic both loved and hated by Dominick. Lamb's novel presents the twins' story set against the twists and turns of late-20th-century America. Thomas's illness coupled with the Birdseys' upbringing with an abusive father and passive mother profoundly shape Dominick's life. However, Thomas's self-mutilation on the eve of the Persian Gulf War sets his brother on the path of coming to terms with his family, the loss of his daughter, and a reconciliation with his former wife. This is not an easy novel to hear, but it is engrossing from the start. Recommended for all collections.?Stephen L. Hupp, Univ. of Pittsburgh at Johnstown Lib., PA (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.
Kirkus Copyright © Kirkus Reviews, used with permission. 9780060391621 Both a moving character study and a gripping story of family conflict are hidden somewhere inside the daunting bulk of this annoyingly slick second novel by Lamb (the popular Oprah selection She's Come Undone, 1992). The character (and narrator) is Dominick Birdsey, a 40-year-old housepainter whose subdued life in his hometown of Three Rivers, Connecticut, is disturbed in 1990 when his identical twin brother Thomas, a paranoid schizophrenic whose condition is complicated by religious mania, commits a shocking act of self-mutilation. The story is that of the embattled Birdseys, as recalled in Dominick's elaborated memory-flashbacks and in the ``autobiography'' (juxtaposed against the primary narrative) of the twins' maternal grandfather, Italian immigrant (and tyrannical patriarch) Domenico Tempesta. But Lamb combines these promising materials with overattenuated accounts of Dominick's crippled past (the torments inflicted on him and Thomas by an abusive stepfather, a luckless marriage, the crib death of his infant daughter), and with a heavy emphasis on the long-concealed identity of the twins' real father--a mystery eventually solved, not, as Dominick and we expect, in Domenico' self-aggrandizing story, but by a most surprising confession. This novel is derivative (of both Pat Conroy's The Prince of Tides and the film Dominick and Eugene), it pushes all the appropriate topical buttons (child abuse, AIDS, New Age psychobabble, Native American dignity, and others), and it works a little too hard at wringing tears. But it's by no means negligible. Lamb writes crisp, tender-tough dialogue, and his portrayal of the decent, conflicted Dominick (who is forced, and blessed, to acknowledge that ``We were all, in a way, each other'') is convincing. The pathetic, destroyed figure of Thomas is, by virtue of its very opacity, both haunting and troubling. A probable commercial bonanza, but both twice as long and not as much as it should have been. (Book-of-the-Month Club main selection; author tour)
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  Book Jacket
1998
Breath, Eyes, Memory
 Edwidge Danticat
Publishers Weekly Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. 9781569470053 A distinctive new voice with a sensitive insight into Haitian culture distinguishes this graceful debut novel about a young girl's coming of age under difficult circumstances. ``I come from a place where breath, eyes and memory are one, a place where you carry your past like the hair on your head,'' says narrator Sophie Caco, ruminating on the chains of duty and love that bind the courageous women in her family. The burden of being a woman in Haiti, where purity and chastity are a matter of family honor, and where ``nightmares are passed on through generations like heirlooms,'' is Danticat's theme. Born after her mother Martine was raped, Sophie is raised by her Tante Atie in a small town in Haiti. At 12 she joins Martine in New York, while Atie returns to her native village to care for indomitable Grandmother Ife. Neither Sophie nor Martine can escape the weight of the past, resulting in a pattern of insomnia, bulimia, sexual trauma and mental anguish that afflicts both of them and leads inexorably to tragedy. Though her tale is permeated with a haunting sadness, Danticat also imbues it with color and magic, beautifully evoking the pace and character of Creole life, the feel of both village and farm communities, where the omnipresent Tontons Macoute mean daily terror, where voudon rituals and superstitions still dominate even as illiterate inhabitants utilize such 20th-century conveniences as cassettes to correspond with emigres in America. In simple, lyrical prose enriched by an elegiac tone and piquant observations, she makes Sophie's confusion and guilt, her difficult assimilation into American culture and her eventual emotional liberation palpably clear. Paperback rights to Vintage; author tour. (Apr.)
Library Journal Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. 9781569470053 Told from the viewpoint of a young Haitian American, this novel concentrates on relationships between generations of women, both in Haiti and in the United States. Sophie's mother leaves Haiti to find work in the States, and Sopie soon follows, growing up troubled in New York until she exorcises her demons in a Santeria ceremony. The book's strength lies in the rarity of its Haitian viewpoint, a voice seldom heard in American literature. However, the writing itself falls a bit flat. The characters and plot are interesting, but the narrative style doesn't evoke the emotional response that would seem appropriate to the action. Danticat is herself a 24-year-old Haitian American who, like the novel's narrator, came to the United States in her early teens to join her family. Her first novel shows promise of better works in the future. Recommended for larger fiction collections.-- Marie F. Jones, Muskingum Coll. Lib., New Concord, Ohio
Kirkus Copyright © Kirkus Reviews, used with permission. 9781569470053 Sexual traumas link a Haitian mother and her daughter in this wonderfully self-assured debut by 24-year-old Haitian-American Danticat. The world of Sophie Caco, her beloved guardian Tante Atie, and her grandmother Ifé, the matriarch of this peasant family, is bounded by the sugar-cane fields of rural Haiti. When 12-year-old Sophie is summoned to New York to live with the family provider, Maxine, the mother she cannot remember, she is dismayed. Maxine is perpetually tired after her nursing-home double-shift; she lives alone and dates a lawyer called Marc. She also tells Sophie that she is the product of a rape; a stranger forced himself on Maxine in a sugar-cane field. Seeing her daughter again has revived memories of the rape, and Maxine is suffering constant nightmares. Six years later, Sophie, who has never had a boyfriend, falls in love with their much older next-door neighbor Joseph, a black American jazz musician. Maxine follows a Haitian tradition and checks regularly to make sure Sophie is still a virgin. Horrified by this violation of her body, Sophie deflowers herself with a pestle and elopes with Joseph, enduring sex because she now hates her body, though her baby Brigitte is a consolation. Slowly, through her family's sheltering love on a return visit to Haiti and the new-world ministrations of her therapist, Sophie comes to understand her mother (``I knew my hurt and hers were links in a long chain''), but it's too late: Maxine, pregnant by Marc and racked by nightmares again, dies during a crude self-abortion. Danticat keeps graceful control of this difficult material while adroitly sketching the larger political context and making both peasants and pediatricians equally convincing. An impressive first outing.
Choice Copyright American Library Association, used with permission. 9781569470053 Danticat's first published novel moves back and forth between the author's two homes, Haiti and the US, touching on the characters' complex relationships to both places. The central protagonist must come to terms not only with her place in a long line of strong women, but also with the violence inflicted on them by strangers and by their own mothers. The "test," used by generations of Haitian mothers to ascertain their daughters' virginity, is revealed as a violation which cripples women's spirits and suppresses their sexuality. It also, inevitably, distorts mother/daughter relationships. The style of the novel is lyrical and often arresting, the narrative fast paced. The information it contains about Haiti, while incidental, is substantial. The characters are convincing and sympathetic. The sexual violation theme does, however, seem heavy-handed at times. The main character, Sophie, and her mother, for instance, have fewer dimensions than one might wish. In all, this is a very readable, moving story. General and academic audiences. J. Tharp; University of Wisconsin--Marshfield-Wood County
Publishers Weekly (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved 9781569470053 A distinctive new voice with a sensitive insight into Haitian culture distinguishes this graceful debut novel about a young girl's coming of age under difficult circumstances. ``I come from a place where breath, eyes and memory are one, a place where you carry your past like the hair on your head,'' says narrator Sophie Caco, ruminating on the chains of duty and love that bind the courageous women in her family. The burden of being a woman in Haiti, where purity and chastity are a matter of family honor, and where ``nightmares are passed on through generations like heirlooms,'' is Danticat's theme. Born after her mother Martine was raped, Sophie is raised by her Tante Atie in a small town in Haiti. At 12 she joins Martine in New York, while Atie returns to her native village to care for indomitable Grandmother Ife. Neither Sophie nor Martine can escape the weight of the past, resulting in a pattern of insomnia, bulimia, sexual trauma and mental anguish that afflicts both of them and leads inexorably to tragedy. Though her tale is permeated with a haunting sadness, Danticat also imbues it with color and magic, beautifully evoking the pace and character of Creole life, the feel of both village and farm communities, where the omnipresent Tontons Macoute mean daily terror, where voudon rituals and superstitions still dominate even as illiterate inhabitants utilize such 20th-century conveniences as cassettes to correspond with emigres in America. In simple, lyrical prose enriched by an elegiac tone and piquant observations, she makes Sophie's confusion and guilt, her difficult assimilation into American culture and her eventual emotional liberation palpably clear. Paperback rights to Vintage; author tour. (Apr.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved
Library Journal (c) Copyright Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted. 9781569470053 Told from the viewpoint of a young Haitian American, this novel concentrates on relationships between generations of women, both in Haiti and in the United States. Sophie's mother leaves Haiti to find work in the States, and Sopie soon follows, growing up troubled in New York until she exorcises her demons in a Santeria ceremony. The book's strength lies in the rarity of its Haitian viewpoint, a voice seldom heard in American literature. However, the writing itself falls a bit flat. The characters and plot are interesting, but the narrative style doesn't evoke the emotional response that would seem appropriate to the action. Danticat is herself a 24-year-old Haitian American who, like the novel's narrator, came to the United States in her early teens to join her family. Her first novel shows promise of better works in the future. Recommended for larger fiction collections.-- Marie F. Jones, Muskingum Coll. Lib., New Concord, Ohio (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.
Kirkus Copyright © Kirkus Reviews, used with permission. 9781569470053 Sexual traumas link a Haitian mother and her daughter in this wonderfully self-assured debut by 24-year-old Haitian-American Danticat. The world of Sophie Caco, her beloved guardian Tante Atie, and her grandmother Ifé, the matriarch of this peasant family, is bounded by the sugar-cane fields of rural Haiti. When 12-year-old Sophie is summoned to New York to live with the family provider, Maxine, the mother she cannot remember, she is dismayed. Maxine is perpetually tired after her nursing-home double-shift; she lives alone and dates a lawyer called Marc. She also tells Sophie that she is the product of a rape; a stranger forced himself on Maxine in a sugar-cane field. Seeing her daughter again has revived memories of the rape, and Maxine is suffering constant nightmares. Six years later, Sophie, who has never had a boyfriend, falls in love with their much older next-door neighbor Joseph, a black American jazz musician. Maxine follows a Haitian tradition and checks regularly to make sure Sophie is still a virgin. Horrified by this violation of her body, Sophie deflowers herself with a pestle and elopes with Joseph, enduring sex because she now hates her body, though her baby Brigitte is a consolation. Slowly, through her family's sheltering love on a return visit to Haiti and the new-world ministrations of her therapist, Sophie comes to understand her mother (``I knew my hurt and hers were links in a long chain''), but it's too late: Maxine, pregnant by Marc and racked by nightmares again, dies during a crude self-abortion. Danticat keeps graceful control of this difficult material while adroitly sketching the larger political context and making both peasants and pediatricians equally convincing. An impressive first outing.
