THE HOTEL IN THE JUNGLE

The beautifully evoked jungles of southern Mexico are the setting for distinguished critic Guerard's eighth novel (Christine/Annette, 1985, etc.), a story that layers diaries and narratives from three separate time periods—1870, 1922, and the present—to tell of a fabulous Mayan ruin, Casas Grandes, and its nearby dopplegÑnger, a folly in the jungle called the Gran Hotel Balneario Chimalapa. Beginning in 1982 with the arrival of Tulane graduate student Eloise Deslonde, who is tracing the movements of the 19th-century adventuress Rosellen Maurepas for her thesis, ``The Liberated Woman in Antebellum and Postbellum New Orleans,'' the book plunges us into a world of interlocking stories of time-warped passions. We follow Rosellen from her first glimpse, as a teenager, of the dashing mercenary William Walker to her later attempt, in 1870, to determine once and for all whether Walker really died at the hands of a firing squad—or escaped to Casas Grandes. Charles Stanfield, a 20-year-old engineer, accompanies the bewitching Rosellen on her search. Hired to survey the site for a canal linking the Atlantic and the Pacific, Stanfield, instead of doing his job, falls into an idyll with Marita, an Indian girl, while Rosellen disappears among the haunted pyramids. Fifty years later, in 1922, Stanfield will return to the scene, drawn by advertisements for a 45-round bout featuring Jack Johnson, the dethroned black boxer. There, he will pass time with the boxer and his absurd retinue, including the erotic adventuress Monica Swift (based on the feminist poet Mina Loy). There, too, like Rosellen before him, he will disappear. And many years later, Eloise, busy unraveling the record of these lives, will almost vanish as well. For lovers of Mexico, then, a speculative biography of a place where, by paths only a novelist can reimagine, the figures of quite different epochs intersect and interact. At times bewildering and overly dense—like the jungle it evokes—and, in the end, much like the Grand Hotel Balneario itself: haunted, mysterious, beguiling.

Pub Date: June 1, 1996

ISBN: 1-880909-45-6

Page Count: 390

Publisher: N/A

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 1996

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A strict report, worthy of sympathy.

THE CATCHER IN THE RYE

A violent surfacing of adolescence (which has little in common with Tarkington's earlier, broadly comic, Seventeen) has a compulsive impact.

"Nobody big except me" is the dream world of Holden Caulfield and his first person story is down to the basic, drab English of the pre-collegiate. For Holden is now being bounced from fancy prep, and, after a vicious evening with hall- and roommates, heads for New York to try to keep his latest failure from his parents. He tries to have a wild evening (all he does is pay the check), is terrorized by the hotel elevator man and his on-call whore, has a date with a girl he likes—and hates, sees his 10 year old sister, Phoebe. He also visits a sympathetic English teacher after trying on a drunken session, and when he keeps his date with Phoebe, who turns up with her suitcase to join him on his flight, he heads home to a hospital siege. This is tender and true, and impossible, in its picture of the old hells of young boys, the lonesomeness and tentative attempts to be mature and secure, the awful block between youth and being grown-up, the fright and sickness that humans and their behavior cause the challenging, the dramatization of the big bang. It is a sorry little worm's view of the off-beat of adult pressure, of contemporary strictures and conformity, of sentiment….

A strict report, worthy of sympathy.

Pub Date: June 15, 1951

ISBN: 0316769177

Page Count: -

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: Nov. 2, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 1951

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Unrelenting gloom relieved only occasionally by wrenching trauma; somehow, though, Hannah’s storytelling chops keep the...

FLY AWAY

Hannah’s sequel to Firefly Lane (2008) demonstrates that those who ignore family history are often condemned to repeat it.

When we last left Kate and Tully, the best friends portrayed in Firefly Lane, the friendship was on rocky ground. Now Kate has died of cancer, and Tully, whose once-stellar TV talk show career is in free fall, is wracked with guilt over her failure to be there for Kate until her very last days. Kate’s death has cemented the distrust between her husband, Johnny, and daughter Marah, who expresses her grief by cutting herself and dropping out of college to hang out with goth poet Paxton. Told mostly in flashbacks by Tully, Johnny, Marah and Tully’s long-estranged mother, Dorothy, aka Cloud, the story piles up disasters like the derailment of a high-speed train. Increasingly addicted to prescription sedatives and alcohol, Tully crashes her car and now hovers near death, attended by Kate’s spirit, as the other characters gather to see what their shortsightedness has wrought. We learn that Tully had tried to parent Marah after her father no longer could. Her hard-drinking decline was triggered by Johnny’s anger at her for keeping Marah and Paxton’s liaison secret. Johnny realizes that he only exacerbated Marah’s depression by uprooting the family from their Seattle home. Unexpectedly, Cloud, who rebuffed Tully’s every attempt to reconcile, also appears at her daughter’s bedside. Sixty-nine years old and finally sober, Cloud details for the first time the abusive childhood, complete with commitments to mental hospitals and electroshock treatments, that led to her life as a junkie lowlife and punching bag for trailer-trash men. Although powerful, Cloud’s largely peripheral story deflects focus away from the main conflict, as if Hannah was loath to tackle the intractable thicket in which she mired her main characters.

Unrelenting gloom relieved only occasionally by wrenching trauma; somehow, though, Hannah’s storytelling chops keep the pages turning even as readers begin to resent being drawn into this masochistic morass.

Pub Date: April 23, 2013

ISBN: 978-0-312-57721-6

Page Count: 416

Publisher: St. Martin's

Review Posted Online: Feb. 18, 2013

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2013

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