An unusual and unusually involving first novel with strong characters and nifty supernatural effects.

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The kidnapping of an American businessman in the Philippines sets in motion an odd series of events involving his estranged son, a hard-boiled cop who inspired a hugely popular film series and a ragtag strike force with special powers.

Yates' accomplished debut is an unlikely mix of folktale, Tarantino-esque pulp fiction, island adventure and geopolitical novel. Howard Bridgewater, a high-rolling ugly American whose firm services resorts, has been living in the Philippines for five years. Prompted by his ex-wife's death in Chicago, he convinces his grudge-ridden son Benicio, who lives in Virginia, to come over for a visit. By the time Benicio arrives, Howard has been abducted by a hapless, meth-addicted cab driver named Ignacio who plans on selling him to Moro terrorists. Problem is, he can't find any buyers. The bigger problem is that shady supercop Reynato Ocampo is after him, backed by an impressionable kid who can shoot anyone or anything at any distance (he's a devout fan of the "Ocampo Justice" movies) and a soldier who can turn into a dog or horse or spider. (Ignacio's nasty sidekick is a rooster who smokes.) Reynato is having an affair with Monique, a stressed U.S. Embassy officer who recently relocated to her native soil from America with her insomniac husband and kids; Solita, the prostitute, is demanding support money for the boy who may or may not be Howard's, and Charlie, the actor who plays Ocampo, is shamelessly running for political office. Yates handles the multiple points of view and fragmented narrative flawlessly. As outrageous as the action gets, he keeps his distinctive voice consistent and his tone measured, masterfully modulating the comic and violent effects. There's unexpected depth of emotion in the relationships and in the characters' connection to the land. The author lived in the Philippines when he was a teenager, and later returned to work at the U.S. Embassy. His feeling for and physical descriptions of the islands strongly reflect that experience.

An unusual and unusually involving first novel with strong characters and nifty supernatural effects.

Pub Date: March 15, 2011

ISBN: 978-0-385-53378-2

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Doubleday

Review Posted Online: Sept. 30, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 2010

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ANIMAL FARM

A FAIRY STORY

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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With her second novel, Ng further proves she’s a sensitive, insightful writer with a striking ability to illuminate life in...

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LITTLE FIRES EVERYWHERE

This incandescent portrait of suburbia and family, creativity, and consumerism burns bright.

It’s not for nothing that Ng (Everything I Never Told You, 2014) begins her second novel, about the events leading to the burning of the home of an outwardly perfect-seeming family in Shaker Heights, Ohio, circa 1997, with two epigraphs about the planned community itself—attesting to its ability to provide its residents with “protection forever against…unwelcome change” and “a rather happy life” in Utopia. But unwelcome change is precisely what disrupts the Richardson family’s rather happy life, when Mia, a charismatic, somewhat mysterious artist, and her smart, shy 15-year-old daughter, Pearl, move to town and become tenants in a rental house Mrs. Richardson inherited from her parents. Mia and Pearl live a markedly different life from the Richardsons, an affluent couple and their four high school–age children—making art instead of money (apart from what little they need to get by); rooted in each other rather than a particular place (packing up what fits in their battered VW and moving on when “the bug” hits); and assembling a hodgepodge home from creatively repurposed, scavenged castoffs and love rather than gathering around them the symbols of a successful life in the American suburbs (a big house, a large family, gleaming appliances, chic clothes, many cars). What really sets Mia and Pearl apart and sets in motion the events leading to the “little fires everywhere” that will consume the Richardsons’ secure, stable world, however, is the way they hew to their own rules. In a place like Shaker Heights, a town built on plans and rules, and for a family like the Richardsons, who have structured their lives according to them, disdain for conformity acts as an accelerant, setting fire to the dormant sparks within them. The ultimate effect is cataclysmic. As in Everything I Never Told You, Ng conjures a sense of place and displacement and shows a remarkable ability to see—and reveal—a story from different perspectives. The characters she creates here are wonderfully appealing, and watching their paths connect—like little trails of flame leading inexorably toward one another to create a big inferno—is mesmerizing, casting into new light ideas about creativity and consumerism, parenthood and privilege.

With her second novel, Ng further proves she’s a sensitive, insightful writer with a striking ability to illuminate life in America.

Pub Date: Sept. 12, 2017

ISBN: 978-0-7352-2429-2

Page Count: 384

Publisher: Penguin Press

Review Posted Online: June 20, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2017

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