Choice Copyright American Library Association, used with permission. 9781569470053 Danticat's first published novel moves back and forth between the author's two homes, Haiti and the US, touching on the characters' complex relationships to both places. The central protagonist must come to terms not only with her place in a long line of strong women, but also with the violence inflicted on them by strangers and by their own mothers. The "test," used by generations of Haitian mothers to ascertain their daughters' virginity, is revealed as a violation which cripples women's spirits and suppresses their sexuality. It also, inevitably, distorts mother/daughter relationships. The style of the novel is lyrical and often arresting, the narrative fast paced. The information it contains about Haiti, while incidental, is substantial. The characters are convincing and sympathetic. The sexual violation theme does, however, seem heavy-handed at times. The main character, Sophie, and her mother, for instance, have fewer dimensions than one might wish. In all, this is a very readable, moving story. General and academic audiences. J. Tharp; University of Wisconsin--Marshfield-Wood County
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  Book Jacket
 
1998
Black and Blue
Book Jacket   Anna Quindlen
Library Journal (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted. 9780375401909 Actress Lili Taylor reads this riveting new work by New York Times columnist Quindlen, who has accepted the most difficult of challenges writing about domestic spousal abuse and crafted a warm, sympathetic, and sometimes funny novel. Fran Benedetto, the story's narrator, flees from a violent and abusive husband to start a new life under an assumed name. With her is their son, and Fran knows that her husband, a policeman, will exploit every resource at his disposal to find them and get the boy back. The characters are drawn with sympathy and understanding, and Taylor invests the protagonist with just the right mixture of pluck and vulnerability. Highly recommended for all public libraries.?John Owen, Advanced Micro Devices, Santa Clara, CA (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.
Library Journal (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted. 9780375500510 Fran Benedetto has had enough of her self-centered husband's brutality. Though Fran has long loved Bobby passionately, his roughhousing turned into abuse early in their marriage, when the stress of his police career began taking its toll. Fran's concern about the situation's effects on Robert, her too-quiet ten-year-old, together with a particularly vicious battering, goads her to run. An underground organization helps her flee with Robert to a small Florida town, where she begins a new life as "Beth Crenshaw." At first the fugitives are miserable, but gradually they settle into the community with a kind of family normalcy they have never experienced. As Fran/Beth strains to make a home, she also struggles with her beliefs about family, love, and her own identity. And, during every seemingly safe moment among her new friends, she lives with the fear of discovery and its possibly lethal consequences. Quindlen (One True Thing, LJ 9/15/94) has created in her third novel a well-paced narrative whose themes reflect important contemporary social concerns. Though Fran's internal musings sometimes slow down the action noticeably, and the crucial character of Bobby is a one-dimensional sketch, the book's pluses will outweigh its drawbacks for most readers of popular fiction. [Previewed in Prepub Alert, LJ 10/1/97.]?Starr E. Smith, Marymount Univ. Lib., Arlington, Va. (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.
Library Journal (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted. 9780375401909 The ever-popular Quindlen's black-and-blue heroine flees an abusive marriage to begin life anew with her ten-year-old son. But is she safe? A 14-city author tour may bring Quindlen to your doorstep. (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.
School Library Journal (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted. 9780375500510 YA?This powerfully written story grips readers from the very first page. Fran and Bobby are crazy about one another from the moment they first meet, but his violent nature reveals itself even before they are married. Later, the "accidents" become more and more frequent and harder to hide: a broken collarbone, a split lip, a black eye. Finally, Fran escapes the abusive marriage, but by then she is damaged both inside and out. Assisted by a group that aids battered women, she flees with her 10-year-old son, Robert, who knows the truth but is reluctant to believe that the father who loves him so much could beat his mother so badly. Fran begins a new life with a new identity, but she lives in fear, knowing that Bobby won't rest until he finds them. Also, Robert longs for his father. Love between parent and child, coming to grips with the difference between passion and love, the importance of honesty in relationships, and self-knowledge as an essential part of healing?YAs can learn much about these and other themes in this novel about a shattered family and a strong woman determined to rebuild her life.?Molly Connally, Kings Park Library, Fairfax County, VA (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.
Publishers Weekly (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved 9780375500510 After two fine earlier efforts, Object Lessons and One True Thing, Quindlen has written her best novel yet in this unerringly constructed and paced, emotionally accurate tale of domestic abuse. Her protagonist is Frannie Benedetto, a 37-year-old Brooklyn housewife, mother and nurse who finally finds the courage to escape from her violent husband Bobby, a New York City cop. Under an assumed identity in a tacky central Florida town, Frannie and her 10-year-old son, Robert, attempt to build a new life, but there is a price to pay, and when it comes, it carries the heartstopping logic of inevitability and the irony of fate. Quindlen establishes suspense from the first sentence and never falters. She cogently explores the complex emotional atmosphere of abuse: why some women cling to the memory of their original love and wait too long to break free. She makes palpable Frannie's fear, pain, self-contempt and, later, guilt over depriving Robert of the father he adores. As Frannie and Robert make tentative steps in their new community, Quindlen conveys their sense of dislocation and anxiety compounded by their sense of loss. Weaving the domestic fabric that is her forte, she flawlessly reproduces the mundane dialogue between mother and son, between Frannie and the friends she makes and the people she serves in her new job as a home health-care aide. Among the triumphs of Quindlen's superb ear for voices is the character of an elderly Jewish woman whose moribund husband is Frannie's patient. Above all, Quindlen is wise and humane. Her understanding of the complex anatomy of marital relationships, of the often painful bond of maternal love and of the capacity to survive tragedy and carry on invest this moving novel with the clarion ring of truth. Literary Guild selection; Random House audio; author tour. (Feb.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved
Kirkus Copyright © Kirkus Reviews, used with permission. Pulitzer--winning columnist and novelist Quindlen (One True Thing, 1994, etc.) now takes a talk-show staple--spousal abuse--and gives it a compelling immediacy in a refreshingly wise and troth-telling novel about life and marriage. Frannie, a nurse, fell deeply in love with Bobby, a handsome New York cop who at the time seemed attractively ""tasty and dangerous,"" as well as kind and thoughtful. But after 17 years of marriage, Bobby has become more dangerous than appealing. Tired of being beaten up, and now coping with a broken nose, Fran takes her ten-year-old son Robert and flees their Brooklyn home. Helped by a women's organization, she and Robert are given new identities and a new place to live: a duplex in Florida. Now known as Beth Crenshaw, Frannie also tries to make a new life for herself and Robert, whom she loves with a fierce and protective devotion. She finds a good friend in the resilient Cindy and a satisfying job as a visiting health aide. She grows close to her patients, especially Mrs. Levitt, a Holocaust survivor. But Frannie can't relax her vigilance: Bobby has resources and investigating tools that might make it easy to find her, and so while her life is increasingly normal--she dates Mike, Robert's nice soccer coach--she's still afraid. The tension is nail-biting but nicely complemented by perceptive insights, as in Frannie's meditation that ""whenever I thought about leaving, I thought about leaving my house . . . balloon shades and miniblinds . . . mugs for the coffee . . . small things; routine, order that's what kept me there for the longest time."" Inevitably, Bobby catches up with her and exacts a terrible revenge, but an appropriately bittersweet ending gives Fran, who'll always wonder whether she was right to flee, a new love and life. Quindlen writes about women as they really are--neither helpless victims nor angry polemicists, but intelligent human beings struggling to do what's right for those they love and for themselves. A book to read and savor. Copyright ©Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.
Library Journal (c) Copyright Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted. 9780375401909 Actress Lili Taylor reads this riveting new work by New York Times columnist Quindlen, who has accepted the most difficult of challenges writing about domestic spousal abuse and crafted a warm, sympathetic, and sometimes funny novel. Fran Benedetto, the story's narrator, flees from a violent and abusive husband to start a new life under an assumed name. With her is their son, and Fran knows that her husband, a policeman, will exploit every resource at his disposal to find them and get the boy back. The characters are drawn with sympathy and understanding, and Taylor invests the protagonist with just the right mixture of pluck and vulnerability. Highly recommended for all public libraries.?John Owen, Advanced Micro Devices, Santa Clara, CA (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.
Library Journal (c) Copyright Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted. 9780375500510 Fran Benedetto has had enough of her self-centered husband's brutality. Though Fran has long loved Bobby passionately, his roughhousing turned into abuse early in their marriage, when the stress of his police career began taking its toll. Fran's concern about the situation's effects on Robert, her too-quiet ten-year-old, together with a particularly vicious battering, goads her to run. An underground organization helps her flee with Robert to a small Florida town, where she begins a new life as "Beth Crenshaw." At first the fugitives are miserable, but gradually they settle into the community with a kind of family normalcy they have never experienced. As Fran/Beth strains to make a home, she also struggles with her beliefs about family, love, and her own identity. And, during every seemingly safe moment among her new friends, she lives with the fear of discovery and its possibly lethal consequences. Quindlen (One True Thing, LJ 9/15/94) has created in her third novel a well-paced narrative whose themes reflect important contemporary social concerns. Though Fran's internal musings sometimes slow down the action noticeably, and the crucial character of Bobby is a one-dimensional sketch, the book's pluses will outweigh its drawbacks for most readers of popular fiction. [Previewed in Prepub Alert, LJ 10/1/97.]?Starr E. Smith, Marymount Univ. Lib., Arlington, Va. (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.
Library Journal (c) Copyright Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted. 9780375401909 The ever-popular Quindlen's black-and-blue heroine flees an abusive marriage to begin life anew with her ten-year-old son. But is she safe? A 14-city author tour may bring Quindlen to your doorstep. (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.
School Library Journal (c) Copyright Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted. 9780375500510 YA?This powerfully written story grips readers from the very first page. Fran and Bobby are crazy about one another from the moment they first meet, but his violent nature reveals itself even before they are married. Later, the "accidents" become more and more frequent and harder to hide: a broken collarbone, a split lip, a black eye. Finally, Fran escapes the abusive marriage, but by then she is damaged both inside and out. Assisted by a group that aids battered women, she flees with her 10-year-old son, Robert, who knows the truth but is reluctant to believe that the father who loves him so much could beat his mother so badly. Fran begins a new life with a new identity, but she lives in fear, knowing that Bobby won't rest until he finds them. Also, Robert longs for his father. Love between parent and child, coming to grips with the difference between passion and love, the importance of honesty in relationships, and self-knowledge as an essential part of healing?YAs can learn much about these and other themes in this novel about a shattered family and a strong woman determined to rebuild her life.?Molly Connally, Kings Park Library, Fairfax County, VA (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.
