Two narratives—one interesting but underdeveloped, the other truly awful—mashed together into a callow attempt at “women’s...


An unwittingly offensive novel from Hudler (Househusband, 2001, etc.).

Geena Pangborn hates her life. She’s just lost her teenaged son, and her marriage is unsatisfying. Her solution: run away from home. As she propels her SUV away from Sublette, Colo., Geena daydreams about the hurt and confusion her disappearance will cause her insensitive husband. After days on the road, Geena realizes that she’s not going to get far with the few hundred dollars in cash that she brought, and she doesn’t want to use plastic because a paper trail will ruin her revenge fantasy. Geena is counting her pennies and eating at happy-hour buffets when the fallout from an overturned mail truck provides her with an answer: a fresh MasterCard. At this point in the narrative, the reader has little reason to care for Geena, and her subsequent behavior provides ample opportunity to dislike her. Utterly untroubled by the consequences of her actions, and fueled by an infantile sense of entitlement, Geena rampages into the life of the MasterCard’s rightful owner, Ellis Norton, an octogenarian Thomas Edison enthusiast and a docent at the inventor’s Florida estate. While Geena brings some fun to Ellis’s spare and cautious existence—fun she’s charging on his credit card, it should be noted—she is basically self-serving and, ultimately, destructive. Unlike Geena, Ellis is a sympathetic, distinctive character, capable of sustaining a whole novel. (If Hudler were interested in exploring friendship, she would have done better to examine more closely that between Ellis and his boss, another nuanced, well-drawn character.) Alas, by the end, one is left with the sense that Ellis—and the reader—would have been better off without Geena.

Two narratives—one interesting but underdeveloped, the other truly awful—mashed together into a callow attempt at “women’s fiction.”

Pub Date: Jan. 31, 2006

ISBN: 0-345-48107-0

Page Count: 272

Publisher: Ballantine

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1, 2005

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A modern day fable, with modern implications in a deceiving simplicity, by the author of Dickens. Dali and Others (Reynal & Hitchcock, p. 138), whose critical brilliance is well adapted to this type of satire. This tells of the revolt on a farm, against humans, when the pigs take over the intellectual superiority, training the horses, cows, sheep, etc., into acknowledging their greatness. The first hints come with the reading out of a pig who instigated the building of a windmill, so that the electric power would be theirs, the idea taken over by Napoleon who becomes topman with no maybes about it. Napoleon trains the young puppies to be his guards, dickers with humans, gradually instigates a reign of terror, and breaks the final commandment against any animal walking on two legs. The old faithful followers find themselves no better off for food and work than they were when man ruled them, learn their final disgrace when they see Napoleon and Squealer carousing with their enemies... A basic statement of the evils of dictatorship in that it not only corrupts the leaders, but deadens the intelligence and awareness of those led so that tyranny is inevitable. Mr. Orwell's animals exist in their own right, with a narrative as individual as it is apt in political parody.

Pub Date: Aug. 26, 1946

ISBN: 0452277507

Page Count: 114

Publisher: Harcourt, Brace

Review Posted Online: Nov. 2, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 1946

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Doerr captures the sights and sounds of wartime and focuses, refreshingly, on the innate goodness of his major characters.

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Doerr presents us with two intricate stories, both of which take place during World War II; late in the novel, inevitably, they intersect.

In August 1944, Marie-Laure LeBlanc is a blind 16-year-old living in the walled port city of Saint-Malo in Brittany and hoping to escape the effects of Allied bombing. D-Day took place two months earlier, and Cherbourg, Caen and Rennes have already been liberated. She’s taken refuge in this city with her great-uncle Etienne, at first a fairly frightening figure to her. Marie-Laure’s father was a locksmith and craftsman who made scale models of cities that Marie-Laure studied so she could travel around on her own. He also crafted clever and intricate boxes, within which treasures could be hidden. Parallel to the story of Marie-Laure we meet Werner and Jutta Pfennig, a brother and sister, both orphans who have been raised in the Children’s House outside Essen, in Germany. Through flashbacks we learn that Werner had been a curious and bright child who developed an obsession with radio transmitters and receivers, both in their infancies during this period. Eventually, Werner goes to a select technical school and then, at 18, into the Wehrmacht, where his technical aptitudes are recognized and he’s put on a team trying to track down illegal radio transmissions. Etienne and Marie-Laure are responsible for some of these transmissions, but Werner is intrigued since what she’s broadcasting is innocent—she shares her passion for Jules Verne by reading aloud 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea. A further subplot involves Marie-Laure’s father’s having hidden a valuable diamond, one being tracked down by Reinhold von Rumpel, a relentless German sergeant-major.

Doerr captures the sights and sounds of wartime and focuses, refreshingly, on the innate goodness of his major characters.

Pub Date: May 6, 2014

ISBN: 978-1-4767-4658-6

Page Count: 448

Publisher: Scribner

Review Posted Online: March 6, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2014

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