The symbolism of Mary and child coming to liberate the immigrants may be heavy-handed, and occasionally Hussein’s language...

ÉMIGRÉ JOURNEYS

The first novel in English from one of the most important writers in Urdu, an Indian-born author (The Weary Generations, 1999) virtually unknown in the West. That should change.

The story is narrated alternately by Amir, an illegal immigrant in Birmingham, and by his teenaged daughter Parvin, who, having come to England at five, is struggling between the traditional expectations of her father and her desire to enter into the life of her adopted country. Adding drama are the time-shifts between Amir’s first coming to Birmingham and the present, when he is a legal homeowner but nevertheless engaged in a running battle with his wife and children, who have little idea of his struggles to give them a new and better life. It’s a conflict that brings to mind such writers as Henry Roth and Roth’s vivid images of the Lower East Side, as well as V.S. Naipaul with his tales of Indian immigrants in the Caribbean. But, while Abdullah does not suffer from such comparisons, his novel is unique in its depiction of a particular kind of suffering in what most of us consider a civilized country. Unforgettable, for example, is Amir’s memory of living in a house with eight other Pakistanis and his description of their absolute terror at being discovered by the authorities. One of the men finds a lover named Mary, who gets pregnant and later becomes the catalyst for a violent struggle that will break up the group home and force Amir and the others out on their own. After much difficulty, Amir becomes a British citizen, gets a job at the post office, and buys his own home. His dreams are realized, yet he doesn’t do nearly so well with his wife, daughter or son, all in different ways rejecting their father and the life he has chosen for them.

The symbolism of Mary and child coming to liberate the immigrants may be heavy-handed, and occasionally Hussein’s language can be awkward. But altogether Émigré Journeys is a remarkable performance.

Pub Date: Aug. 1, 2001

ISBN: 1-85242-638-1

Page Count: 250

Publisher: Serpent’s Tail

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2001

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The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the...

NIGHT

Elie Wiesel spent his early years in a small Transylvanian town as one of four children. 

He was the only one of the family to survive what Francois Maurois, in his introduction, calls the "human holocaust" of the persecution of the Jews, which began with the restrictions, the singularization of the yellow star, the enclosure within the ghetto, and went on to the mass deportations to the ovens of Auschwitz and Buchenwald. There are unforgettable and horrifying scenes here in this spare and sombre memoir of this experience of the hanging of a child, of his first farewell with his father who leaves him an inheritance of a knife and a spoon, and of his last goodbye at Buchenwald his father's corpse is already cold let alone the long months of survival under unconscionable conditions. 

The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the sphere of suffering shared, and in this case extended to the death march itself, there is no spiritual or emotional legacy here to offset any reader reluctance.

Pub Date: Jan. 16, 2006

ISBN: 0374500010

Page Count: 120

Publisher: Hill & Wang

Review Posted Online: Oct. 7, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2006

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Buffs of the Old West will enjoy Clavin’s careful research and vivid writing.

TOMBSTONE

THE EARP BROTHERS, DOC HOLLIDAY, AND THE VENDETTA RIDE FROM HELL

Rootin’-tootin’ history of the dry-gulchers, horn-swogglers, and outright killers who populated the Wild West’s wildest city in the late 19th century.

The stories of Wyatt Earp and company, the shootout at the O.K. Corral, and Geronimo and the Apache Wars are all well known. Clavin, who has written books on Dodge City and Wild Bill Hickok, delivers a solid narrative that usefully links significant events—making allies of white enemies, for instance, in facing down the Apache threat, rustling from Mexico, and other ethnically charged circumstances. The author is a touch revisionist, in the modern fashion, in noting that the Earps and Clantons weren’t as bloodthirsty as popular culture has made them out to be. For example, Wyatt and Bat Masterson “took the ‘peace’ in peace officer literally and knew that the way to tame the notorious town was not to outkill the bad guys but to intimidate them, sometimes with the help of a gun barrel to the skull.” Indeed, while some of the Clantons and some of the Earps died violently, most—Wyatt, Bat, Doc Holliday—died of cancer and other ailments, if only a few of old age. Clavin complicates the story by reminding readers that the Earps weren’t really the law in Tombstone and sometimes fell on the other side of the line and that the ordinary citizens of Tombstone and other famed Western venues valued order and peace and weren’t particularly keen on gunfighters and their mischief. Still, updating the old notion that the Earp myth is the American Iliad, the author is at his best when he delineates those fraught spasms of violence. “It is never a good sign for law-abiding citizens,” he writes at one high point, “to see Johnny Ringo rush into town, both him and his horse all in a lather.” Indeed not, even if Ringo wound up killing himself and law-abiding Tombstone faded into obscurity when the silver played out.

Buffs of the Old West will enjoy Clavin’s careful research and vivid writing.

Pub Date: April 21, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-250-21458-4

Page Count: 400

Publisher: St. Martin's

Review Posted Online: Jan. 20, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2020

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