Book list From Booklist, Copyright © American Library Association. Used with permission. Quindlen, a Pulitzer Prize-winning New York Times columnist as well as a best-selling novelist, is passionately engaged in mapping the inner storms that accompany crises, big crises, that is, such as helping a loved one die, the theme of One True Thing (1994), and, in her third novel, the unending trauma of domestic violence. Fran Benedetto married the very first man she fell for, Bobby, a New York City policeman, and they were deliciously in love for a while, long enough to have a son. But Bobby turned out to be "tasty but dangerous," and Fran, a nurse familiar with the drill, found herself trapped in the classic weather pattern of domestic abuse: abrupt and irrational arguments over nothing followed by beatings, which, over the years, become increasingly severe. Finally, Fran seeks help and is rescued by members of what is essentially a witness-protection program for battered women. She and her young son are given new identities and sent to a dumpy apartment complex in a small Florida town. Quindlen tracks every phase of their suffering, from the adrenalin rush of their escape to the shock at finding themselves cut off from everything familiar, to the horror of recognizing that neither Fran's fear of her husband nor her son's love and longing for his father will ever diminish. Quindlen's prose is precise and unrelenting as she refuses to gloss over the pain Fran learns somehow to live with, anguish that causes her to ask over and over again, "What if?" (Reviewed December 15, 1997)0375500510Donna Seaman
Publishers Weekly (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved 9780375500510 After two fine earlier efforts, Object Lessons and One True Thing, Quindlen has written her best novel yet in this unerringly constructed and paced, emotionally accurate tale of domestic abuse. Her protagonist is Frannie Benedetto, a 37-year-old Brooklyn housewife, mother and nurse who finally finds the courage to escape from her violent husband Bobby, a New York City cop. Under an assumed identity in a tacky central Florida town, Frannie and her 10-year-old son, Robert, attempt to build a new life, but there is a price to pay, and when it comes, it carries the heartstopping logic of inevitability and the irony of fate. Quindlen establishes suspense from the first sentence and never falters. She cogently explores the complex emotional atmosphere of abuse: why some women cling to the memory of their original love and wait too long to break free. She makes palpable Frannie's fear, pain, self-contempt and, later, guilt over depriving Robert of the father he adores. As Frannie and Robert make tentative steps in their new community, Quindlen conveys their sense of dislocation and anxiety compounded by their sense of loss. Weaving the domestic fabric that is her forte, she flawlessly reproduces the mundane dialogue between mother and son, between Frannie and the friends she makes and the people she serves in her new job as a home health-care aide. Among the triumphs of Quindlen's superb ear for voices is the character of an elderly Jewish woman whose moribund husband is Frannie's patient. Above all, Quindlen is wise and humane. Her understanding of the complex anatomy of marital relationships, of the often painful bond of maternal love and of the capacity to survive tragedy and carry on invest this moving novel with the clarion ring of truth. Literary Guild selection; Random House audio; author tour. (Feb.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved
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1998
Here on Earth
Book Jacket   Alice Hoffman
Publishers Weekly (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved 9780399143137 Often, in her soulful novels, Hoffman (Practical Magic, etc.) lets mystical atmospherics-animals that take on superhuman qualities, intense colors and temperatures, minute vibrations in the air that signal ghosts or spirits-do all the work while her characters behave in strange and incredible ways under the influence of forces outside themselves. In this novel, the characters' behavior, while highly emotional, is initially at least traceable to psychological motivation. Unfortunately, Hoffman abandons psychological credibility halfway through, after which her protagonist, March Murray, behaves like an automaton. When March comes back to her childhood home in a small Massachusetts town after 19 years in California, she is swept with longing for Hollis, her former soul mate and lover who ran away in a fit of pique. March waited for him for three years, then married her next-door neighbor, Richard Cooper. When Hollis finally did return, he wed Richard's sister, who has since died. Hollis now determines to win March back, and she can't resist his single-minded pursuit. Hoffman conveys the mesmerizing lure of a lost love with haunting sensuality; but March's excuses for Hollis's violent personality and for his physical abuse of her and her teenaged daughter, Gwen, are well beyond the willed myopia of even obsessive love. Other love affairs?between the housekeeper who raised March and the man who was her father's law partner; and between rebellious teenager Gwen (the best character by far, drawn with delightful realism) and March's reclusive brother's son?are described with much more insight and plausibility. The high drama of this novel, and Hoffman's assured and lyrical prose, may carry the day for readers who can accept the premise that a passionate obsession can make sweet reason, maternal protectiveness and the instinct for self-preservation fly out the window. 100,000 first printing; $150,000 ad/promo; Literary Guild featured alternate; film rights to Douglas Reuther. (Sept.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved
Kirkus Copyright © Kirkus Reviews, used with permission. 9780399143137 From the author of Practical Magic (1995), among others, a kind of inside-out Bridges of Madison County in which the middle- aged mother of a teenager falls in love with a bad man, leaves her husband for him, and winds up abused and isolated. The results are predictably depressing. It might seem that March Murray has purely sentimental reasons for leaving her apparently happy life in California (nice house, professor husband) to attend her former housekeeper's funeral in Jenkintown, Mass., the bleak, suffocatingly tiny town where she grew up. After all, Mrs. Dale did help March's father raise her after the girl's mother died, and she remained a loyal friend until her death. But anyone who knew March in her teenage years must suspect that her real reason for returning with sullen teenage daughter in tow is for a reunion with Hollis, the bad boy March was once inseparable from. An abandoned child and the product of a series of detention homes, Hollis was brought to the Murray house as a charity-case boarder when he was in his teens. He kept his own counsel, except when sending smoldering glances March's way. The two became lovers until a misunderstanding split them apart--March to marry the rich boy next door, Hollis to amass a fortune, marry March's sister-in-law, and survive her to wait, brooding, for March's return. Their heated reunion leads to the breakup of March's marriage, and, despite the warnings of practically everyone in town, March moves into Hollis's gloomy mansion, puts up with his neurotic possessiveness, and watches him scare her daughter back to California before she realizes that the Hollis she lives with now is nothing but the evil, heartless relic of the wounded boy she once loved. A chilly, hopeless love story with an unhappy conclusion. Hard to see what readers will find to like in such a tale. (First printing of 100,000; Literary Guild featured alternate selection; $150,000 ad/promo; author tour)
Book list From Booklist, Copyright © American Library Association. Used with permission. Hoffman's powers of enchantment increase exponentially in each of her cosmically romantic novels. Just as she did in Practical Magic (1995), Hoffman depicts love as a disturbance in the field, but here it is manifested as an unpredictable force of nature that encompasses all extremes, from the chilling pall of winter to the life-and-death properties of fire. Richard, March's sweet but distracted husband, should not have let her return to their small New England hometown with only their teenage daughter, Gwen, for company. He should have known that when March left for the haunted terrain of Fox Hill, she would meet up with Hollis, the jealous and angry boy-man with whom she was so deeply in love as a young woman. Hollis transformed himself from a resentful charity case into a millionaire but left death and despair in his wake and achieved no joy through his success. And he's still obsessed with March, who slips right back into the confines of their passion because Hollis possesses the sort of power that makes women cling and submit. Hoffman walks a fine line between bodice-ripping trash romance and bewitching but intelligent fiction here, but her fluency in the language of the heart and the bruised tenderness of her prose lift her far above cliche, into a luminous realm where the souls of her poignant characters open like moonflowers. (Reviewed July 1997)0399143130Donna Seaman
Library Journal (c) Copyright Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted. 9780399143137 From the magical Hoffman: a woman journeys home?and into her past. (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.
Library Journal (c) Copyright Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted. 9780399143137 As this novel opens, March Murray Cooper returns to her hometown, ostensibly to bury the woman who raised her but needing to resolve the unfinished business of her youthful love for Hollis, from whom she has been separated for years. Hollis has now grown into a man embittered by loneliness. He has learned neither to forgive nor to forget, and March must discover whether he can ever learn to love. Hoffman (Practical Magic, LJ 12/94) takes great care here to examine the many facets of love and relationships, turning them like a prism to reflect on March and Hollis. Hoffman's evocative language and her lyrical descriptions of place contrast sharply with the emotional scars that her characters must uncover and bear. Her novel is a haunting tale of a woman lost in and to love; it will enthrall the reader from beginning to end. Highly recommended. [Previewed in Prepub Alert, LJ 5/1/97.]?Caroline M. Hallsworth, Cambrian Coll., Sudbury, Ontario (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.
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1998
Paradise
 Toni Morrison
Library Journal (c) Copyright Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted. 9780679433743 Nobel laureate Morrison creates another richly told tale that grapples with her ongoing, central concerns: women's lives and the African American experience. Morrison has created a long list of characters for this story that takes place in the all-black town of Ruby, Oklahoma, population 360, which was founded by freed slaves. In what could be seen as an attempt to create some of the same mysticism that was present in many of her previous works, Morrison alludes to Ruby's founding citizens, now ghosts, and only minimally focuses on the present generations that have let the founding principles of Ruby's forebears deteriorate. Paradise is an examination of the title itself and deliberately builds into a plot that is unexpected and explosive. This is Morrison's first novel since her 1993 Jazz, and it is well worth the wait. Highly Recommended for all collections. [Previewed in Prepub Alert, LJ 10/1/97.]?Emily J. Jones, "Library Journal" (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.
Library Journal (c) Copyright Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted. 9780788730948 Morrison (Jazz) again creates a powerful and haunting novel that explores racism, mysticism, morality, and pride through the history of the all-black town of Ruby, OK, and its inhabitants' mixed dealings with the women of the "Convent" just outside it. The existence and proximity of these diverse and very different women challenges and intrigues the families of Ruby as their lives are intrinsically interwoven. Morrison uses the present and past lives of each of the women characters as a narrative base and a moral examination as Ruby's leaders place blame for the threat of change and the weight of the past on the Convent's residents. This is a gripping story of the mid-20th century that is well captured by Lynne Thigpen's narration. This recording of the author's first novel since receiving the Nobel Prize for Literature is highly recommended and essential for all serious audio collections.ÄJoyce Kessel, Villa Maria Coll., Buffalo, NY (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.
Book list From Booklist, Copyright © American Library Association. Used with permission. 9780679433743 We all long for paradise, although we are apparently incapable of creating one. And America, immense and wild at heart, has always made paradise seem possible to the oppressed, the enraptured, and the lost. It is this dream of utopia in a world of tangled and deeply rooted conflicts that Morrison explores and dramatizes in this tentacled and gripping novel about life in a small, all-black Oklahoma town during the 1970s. Oklahoma is spacious enough for people to achieve physical and moral isolation, which is just what the determined citizens of Ruby have done. Descendants of slaves who founded a town called Haven during Reconstruction, the people of Ruby are proud of their pure African American heritage, their religious convictions, and their prosperity, and not at all welcoming of strangers, especially the suspect females congregating at an old mansion known as the Convent. Once a school for Indian girls, it is now the home of an enigmatic, beautiful, and racially ambiguous woman named Consolata. Young women hitchhiking their way cross-country or driving stolen cars--refugees from domestic violence, disastrous love affairs, and madness--begin to appear at Consolata's door as if by magic. As Morrison braids together their wrenching stories and the stories of Ruby--the stern twin brothers who own the bank, their forgiving wives, young people feeling the pull of the greater world, a preacher skeptical of the town's insularity--she subtly connects their travails to tragedies of the past, including the Vietnam War and the assassination of Martin Luther King Jr., as well as to the pervasiveness of "disorder, deception, and drift." Morrison is at her complex and commanding best in this mysterious tale as she presents a unique perspective on American history and leaves her dazzled readers shaking their heads over all that is perpetually inexplicable between men and women, rich and poor, the tyrannical and the free spirited. --Donna Seaman
Kirkus Copyright © Kirkus Reviews, used with permission. 'The Hollywood Reporter' reports today that billionaire/media mogul/TV show host/magazine publisher/former poverty-stricken Mississippian/book champion/actor/film producer Oprah Winfrey has settled on Toni Morrison's 1998 novel 'Paradise' as her next telefilm adaptation. 'Paradise' was Morrison's first novel following her awarding of the Nobel Prize. In late 1997, before Knopf released the book, 'Kirkus Reviews,' in a starred review, called it "a breathtaking, risk-taking major work that will have readers feverishly, and fearfully turning the pages." The review in full: "The violence men inflict on women and the painful irony of an "all-black town" whose citizens themselves become oppressors are the central themes of Morrison's rich, symphonic seventh novel (after Jazz, 1992, etc.). "The story begins with a scene of Faulknerian intensity: In 1976, in rural Oklahoma, nine men from the nearby town of Ruby attack a former convent now occupied by women fleeing from abusive husbands or lovers, or otherwise unhappy pasts--"women who chose themselves for company," whose solidarity and solitude rebuke the male-dominated culture that now exacts its revenge. That sounds simplistic, but the novel isn't, because Morrison makes of it a many-layered mystery, interweaving the individual stories of these women with an amazingly compact social history of Ruby's "founding" families and their interrelationships over several decades. It all comes at us in fragments, and we gradually piece together the tale of black freedmen after the Civil War gradually acquiring land and power, taking pride in the culture they've built--vividly symbolized by a memorial called "the Oven," the site of a communal field kitchen into whose stone is etched the biblical command "Beware the Furrow of His Brow." That wrathful prophecy is fulfilled as the years pass, feuds between families and even a rivalry between twin brothers grow ever more dangerous, and in the wake of "the desolation that rose after King's murder," Ruby succumbs to militancy; a Black Power fist is painted on the Oven, and the handwriting is on the wall. With astonishing fluency, Morrison connects the histories of the Convent's insulted and injured women with that of the community they oppose but cannot escape. Only her very occasional resort to digressive (and accusatory) summary (e.g., "They think they have outfoxed the whiteman when in fact they imitate him") mars the pristine surface of an otherwise impeccably composed, deeply disturbing story. "Not perfect--but a breathtaking, risk-taking major work that will have readers feverishly, and fearfully turning the pages." Copyright ©Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.
Publishers Weekly (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved 9780375401794 So intense and evocative in its particulars, so wide-ranging in its arch, this is another, if imperfect, triumph for the Nobel Prize-winning author (Song of Solomon; Beloved; etc.). In 1950, a core group of nine old families leaves the increasingly corrupted African American community of Haven, Okla., to found in that same state a new, purer community they call Ruby. But in the early 1970s, the outside world begins to intrude on Ruby's isolation, forcing a tragic confrontation. It's about this time, too, that the first of five damaged women finds solace in a decrepit former convent near Ruby. Once the pleasure palace of an embezzler, the convent had been covered with lascivious fixtures that were packed away or painted over by the nuns. Time has left only "traces of the sisters' failed industry," however, making the building a crumbling, fertile amalgam of feminine piety and female sexuality. It's a woman's world that attracts the women of Ruby?and that repels the men who see its occupants as the locus of all the town's ills. They are "not women locked safely away from men; but worse, women who chose themselves for company, which is to say not a convent but a coven." Only when Morrison treats the convent women as an entity (rather than as individual characters) do they lose nuance, and that's when the book falters. Still, the individual stories of both the women and the townspeople reveal Morrison at her best. Tragic, ugly, beautiful, these lives are the result of personal dreams and misfortune; of a history that encompasses Reconstruction and Vietnam; and of mystical grandeur. 400,000 first printing; simultaneous audio and large print editions (ISBN 0-375-40179-2; -70217-2) (Jan.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved
Library Journal (c) Copyright Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted. 9780375401794 It's the 1970s, and four young women living in a convent near an all-black town have been viciously attacked. This is Morrison's first novel since winning the Nobel prize, and by the time she's done, she has taken on Reconstruction, the Civil Rights Movement, the counterculture, and more. The 400,000-copy first printing is no surprise. (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.
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  Book Jacket
1997
The Meanest Thing to Say
 Bill Cosby
School Library Journal (c) Copyright Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted. 9780590137546 K-Gr 3?Cosby turns his hand to writing, telling stories about situations that children often face. In The Best Way to Play, Little Bill, the narrator, and his friends get caught up in the excitement and marketing of their favorite TV cartoon, Space Explorers, and desperately want their parents to buy them the expensive video game. They become bored with it quickly, however, and realize that it's more fun to play Space Explorers outside. In The Meanest Thing to Say, Little Bill comes face to face with a bully. The Treasure Hunt takes him on a voyage of self-exploration. It seems to him that everyone in his family has a special quality. After a full day of searching, he discovers that his is "telling stories and making people laugh." These titles feature short chapters, making them appropriate for beginning readers?but they're also short enough to be read aloud. Honeywood's illustrations are bright and eye-catching, and show Little Bill and his friends and family as having distinctive personalities and characteristics. Each book comes with a letter to parents from a child psychiatrist about the subject matter in that book. While the writing is nothing extraordinary, Cosby has a good grasp of the issues and how the world looks through children's eyes. The primarily African-American characters also make these books welcome additions to easy-reader collections.?Dina Sherman, Brooklyn Children's Museum, NY (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.
Book list From Booklist, Copyright © American Library Association. Used with permission. 9780590137560 Gr. 2^-4, younger for reading aloud. As Oprah fans will already know, Winfrey has chosen these titles as recent book club selections. With all the great children's writers out there, it's too bad that Bill Cosby is her author of choice, but these beginning chapter books are serviceable, if on the didactic side. In Play, Little Bill wants a $50 video game but finds that he can have more fun making up a game with his friends. Meanest Thing, the best book of the trio, shows how to handle kids who call names (keep saying, "So?"). Hunt is about Little Bill's finding out what he likes to do best. The collage-style artwork is particularly nice here. Vibrant colors and interesting shapes combine in some wonderfully eye-catching spreads. Normally, these wouldn't be a first choice for purchase, but never underestimate the power of Oprah. Even six-year-olds may be coming in to request these. --Ilene Cooper
Horn Book (c) Copyright The Horn Book, Inc., a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted. 9780590137546 Fiction: Y Horn Rating: Marginal, seriously flawed, but with some redeeming quality. Reviewed by: jch (c) Copyright 2010. The Horn Book, Inc., a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.
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  Book Jacket
 
1997
The Treasure Hunt
Book Jacket   Bill Cosby
School Library Journal (c) Copyright Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted. 9780590137546 K-Gr 3?Cosby turns his hand to writing, telling stories about situations that children often face. In The Best Way to Play, Little Bill, the narrator, and his friends get caught up in the excitement and marketing of their favorite TV cartoon, Space Explorers, and desperately want their parents to buy them the expensive video game. They become bored with it quickly, however, and realize that it's more fun to play Space Explorers outside. In The Meanest Thing to Say, Little Bill comes face to face with a bully. The Treasure Hunt takes him on a voyage of self-exploration. It seems to him that everyone in his family has a special quality. After a full day of searching, he discovers that his is "telling stories and making people laugh." These titles feature short chapters, making them appropriate for beginning readers?but they're also short enough to be read aloud. Honeywood's illustrations are bright and eye-catching, and show Little Bill and his friends and family as having distinctive personalities and characteristics. Each book comes with a letter to parents from a child psychiatrist about the subject matter in that book. While the writing is nothing extraordinary, Cosby has a good grasp of the issues and how the world looks through children's eyes. The primarily African-American characters also make these books welcome additions to easy-reader collections.?Dina Sherman, Brooklyn Children's Museum, NY (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.
Book list From Booklist, Copyright © American Library Association. Used with permission. 9780590137560 Gr. 2^-4, younger for reading aloud. As Oprah fans will already know, Winfrey has chosen these titles as recent book club selections. With all the great children's writers out there, it's too bad that Bill Cosby is her author of choice, but these beginning chapter books are serviceable, if on the didactic side. In Play, Little Bill wants a $50 video game but finds that he can have more fun making up a game with his friends. Meanest Thing, the best book of the trio, shows how to handle kids who call names (keep saying, "So?"). Hunt is about Little Bill's finding out what he likes to do best. The collage-style artwork is particularly nice here. Vibrant colors and interesting shapes combine in some wonderfully eye-catching spreads. Normally, these wouldn't be a first choice for purchase, but never underestimate the power of Oprah. Even six-year-olds may be coming in to request these. --Ilene Cooper
Horn Book (c) Copyright The Horn Book, Inc., a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted. 9780590163996 Fiction: Y Cosby presents Little Bill with difficult situations (discovering his own talents, coping with a bully, and wanting a video game his parents won't buy him), then has adult characters suggest the solutions in these disappointingly didactic volumes. Although Honeywood's stylized, color-saturated paintings are appealing, they can't compensate for the texts' heavy-handed treatments. Horn Rating: Marginal, seriously flawed, but with some redeeming quality. Reviewed by: jch (c) Copyright 2010. The Horn Book, Inc., a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.
Kirkus Copyright © Kirkus Reviews, used with permission. 9780590163996 In the new Little Bill series for beginning readers, Little Bill figures that his father has a prized collection of jazz LPs, his brother has a stack of classic baseball cards, and his mother owns a silver serving platter--so what does he have that's special? Enter his great-grandmother Alice, who hears his complaint, asks for a story, and laughs at the silly episode he concocts. Bill realizes that he has something special after all- -an ability to tell stories. Emerging readers will skip past Professor Alvin Poussaint's opening letter to parents but won't be able to dodge the bluntly delivered lesson in this three- chapter esteem-builder. Honeywood's brightly colored domestic scenes, painted in a flat, folksy style, add plenty of visual energy, and the pleasure each member of Little Bill's family takes in his or her special thing lightens the book's obvious didactic intent. (Fiction. 6-8)
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1997
The Best Way to Play
Book Jacket   Bill Cosby
School Library Journal (c) Copyright Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted. 9780590137546 K-Gr 3?Cosby turns his hand to writing, telling stories about situations that children often face. In The Best Way to Play, Little Bill, the narrator, and his friends get caught up in the excitement and marketing of their favorite TV cartoon, Space Explorers, and desperately want their parents to buy them the expensive video game. They become bored with it quickly, however, and realize that it's more fun to play Space Explorers outside. In The Meanest Thing to Say, Little Bill comes face to face with a bully. The Treasure Hunt takes him on a voyage of self-exploration. It seems to him that everyone in his family has a special quality. After a full day of searching, he discovers that his is "telling stories and making people laugh." These titles feature short chapters, making them appropriate for beginning readers?but they're also short enough to be read aloud. Honeywood's illustrations are bright and eye-catching, and show Little Bill and his friends and family as having distinctive personalities and characteristics. Each book comes with a letter to parents from a child psychiatrist about the subject matter in that book. While the writing is nothing extraordinary, Cosby has a good grasp of the issues and how the world looks through children's eyes. The primarily African-American characters also make these books welcome additions to easy-reader collections.?Dina Sherman, Brooklyn Children's Museum, NY (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.
Horn Book (c) Copyright The Horn Book, Inc., a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted. 9780590137560 Fiction: Y Horn Rating: Marginal, seriously flawed, but with some redeeming quality. Reviewed by: jch (c) Copyright 2010. The Horn Book, Inc., a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.
Book list From Booklist, Copyright © American Library Association. Used with permission. 9780590137560 Gr. 2^-4, younger for reading aloud. As Oprah fans will already know, Winfrey has chosen these titles as recent book club selections. With all the great children's writers out there, it's too bad that Bill Cosby is her author of choice, but these beginning chapter books are serviceable, if on the didactic side. In Play, Little Bill wants a $50 video game but finds that he can have more fun making up a game with his friends. Meanest Thing, the best book of the trio, shows how to handle kids who call names (keep saying, "So?"). Hunt is about Little Bill's finding out what he likes to do best. The collage-style artwork is particularly nice here. Vibrant colors and interesting shapes combine in some wonderfully eye-catching spreads. Normally, these wouldn't be a first choice for purchase, but never underestimate the power of Oprah. Even six-year-olds may be coming in to request these. --Ilene Cooper
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1997
Ellen Foster
 Kaye Gibbons
  Book Jacket
1997
A Virtuous Woman
 Kaye Gibbons
Library Journal (c) Copyright Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted. 9780945575092 Alternating chapters narrated by Ruby Stokes (who is dying of cancer at 45) with those told by her husband, Blinking Jack, after her death, Gibbons creates a scrapbook of their quarter century together as tenant farmers. Too old and tough to be endearing like the protagonist of Ellen Foster ( LJ 4/15/87), the Stokeses are no less honest and vivid as they consider the value of a good mate or good soil. Gibbons again flawlessly reproduces the humor and idiom of rural eastern North Carolina in Ruby's proper country dialect and Jack's peculiarly awful grammar. Recommended for public libraries and collections of regional fiction.-- Maurice Taylor, Brunswick Cty. Lib., Southport, N.C. (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.
Publishers Weekly (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved 9780945575092 Jack Stokes and Ruby Pitt weave this strong, tightly knit love story in alternating chapters that begin when Jack, grieving over Ruby's death four months earlier, evokes the past. In flashbacks, the two richly cadenced Southern voices explore their vastly differing backgrounds, troubled histories and their unlikely but loving marriage. Born into a proud, prominent country family, coddled and adored, Ruby stuns her parents and two brothers by inexplicably running off with John Woodrow, a migrant worker who savagely abuses her. When John is killed in a brawl, Ruby, too proud to ask her family for help, begins doing housework for the wealthy Hoover family, where she meets Jack, a laconic, immensely capable tenant farmer on the Hoover land. He is 40; she is 20. Both lonely and vulnerable, they regard each other cautiously, carry on a wary courtship and embark on a firmly grounded marriage. The union is enriched by a small, supportive circle of friends, who, like the couple's landlord, Burr, are sharply etched and convincingly drawn. Gibbons, author of the critically praised Ellen Foster , has written a vivid, unsentimental, powerful novel. Literary Guild and Double day Book Club alternates. (Apr . ) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved
Book list From Booklist, Copyright © American Library Association. Used with permission. 9780945575092 Gibbons returns with a new novel in the brief, bittersweet tradition of her earlier Ellen Foster [BKL S 1 87]. In alternating chapters, Ruby and Jack tell of their lives and love for each other. Jack is the victim of an impoverished childhood. Ruby has suffered a disastrous first marriage. She finds happiness with loving, affectionate Jack, though he is 20 years older, fat, and has a twitch. Even their love, though, is no match for life's tragedies: childlessness and Ruby's cancer. Gibbons allows her characters to describe misfortune with excruciating detail and matter-of-factness. The result is another heart-tugging quiet drama. Jack has Ellen Foster's soul--vulnerable, sweet, more knowing than appearance suggests. Ruby has the angelic kindness and domesticity of Ellen's foster mother. A subtle, evocative, and romantic novel. --Deb Robertson
Kirkus Copyright © Kirkus Reviews, used with permission. A straight and true, if somewhat unusual, love is at the heart of this sweet and folksy novella by the much celebrated author of Ellen Foster. Blinking Jack Ernest Stokes (""stokes the fire, stokes the stove, stokes the fiery furnace of hell!"") shares with his younger wife, Ruby Pitt Woodrow Stokes, ""a quiet kind of love,"" born of Jack's essential goodness and Ruby's gratitude. When she first met Jack, her second husband, she was stuck in a horrible marriage to a drinking and cheating migrant worker, who had wooed her with lies and given her a mean and lowdown life. Before running off with nasty John Woodrow at 18, Ruby was the sheltered daughter of a modestly prosperous farmer, and planned on attending college. In one of her charming monologues (which alternate with Jack's), Ruby blames her movie-fed imagination for the mistake from which she cannot turn back. And Woodrow's taunts about Ruby's ""uppity"" background inspires her only vice, the smoking that eventually leads to lung cancer at 45, much to the dismay of gentle Jack, himself 65 at the time. While Ruby's chapters are told in anticipation of her impending death, Jack's look back from the months after the fact, recalling Woodrow's timely murder in a pool-hall fight, Jack and Ruby's odd courtship, and their 25 years of a loving marriage. A tall and skinny tenant farmer, Jack works for his buddy Burr Stanley, a former tenant who married the spoiled, slovenly, knocked-up daughter of the landlord. As much a testament to the unlikely love of Jack and Ruby, this quirky little book also captures in its final chapter--the only one in the third person--the depths of Jack's loneliness and despair after Ruby's gone. Other than his devoted friendship, and a share in his daughter's love (Jack and Ruby couldn't have their own kids), Burr gives Jack the only thing left--a piece of land to call his own. Gibbons flirts with kitsch--one memory recalls a six-year-old girl in a bedful of puppies--but her good country sense argues for a grace and virtue beyond mere sentimentality, and unaffected by religiosity. There's much charm--and a lot of wisdom--in her rural romance. Copyright ©Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.
Library Journal (c) Copyright Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted. 9780788725975 This is a love story, plain and simple. Its the tale of a 40-year-old tenant farmer and a 20-year-old daughter of the gentry, who happen upon each other through fate or by chance. Jack and Ruby alternately tell the story of their marriage, painting a picture of deep and varied color. They speak of the everyday events that shaped their lives, their shared philosophies, and their different approaches to problem-solving. This creates a crystal-clear picture of a deep and abiding marriage of both body and soul. But late in the novel, Ruby dies of lung cancer, and Jack is left alone with his recollections and his grief. Gibbons (Ellen Foster, Audio Reviews, LJ 10/15/98) crafts a moving but unsentimental picture of the perfect couple. Her dialog and description, beautifully narrated by Ruth Ann Phimister and Tom Stechschulte, are stunning in their ability to captivate and connect with the reader. Highly recommended.Joanna M. Burkhardt, Univ. of Rhode Island Coll. of Continuing Education Lib., Providence (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.
School Library Journal (c) Copyright Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted. 9780945575092 YA-- In alternating chapters, Ruby and Jack Stokes tell of their adult lives: her elopement and hellish life with an abusive migrant farmer, Ruby and Jack's meeting and subsequently happy marriage, and their relationships with Jack's landlord and friend, Burr; his self-centered wife and son; and June, his lovely daughter, whom the Stokes love dearly. Gibbons develops distinct voices for Ruby and Jack, and their reminiscences paint vibrant portraits of themselves and others. The story will prod readers to think about the nature of friendship and love.-- Alice Conlon, University of Houston (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.
Publishers Weekly (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved 9780679728443 In flashbacks, two richly cadenced Southern voices explore vastly different backgrounds, troubled histories and an unlikely but loving marriage. PW found this ``a vivid, unsentimental, powerful novel.'' (May) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved
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1997
A Lesson Before Dying
Book Jacket   Ernest Gaines
Library Journal (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted. 9780679414773 What do you tell an innocent youth who was at the wrong place at the wrong time and now faces death in the electric chair? What do you say to restore his self-esteem when his lawyer has publicly described him as a dumb animal? What do you tell a youth humiliated by a lifetime of racism so that he can face death with dignity? The task belongs to Grant Wiggins, the teacher of the Negro plantation school who narrates the story. Grant grew up on the Louisiana plantation but broke away to go to the university. He returns to help his people but struggles over ``whether I should act like the teacher that I was, or like the nigger that I was supposed to be.'' The powerful message Grant tells the youth transforms him from a ``hog'' to a hero, and the reader is not likely to forget it, either. Gaines's earlier works include A Gathering of Old Men ( LJ 9/83) and The Autobiography of Miss Jane Pittman (Bantam, 1982). BOMC and Quality Paperback Book Club alternate selections; previewed in Prepub Alert, LJ 12/92.-- Joanne Snapp, Randolph-Macon Coll . , Ashland, Va. (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.
Choice Copyright American Library Association, used with permission. 9780679414773 This work confirms Gaines's position as an important African American and southern novelist. Set in southern Louisiana during the 1940s, the novel focuses on the interaction between a young black man condemned to the electric chair and a black schoolteacher who visits him in his cell. Returning to the thematic concerns of the less effective In My Father's House (1978), Gaines explores the ethnic complexity of the Cajun region, the liberating and repressive aspects of African American religion, and, most centrally, the meaning of "black manhood." Emphasizing the emerging self-awareness of Jefferson, the condemned murderer viewed by his white lawyer as a "hog," Gaines's novel can be seen as a "rewriting" of Richard Wright's Native Son. Much of the power of the novel derives from the struggles of schoolteacher Grant Wiggins to reintegrate his life with his community. The high point of the novel, however, is Jefferson's diary which shares the vernacular eloquence of Celie's letters in Alice Walker's The Color Purple and confirms Gaines's place as a master of American vernacular style. C. Werner; University of WisconsinDSMadison
Publishers Weekly (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved 9780679741664 Gaines's NBCC Award-winning novel tells of the relationship forged between a young black man on death row and his teacher in 1940s Louisiana. (June) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved
Kirkus Copyright © Kirkus Reviews, used with permission. 9780679414773 Two black men (one a teacher, the other a death row inmate) struggle to live, and die, with dignity, in Gaines's most powerful and moving work since The Autobiography of Miss Jane Pittman (1971). The year is 1948. Harry Truman may have integrated the Armed Forces, but down in the small Cajun town of Bayonne, Louisiana, where the blacks still shuffle submissively for their white masters, little has changed since slavery. When a white liquor- store owner is killed during a robbery attempt, along with his two black assailants, the innocent black bystander Jefferson gets death, despite the defense plea that ``I would just as soon put a hog in the electric chair as this.'' Hog. The word lingers like a foul odor and weighs as heavily as the sentence on Jefferson and the woman who raised him, his ``nannan'' (godmother) Miss Emma. She needs an image of Jefferson going to his death like a man, and she turns to the young teacher at the plantation school for help. Meanwhile, Grant Wiggins (the narrator) has his own problems. He loves his people but hates himself for teaching on the white man's terms; visiting Jefferson in jail will just mean more kowtowing, so he goes along reluctantly, prodded by his strong-willed Tante Lou and his girlfriend Vivian. The first visits are a disaster: Jefferson refuses to speak and will not eat his nannan's cooking, which breaks the old lady's heart. But eventually Grant gets through to him (``a hero does for others''); Jefferson eats Miss Emma's gumbo and astonishes himself by writing whole pages in a diary--a miracle, water from the rock. When he walks to the chair, he is the strongest man in the courthouse. By containing unbearably painful emotions within simple declarative sentences and everyday speech rhythms, Gaines has written a novel that is not only never maudlin, but approaches the spare beauty of a classic.
School Library Journal (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted. 9780679414773 YA-- No breathless courtroom triumphs or dramatic reprieves alleviate the sad progress toward execution in this latest novel by the author of The Autobiography of Miss Jane Pittman (Bantam, 1982). The condemned man is Jefferson, a poorly educated man/child whose only crimes are a dim intelligence, being in the wrong place at the wrong time, and being black in rural Louisiana in the late 1940s. To everyone, even his own defense attorney, he's an animal, too dumb to understand what is happening to him. But his godmother, Miss Emma, decides that Jefferson will die a man. To accomplish just that, she brings Grant Wiggins, the teacher at the plantation's one-room school and narrator of the novel, into the story. Emotionally blackmailed by two strong-willed old ladies, Grant reluctantly begins visiting Jefferson, committing both men to the painful task of self-discovery. As in his earlier novels, Gaines evokes a sense of reality through rich detail and believable characters in this simple, moving story. YAs who seek thought-provoking reading will enjoy this glimpse of life in the rural South just before the civil rights movement.-- Carolyn E. Gecan, Thomas Jefferson Sci-Tech, Fairfax County, VA (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.
Publishers Weekly (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved 9780679414773 Gaines's first novel in a decade may be his crowning achievement. In this restrained but eloquent narrative, the author of The Autobiography of Miss Jane Pittman again addresses some of the major issues of race and identity in our time. The story of two African American men struggling to attain manhood in a prejudiced society, the tale is set in Bayonne, La. (the fictional community Gaines has used previously) in the late 1940s. It concerns Jefferson, a mentally slow, barely literate young man, who, though an innocent bystander to a shootout between a white store owner and two black robbers, is convicted of murder, and the sophisticated, educated man who comes to his aid. When Jefferson's own attorney claims that executing him would be tantamount to killing a hog, his incensed godmother, Miss Emma, turns to teacher Grant Wiggins, pleading with him to gain access to the jailed youth and help him to face his death by electrocution with dignity. As complex a character as Faulkner's Quentin Compson, Grant feels mingled love, loyalty and hatred for the poor plantation community where he was born and raised. He longs to leave the South and is reluctant to assume the level of leadership and involvement that helping Jefferson would require. Eventually, however, the two men, vastly different in potential yet equally degraded by racism, achieve a relationship that transforms them both. Suspense rises as it becomes clear that the integrity of the entire local black community depends on Jefferson's courage. Though the conclusion is inevitable, Gaines invests the story with emotional power and universal resonance. BOMC and QPB alternates. (Apr.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved
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1997
Songs in Ordinary Time
Book Jacket   Mary McGarry Morris
Library Journal (c) Copyright Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted. 9780670860142 Morris has had critical success with novels like A Dangerous Woman (LJ 11/15/90), which was made into a movie starring Debra Winger. But according to her publicist, this new work?which features an Irish American woman vulnerable to the blandishments of a con man?has a "commercial edge." (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.
Publishers Weekly (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved 9780670860142 As she proved in her first novel, Vanished, and in the equally compelling A Dangerous Woman, Morris can depict society's outsiders-people with bleak presents and no futures-with rare understanding and compassion. Here, she portrays an entire community, a small town in Vermont during the summer of 1960, and then focuses on one family, the Fermoyles. With no support from her alcoholic ex-husband Sam, Marie Fermoyle has struggled for eight years to raise her three children. She is sharp-tongued, bitter, resentful and driven nearly to distraction by unending money worries and her own shame at being a poor divorcée in a staunchly Catholic town. The arrival of mysterious Omar Duvall with his con man's spiel of sudden riches brings Marie hope that she can change her dead-end existence. Among the 30 or so characters, there are no happy people: in fact, at first, one thinks this will be just an unbroken litany of sour, wasted lives, people mired in frustration and desperation, hiding tawdry secrets. But, although the exposition is long and leisurely, one is soon caught in the web of Morris's narrative, particularly in Marie's manipulation by Duvall, who sponges off the family while appearing to offer Marie the love she desperately craves. Meanwhile, her children-teenaged Alice and Norm, and fearful 12-year-old Benjy-are out-matched by the oily Omar, and they undergo their own torments as adolescents shamed by their parents and miserably conscious of their poverty. Innocent Benjy holds a secret so terrible he doesn't even fathom it until it is almost too late to avert tragedy. Morris weaves the taut strands of her plot with remarkable skill, revealing how people with no financial security and few mental resources are controlled by others more feral and more dangerous. Throughout, she maintains the suspense triggered by a dead body in the woods, and she pries open a Pandora's box of secrets, including double lives and the hypocrisy that masks sin behind piety. This novel becomes more powerful as one reads, building to a heartstopping denouement, yet remaining strictly observant of the minutiae of daily life that give the book its honesty and pathos. 75,000 first printing; $75,000 ad/promo. (Aug.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved
Kirkus Copyright © Kirkus Reviews, used with permission. 9780670860142 From the justly touted author of Vanished (a 1988 NBA nominee) and A Dangerous Woman (1991) comes this panoramic view of small- town lifea novel infused with empathy for the flawed and failed who live there. Set in the summer of 1960, the story details how the Fermoyle family and their neighbors are nearly destroyed by a dangerous con man, Omar Duvall. When 12-year-old Benjy Fermoyle witnesses a murder in the woods above his Vermont hometown, then sees the murderer, Omar, appear later that evening with flowers for his mother, Marie, he is not surprised, and tells no one: Benjy has known forever that Omar's coming was ``as inevitable as the summer's fiery sun, and as unstoppable.'' Posing as a peddlar, Omar soon insinuates himself into the family by shrewdly flattering them. Lonely Marie, who gets no help from alcoholic ex-husband Sam in raising Alice, Norm, and young Benjy, is especially vulnerable to his attentions. She not only provides Omar with food and shelter but forges signatures so she can get a loan to invest in the get- rich soap-selling scheme he's touting. As the summer progresses, subplots unfold that parallel and often connect with the Fermoyles' fate: The local police chief has an affair while his wife lies dying; a young priest falls in love with Alice; an insurance salesman, besotted with his wife (a former showgirl), takes to crime; and Sam tries to dry out and get his family back. Meanwhile, the novel gains its thriller-like tension from the children's complex relationship with Omar, a man who makes their mother happy but is increasingly revealed to be both bad and dangerous. By summer's end, ``the malevolence in the air'' has finally dissipated, and the Fermoyles are on surer ground. A grand sweep of a novel: Morris, like a contemporary Dickens, creates a world teeming with incident and characters often foolish, even nasty, but always alive and in your face. (First printing of 75,000; $75,000 ad/promo)
Publishers Weekly (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved 9780140244823 Set in Vermont during the summer of 1960, Morris's latest concerns a dysfunctional family that falls prey to a dangerous con man. (Aug.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved
Book list From Booklist, Copyright © American Library Association. Used with permission. Morris, author of A Dangerous Woman (1990), has written a novel large enough to live in, a sprawling piece about small-town life. The year is 1960, the season is summer, and the town is Atkinson, Vermont. At the core is the Fermoyle household, a ramshackle place ruled by overworked, vexed, and cantankerous Marie. The only contribution her alcoholic ex-husband makes is to terrify and embarrass their three children. Norm and Alice are teenagers with short tempers, raging hormones, and doubtful prospects; Benjy is a young boy beset with fears and anxious for his mother's happiness. He thinks he's found the key, an unctuous con man calling himself Omar Duvall, but Benjy knows Duvall's awful secret and it's eating him alive. Meanwhile, Duvall just makes himself at home, convincing Marie to invest in one of his scams. From this center that doesn't quite hold, Morris spins countless side plots involving illicit affairs, family scandals, and unrequited love. This is perfect for readers who like big, busy novels. (Reviewed July 1995)067086014XDonna Seaman
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1997
The Heart of a Woman
 Maya Angelou
Kirkus Copyright © Kirkus Reviews, used with permission. Another installment in Angelou's remarkable autobiography--beginning with would-be singer Maya in 1957 California: trying commune life; moving to L.A. with teenage son Guy; playing uneasy hostess to dying Billie Holliday--a ""lonely sick woman, with a waterfront mouth"" who both cursed and lullabied Guy . . . and interrupted Maya's nightclub act with a mini-review (""Stop that bitch. She sounds just like my goddam mamma""). But most of this book finds Maya in N.Y., living in Brooklyn and joining the Harlem Writers Guild--a mutual-criticism group of necessary harshness: ""Publishers don't care much for white writers. . . . You can imagine what they think about black ones."" Little writing gets done, however, because, after one final singing fling (at the Apollo), Maya finds herself galvanized by a Martin Luther King speech: she and Godfrey Cambridge (""his white teeth were like flags of truce"") organize a fundraising cabaret for King's SCLC; then, to her surprise, Maya is offered the job of Northern coordinator; and this soon leads her to South African rebel diplomat Vus Make--a sleek, charismatic hero who, on the virtual eve of Maya's wedding to a lusty bail-bondsman, sweeps her into quasi-marriage--first in NY (where Maya acts in The Blacks and leads a protest march on the UN after Lumumba's assassination) and then in Cairo, where she rebels against Vus' male-chauvinism by getting a journalism job. Finally, however, fed up with Vus' tyrannies, infidelities, and unpaid bills, Maya takes off (after braving an African-style divorce-by-debate), puts Guy in college in Ghana, and breathes a sigh of relief: ""At last, I'll be able to eat the whole breast of a roast chicken by myself."" Don't look for political history here: Angelou doesn't pause much for reexaminations, and some of the sociological musings are shaky (as when she explains a black teen-gang simply as a response to racism). But the mother-son relationship is touchingly explored, the fire of the times is rekindled with eloquence, and Maya herself--brandishing a pistol to defend her son or wrassling with Vus in the Waldorf Astoria lobby--remains funny, tough, and vulnerable as she keeps on surprising herself with what she can do: a great lady moving right on through a great memoir. Copyright ©Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.
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1997
The Rapture of Canaan
 Sheri Reynolds
Kirkus Copyright © Kirkus Reviews, used with permission. 9780399141126 A second tragedy-laden southern coming-of-age tale from Reynolds (Bitterroot Landing, 1995)--this one, set in a strict and punitive religious community, with a good, gothic allure despite its lamentably plodding prose. Ninah Huff is 14 when she really begins to chafe at the confines of her small world. Her grandpa Herman, founder of the Church of Fire and Brimstone and God's Almighty Baptizing Wind, keeps harsh control over their small South Carolina community, which is populated mostly by Ninah's extended family. Those who stray from the righteous path know to expect treatment that can range from whippings with a leather strap to sleeping overnight in a newly dug grave. And Grandpa Herman is always ready with Scripture to justify any of these punishments. Ninah, meanwhile, finds herself dreaming more and more about forbidden things, especially her strong physical attraction to James, one of the few boys around who's not her blood kin. When she winds up pregnant, it sparks tragedy within her family and shock waves throughout the community. But Ninah insists that she's not guilty of the sin of fornication, that what she and James did together was a form of pure prayer. And, sure enough, when baby Canaan is born, he appears to bear a sign from God--his hands are joined at the palms like someone perpetually praying. Grandpa Herman proclaims him the New Messiah, and he's taken away from Ninah to be raised by others. This time out, Reynolds burdens her story with some unworkable metaphors--a rug that grins?--and much awkward dialogue, but, in all, she creates a strongly compelling tension between family feeling and religious fervor. The fate of Ninah and her son is uncertain until the small epiphany (or, really, anti-epiphany) at book's end--a moment that seems just right. Fire and brimstone that goes tepid at times but is really chilling overall. (Literary Guild alternate selection; author tour)
Publishers Weekly (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved 9780399141126 In this gritty portrait of a young girl who battles repression in a rural Southern religious community, Reynolds (Bitterroot Landing) once again showcases a compelling narrative voice that's simultaneously harsh and lyrical. The narrator is Ninah Huff, granddaughter of Herman Langston, the founder of a Pentecostal sect in rural South Carolina. Herman is a strict disciplinarian, to say the least: he forces one congregant found guilty of drinking to sleep in an open grave. Because of the Pentecostal group's rigid attitudes, Ninah and her peers are frequently scorned and mocked at school. But her real problems start when she becomes pregnant by her prayer partner. Ninah's subsequent rebellion and the tragic aftermath of her tryst threaten to tear the community apart, particularly when the despotic Herman interprets an ordinary, curable birth defect in her infant son, Canaan, as a sign that she has given birth to the new messiah. While many of the issues Reynolds deals with are coming-of-age staples-teen rebellion; the standoff between adolescent expression and religious repression; the morality of the individual vs. the morality of the group-her gift for characterization ultimately transcends the material as Ninah's strength and resilience enable her to move beyond benighted religiosity toward a true and lasting faith. Literary Guild featured alternate selection. (Jan.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved
Library Journal (c) Copyright Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted. 9780399141126 For Ninah Huff, being different from most people has meant being saved. Growing up in her grandfather's penitential religious commune in the rural South, Ninah is surrounded by love and the assurance of sanctity, though she sometimes wonders if she is truly holy. At 14, she begins to have serious doubts. Are all outsiders really damned? Are long, somber dresses and never-cut hair really necessary? Most of all, how sanctified are the feelings sparking between Ninah and James, her prayer partner in the Church of Fire and Brimstone and God's Almighty Baptizing Wind? With Ninah's pregnancy, questions of faith and sin take on real urgency, leading to tragedy and even a miracle. Ninah relates her story in prose both poetic and page turning; Reynolds lives up to the praise garnered by her first novel, Bitterroot Landing (LJ 11/15/94).-Starr E. Smith, Marymount Univ. Lib., Arlington, Va. (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.
Book list From Booklist, Copyright © American Library Association. Used with permission. 9780399141126 For 14-year-old Ninah Huff, growing up in the extended family community of the Church of Fire and Brimstone and God's Almighty Baptizing Wind has meant working on the communal tobacco farm, receiving harsh punishments for unintended acts, being different from schoolmates, and enjoying a few simple pleasures. Foremost among the pleasures have been the company and stories of Nanna, whose husband, Grandpa Herman, founded the church after surviving wartime combat and unilaterally controlled its finances, doctrines, and daily life. Then comes a pleasures surpassing all others in the person of 15-year-old James. Designated prayer partners, Ninah and James share rebellious ideas, tentative touches, and more (after beseeching Jesus to speak to each of them through the other), leaving Ninah pregnant and touching off events that shake the community and its faith. Reynolds' second assured coming-of-age novel (after Bitterroot Landing, 1995) is also a devastating portrayal of organized religion as illogical, intolerant, and cruel but still unable to extinguish the spark of the human spirit. --Michele Leber
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1997
Stones from the River
Book Jacket   Ursula Hegi
Book list From Booklist, Copyright © American Library Association. Used with permission. 9780671780753 "Every time Trudi took a story and let it stream through her mind from beginning to end, it grew fuller, richer, feeding on her visions of those people the story belonged to until it left its bed like the river she loved." Stories--what they are; how we tell them; how they reflect, distort, and even create reality--are at the heart of this bold reimagining of twentieth-century German history. Readers of Hegi's Floating in My Mother's Palm (1990) will remember Trudi Montag, the dwarf librarian and town gossip, as a secondary character in a jewel-like collection of interconnected vignettes. Here Trudi moves to center stage, as she chronicles the lives of the residents of rural Burgdorf from World War I into the early 1950s. Though Hegi's canvas is broad here, the focus is always on individual lives, not on the horrific events that swirl around them. As Trudi moves from using gossip to extract revenge, to preserving history in a time of silence, to telling a story for the sake of the story, she comes to understand the humanizing power of narrative. "It had to do with what to enhance and what to relinquish. And what to embrace." Telling a story and living a life--this compelling novel makes us see how little difference there is between them. ~--Bill Ott
Publishers Weekly (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved 9780671780753 Returning to Burgdorf, the small German community she memorably depicted in Floating in My Mother's Palm , Hegi captures the events and atmosphere in the country prior, during and after WW II. Again she has produced a powerful novel whose chilling candor and resonant moral vision serve a dramatic story. With a sure hand, Hegi evokes the patterns of small-town life, individualized here in dozens of ordinary people who display the German passion for order, obedience and conformity, enforced for centuries by rigid class differences and the strictures of the Catholic church. The protagonist is Trudi Montag, the Zwerg (dwarf) who becomes the town's librarian; (she and most of the other characters figured in the earlier book). A perennial outsider because of her deformity, Trudi exploits her gift for eliciting peoples' secrets--and often maliciously reveals them in suspenseful gossip. But when Hitler ascends to power, she protects those who have been kind to her, including two Jewish families who, despite the efforts of Trudi, her father and a few others, are fated to perish in the Holocaust. Trudi is a complex character, as damaged by her mother's madness and early death as she is by the later circumstances of her life, and she is sometimes cruel, vindictive and vengeful. It is fascinating to watch her mature, as she experiences love and loss and finds wisdom, eventually learning to live with the vast amnesia that grips formerly ardent Nazis after the war. One hopes that Hegi will continue to depict the residents of Burgdorf--Germany in microcosm--thus deepening our understanding of a time and place. (Mar.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved
Library Journal (c) Copyright Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted. 9780671780753 At the beginning of World War I, Trudi Montag, a dwarf, is born to an unstable mother and a gentle father in a small Rheinish town. Through the Weimar Republic and the Third Reich into the era following World War II she first struggles with--and later draws strength and wisdom from--her inability to fit into a conformist and repressive society. As the town's librarian and historian, Trudi keeps track of many secrets, revealing the universality of her experience. While Hegi's ( Floating in My Mother's Palm , LJ 5/15/90) treatment of history and politics is engaging, her novel's appeal lies in the humanity of its characters. Particularly strong is her portrayal of, and insight into, the community of women and children as they react to changing conditions in the town. A sensitive and rewarding book.-- Michael T. O'Pecko, Towson State Univ., Md. (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.
Publishers Weekly (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved 9780684800356 A dwarf woman struggles to find acceptance in her small German town in this novel spanning both world wars. (Apr.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved
Library Journal (c) Copyright Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted. 9780792724339 Trudi Montag, a dwarf born in Germany during World War I, narrates her life story from her earliest memories through post-World War II. Being different sometimes renders Trudi almost invisible to those around her, allowing her to eavesdrop on the daily dramas of her neighbors' adultery, cowardice, heroism, insanity, and Jewish persecution. Hegi draws on her own youth in small-town Germany (she emigrated to the United States at age 18) to establish an authentic setting, painting the emergence of Nazi Germany on an intimate canvas of a small town and its humanly flawed population. Berlin-born reader Kim Edwards-Fukei augments the authenticity of place with her German accent and pronunciation, which, coupled with more than a sprinkling of German words, requires the listener's full concentration. With the 528-page tome converted into 24 hours of listening, a longer loan period may be warranted. An Oprah Book Club selection and one of four PEN/Faulkner 1995 runners up, this is recommended for all fiction collections. Judith Robinson, Univ. at Buffalo, NY (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.
Kirkus Copyright © Kirkus Reviews, used with permission. 9780671780753 Life in small-town Germany (1915-52) as chronicled by Trudi, a dwarf with her own agenda--courtesy of the German-born Hegi (Floating in My Mother's Palm, 1990, etc.) Trudi, whose birth drove her beautiful mother into madness and early death, carries a heavy burden. Her mother's madness was caused not by horror at Trudi's appearance but from guilt: while her husband was away fighting in WW I, she--pregnant--had an affair with his best friend. Trudi, then, a victim of guilt and madness, is an obvious metaphor for Germany--a witness for the prosecution, ``an underground messenger safeguarding her stories.'' Over the years she watches, listens, and slyly trades secrets for other secrets to add to her arsenal of information about the town. She, too, has allowed herself to be consumed by vengeance and hatred. Taunted and sexually assaulted as a young girl by four local boys, she had wished them ill, plotted their destruction, and now, when they all suffer, she begins to understand the corrosive power of hatred. Meanwhile, the town itself is a microcosm of German history as Trudi records its response to the economically distressed 1920's, the rise of Hitler, the growing anti-Semitism, and the postwar years when everyone wants to forget or deny their Nazi past. A slew of characters flesh out these events: courageous Frau Eberhart, whose Nazi son betrays her; Leon Montag, Trudi's wise and brave father; her lover Max, who is killed in the Dresden bombing; and friend Ingrid, who, obsessed by sexual guilt, commits suicide. Trudi, with her own share of sorrows and joys, survives to tell her story--all about ``what to enhance and what to relinquish. And what to embrace.'' Small-town life and the familiar Third Reich horrors are vividly evoked, but Trudi herself is more problematical. Trying to be too much--including a female alter ego for Gunter Grass's dwarf drummer--she is never quite in focus or really credible.
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1997
She's Come Undone
Book Jacket   Wally Lamb
Kirkus Copyright © Kirkus Reviews, used with permission. 9780671759209 A tremendously likable first novel about the catastrophe- marked childhood, youth, and mangled adulthood of a tough-fibered woman who almost beaches herself in guilt and grief. Terrible things are about to happen to Dolores Price, only child of brittle, vulnerable Bernice and weak, randomly abusive Tony. Tony leaves Bernice sometime after the stillbirth of their son, and after a week playing with little Dolores in a new backyard pool, when the child expects a lifetime of floating with Daddy. Then Bernice completely flips out and goes to a mental hospital; Dolores is taken to live with Grandma in Rhode Island on Pierce Street (which ``smelled of car exhaust and frying food. Glass shattered, people screamed, kids threw rocks''). Later, Ma returns and works collecting tolls on the Newport Bridge, while friendless Dolores attends a corrosive parochial school. But all welcome Grandma's new tenant, dazzling Jack, a radio DJ who, when Dolores is 13, rapes her in a dog pound. The person Dolores runs to is heart-of-gold Roberta, empress of the Peacock Tattoo Emporium across the street. In spite of the strangled but loyal love of Ma and Grandma, the palship of Roberta, and the kindness of a gentle gay guidance-counsellor, Dolores is about to go under. She becomes a mountain of fat, and soon is convinced that she's responsible for the death of Jack's baby--but also of Bernice, who's killed by a car. At a Pennsylvania college, Dolores knows that her destiny is to ``kill what people love.'' There's some good psychiatry and a bad marriage before the peaceful and upbeat close. Lamb has a broad satiric touch with some satisfying fat targets (the warfare of Pierce Street, etc.). And in spite of hard, hard times and crazy coincidences, Dolores' career is a pleasure to follow, as she barrels through--with a killer mouth and the guts of a sea lion. A warmblooded, enveloping tale of survival, done up loose and cheering.
Library Journal (c) Copyright Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted. 9780671759209 An award-winning creative writing teacher has created a compelling first novel whose heroine reflects on her troubled journey from childhood to middle age. Bruised by her parents' divorce, her mother's breakdown, and brutal betrayal by a neighbor, Dolores Price tries to retreat from life. Overwhelming anger and defiance frequently blind her to the needs of others, yet even in despair she battles for love and acceptance, supported by some delightfully unconventional friends. There are no simple solutions, but from the shattered remains of her dysfunctional family, she binds together a new beginning. Her struggles to understand pain and achieve forgiveness resonate with a sense of life's complexities. Dolores is not always likable, but her story combines sorrow and wonder in a remarkable way. Recommended for most fiction collections.-- Jan Blodgett, St. Mary's Cty. Records Ctr. & Archives, Leonardtown, Md. (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.
Book list From Booklist, Copyright © American Library Association. Used with permission. 9780671759209 "She" is Dolores Price, a character few readers will soon forget. In this first novel by an award-winning short-story writer and teacher of writing, Dolores tells her own story from age four in 1956 to the present. Tragedy stalks Dolores and the people she loves: desertion, divorce, madness, rape, isolation, disease, and death, plus the routine cruelties and ordinary betrayals of daily life. But there are lifelines in Dolores' world: her fragile but gritty mother and repressed but caring grandmother; a closeted gay high school counsellor who sees potential behind the adolescent Dolores' smart-aleck talk and layers of fat; an eccentric, resilient tattoo-artist neighbor; a hippie family she encounters as it takes off for Woodstock; the psychiatrist whose strong commitment helps Dolores move, over several years, from withdrawal and attempted suicide to reengagement with reality; the man she selects as her first love and then outgrows; the man who insists on becoming her second love. Somehow, unaccountably, Lamb has managed to climb inside the head of a troubled young woman and watch the passing show through her eyes; every twist and turn in her hilarious, horrifying, emotionally wrenching journey seems inevitable. She's Come Undone is a novel worth reading by a writer worth watching. ~--Mary Carroll
Library Journal (c) Copyright Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted. 9780671576509 Lamb's fine debut novel about the travails of a troubled young woman was originally published in 1992. After quietly drifting into obscurity, She's Come Undone today sits atop the best sellers lists thanks to Oprah Winfrey's on-air endorsement. Lovable loser Dolores Price bounces from one tragedy to the next, retaining only her cynical sense of humor. Abandoned as a child by her father (who later tries to make amends, only to be met with Dolores's stubborn rejection), raped by a trusted adult, and later married to a philandering husband, Dolores nonetheless evolves into a cautious, wry adult. Kathy Najimy's sprightly reading is particularly strong when the narrative hits Dolores's adolescent years. For most popular collections.?Mark Annichiarico, "Library Journal" (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.
Publishers Weekly (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved 9780671759209 In this engaging first novel, narrator Dolores Price recounts her life story from age four to age 40. The troubled product of a stormy marriage, she is already sipping Maalox in grade school. Then her father walks out on her mother, who suffers a nervous collapse, and Dolores moves to her repressive grandmother's house in Rhode Island. By the time she reaches eighth grade, she has only one friend: a boarder who eventually rapes her. Anesthetizing herself with junk food and soap operas, Dolores becomes an obese, isolated young woman who attempts suicide during her first semester in college and spends seven years in a mental institution. Oddly enough, this relentless parade of disasters makes for interesting reading. The author keenly evokes his protagonist's profound alienation and self-loathing, endowing Dolores with a bleak sense of humor that keeps readers rooting for her. Ironically, the book itself ``comes undone'' as its heroine develops self-esteem, at which point an absorbing portrait of a woman on a collision course with her problems turns into a disappointing series of cliches about love, forgiveness and Dolores's ticking biological clock. Nonetheless, this is a promising debut. ( July ) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved
Publishers Weekly (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved 9780671759216 In this engaging first novel, narrator Dolores Price recounts her life story from age four to age 40; her relentless parade of disasters makes for interesting reading. (Apr.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved
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1996
The Book of Ruth
 Jane Hamilton
Choice Copyright American Library Association, used with permission. Although the setting of this promising first novel is a rural Illinois town, its dreariness and emptiness remind the readers of the New Southern Gothic novels or Carolyn Chute's recent fiction about the Bean and LeTourneau families of Maine. From a collection of grotesques with appropriately bizarre and violent behavior emerges the resilient protagonist who has been written off as one of the underclass. Ruth is a loser whose dreams are quickly aborted; as she tells the cringing reader, "I knew we were poor and strange." Her self-awareness and matter-of-fact acceptance of her situation, which includes her relationship with her abusive mother, her violent husband, and her infant son, save the novel from becoming pathos. Despite the author's attempts to turn Ruth's story into a tour de force, this is a well-written novel with an interesting plot line. The grotesque characters and the touches of sardonic humor fit well with the author's tone. At times Hamilton seems heavy-handed in her characterizations of the do-gooders and social welfare people who wish to salvage or remake Ruth whose high point is the night she completed a seven and ten split for the Trim'NTidy Dry Cleaners' bowling team. Libraries that include novels in their collections should consider this one.
Library Journal (c) Copyright Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted. 9780671576479 When a Wall Street Journal writer observed that "simple tales of life and sorrow in the heartland are red hot," he wasn't writing about Hamilton's (A Map of the World, Audio Reviews, LJ 7/95) novel, but he might as well have been. Ruth, an Illinois farm girl, gives a first-person account of her life in an effort to make sense of what has happened to her and her tragedy-prone family. The language of this novel, by turns naturalistic, romantic, and occasionally humorous, has a freshness and originality of expression, and Mare Winningham's vital and poignant reading makes Ruth come alive. Recommended for public libraries.?Jacqueline Seewald, Red Bank Regional H.S. Lib., N.J. (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.
Kirkus Copyright © Kirkus Reviews, used with permission. The country folk in Hamilton's first novel lead plain, hard, impoverished lives--on a good day. When things get bad, there's brutality, bestiality, and no small amount of bloodshed. These are the same raw ingredients used by Flannery O'Connor and Carolyn Chute, but Hamilton does not share their sharp, tragicomic vision. Her rural Illinois characters are blunted by the meanness of their lives. Some escape, others just wait it out until they die. Ruth, the narrator, is caught somewhere in between. Suffering through a thoroughly rotten childhood--she's abandoned by her father Elmer, verbally lacerated by her mother May, and constantly compared, unfavorably, to her prodigy brother Matthew--she finds comfort in carrying on a secret correspondence with her beautiful Aunt Sid, who believes in her. Later, while employed as a helper to a blind neighbor, Ruth gets hooked on good books while listening to recordings of the classics, and things bode well--she's going places. But, somehow, it never happens. Ruth goes to work at the dry cleaners, along with May. She takes up bowling. And then she marries Ruby, a sweet, confused former gas-station attendant who likes to spend his days smoking dope and adoring her. They live with acid-tongued May for a few long, hard winters and, finally, inevitably, violence erupts, shattering Ruth's life. Hamilton's writing is strong and clear, even if her intentions are a trifle obscure. She gives Ruth plenty of spark but then lets her fizzle, surprisingly, before our eyes. Whatever the message is, it's not bright with hope. Still, this is an affecting first novel, dark and knowing. Copyright ©Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.
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  Book Jacket
1996
Song of Solomon
 Toni Morrison
Library Journal (c) Copyright Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted. 9780788734670 This new version of Morrison's 1977 novel is a fitting reminder of her early creative mastery. Song of Solomon is a powerful, sensual, and poetic exploration of four generations of a family mistakenly named Dead. Told through the eyes of "Milkman," a rare male protagonist in Morrison's wonderful catalog of unforgettable characters, we discover a century's worth of secrets, ghosts, and troubles. Milkman is faced with resolving the differing memories of his parents and his mysterious aunt Pilate, while questioning the historically charged realities thrown at him by the death of real-life victims of racism like Emmett Till as viewed by his lifelong friend Guitar. Lynne Thigpen was born to tell the author's stories, catching every lyrical note and each painful cry. A perfect marriage of author and reader, this will win new audiences and reassure audio veterans that by listening to books one truly can appreciate the magic of storytelling.--Joyce Kessel, Villa Maria Coll., Buffalo, NY (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.
Kirkus Copyright © Kirkus Reviews, used with permission. When you know your name, you should hang on to it, for unless it is noted down and remembered, it will die when you die."" And the scribbled no-name ""Macon Dead,"" given to a newly freed black man by a drunken Union Army officer, has stained out a family's real name for three generations, and then we meet the third ""Macon Dead,"" called ""Milkman."" Raised among the sour hatreds of the richest black family in a Michigan town, Milkman learns not to love or make commitments, learns to turn away from his father's hard, tight greed, his mother's unloved passivity, his sisters' sterile virginity. He stands apart from his outcast aunt Pilate (a figure reminiscent of Sula, living beyond all reason), a ""raggedy bootlegger"" who keeps her name in a box threaded to one ear. And he stands above the wild untidy adoration of his cousin Hagar, above the atrocities against blacks in the 1950s, even while his friend organizes a black execution squad. However, when Milkman's father opens the door to a family past of murder and flight, Milkman--in order to steal what he believes is gold--begins the cleansing Odyssean journey. His wanderings will take him through a wilderness of rich and wonderful landscapes murmuring with old tales, those real names becoming closer and more familiar. He beholds eerie appearances (an ancient Circe ringed with fight-eyed dogs)--and hears the electric singing of children, which holds within it the pulse of truth. Like other black Americans, Milkman's retrieval of identity from obliteration helps him to shake off the ""Dead"" no-name state of his forebears. And, like all people, his examination of the past gives him a perspective that liberates the capacity for love. Morrison's narration, accomplished with such patient delicacy, is both darkly tense and exuberant; fantastic events and symbolic embellishments simply extend and deepen the validity and grace of speech and character. The gut-soul of Roots, with which this will be recklessly, inevitably linked, and a handsome display of a major talent. Copyright ©Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.
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  Book Jacket
 
1996
The Deep End of the Ocean
Book Jacket   Jacquelyn Mitchard

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