Walker follows the vast critical and popular success of The Color Purple (1982) with a sprawling mixture of feminism and spirituality centered on six characters searching for their identities and roots. Richly told and full of wonder, it's not so much a novel as an interlinked tapestry of oral tellings that ranges through time and history; too often, though, its overbearing message becomes its medium. Walker's vehicles include Arveyda, a guitarist ("Artists, he now understood, were simply messengers"); Carlotta, his Latin-American wife; Suwelo, a history teacher ("His generation of men had failed women. . .); Fanny, his former wife; Lissie, who can remember her past lives; Hal, her lover; and a group of secondary characters and wisdom figures—including, from The Color Purple, Miss Celie and Miss Shug (a pamphlet, "The Gospel According to Shug," changes the lives of all those who read it). In brief—there are numerous digressions, and the oral tellings emerge from and return to the past—Arveyda marries Carlotta and then makes love to her mother ("exhausted from orgasms that shook her core"); Suwelo inherits a house in Baltimore and meets Hal, then Lissie, whose former lives, some in Africa, are fables of slavery and peace; Fanny recalls Grandmother Celie's words of wisdom, realizes divorce is imminent when Suwelo admits he's too macho to use a shopping-cart, visits Africa (and her father, the playwright Ola), and finally gets together with Arveyda (curious about Africa) in a sauna, where she takes his "candle" in her hand. Carlotta and Suwelo, meanwhile, get together in a hot tub. Consciousness-raisers and New Agers will find this a sweet fairy tale for our times, a fireside reader. Others will enjoy its quirky ebb and flow, but bemoan its smugness and unfortunate tendency to turn characters into mouthpieces.

Pub Date: May 1, 1989

ISBN: 0547480008

Page Count: 432

Publisher: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich

Review Posted Online: Oct. 6, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 1989

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet


A first novel, this is also a first person account of Scout's (Jean Louise) recall of the years that led to the ending of a mystery, the breaking of her brother Jem's elbow, the death of her father's enemy — and the close of childhood years. A widower, Atticus raises his children with legal dispassion and paternal intelligence, and is ably abetted by Calpurnia, the colored cook, while the Alabama town of Maycomb, in the 1930's, remains aloof to their divergence from its tribal patterns. Scout and Jem, with their summer-time companion, Dill, find their paths free from interference — but not from dangers; their curiosity about the imprisoned Boo, whose miserable past is incorporated in their play, results in a tentative friendliness; their fears of Atticus' lack of distinction is dissipated when he shoots a mad dog; his defense of a Negro accused of raping a white girl, Mayella Ewell, is followed with avid interest and turns the rabble whites against him. Scout is the means of averting an attack on Atticus but when he loses the case it is Boo who saves Jem and Scout by killing Mayella's father when he attempts to murder them. The shadows of a beginning for black-white understanding, the persistent fight that Scout carries on against school, Jem's emergence into adulthood, Calpurnia's quiet power, and all the incidents touching on the children's "growing outward" have an attractive starchiness that keeps this southern picture pert and provocative. There is much advance interest in this book; it has been selected by the Literary Guild and Reader's Digest; it should win many friends.

Pub Date: July 11, 1960

ISBN: 0060935464

Page Count: 323

Publisher: Lippincott

Review Posted Online: Oct. 7, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 1960

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet


While a few weeks ago it seemed as if Praeger would have a two month lead over Dutton in their presentation of this Soviet best seller, both the "authorized" edition (Dutton's) and the "unauthorized" (Praeger's) will appear almost simultaneously. There has been considerable advance attention on what appears to be as much of a publishing cause celebre here as the original appearance of the book in Russia. Without entering into the scrimmage, or dismissing it as a plague on both your houses, we will limit ourselves to a few facts. Royalties from the "unauthorized" edition will go to the International Rescue Committee; Dutton with their contracted edition is adhering to copyright conventions. The Praeger edition has two translators and one of them is the translator of Doctor Zhivago Dutton's translator, Ralph Parker, has been stigmatized by Praeger as "an apologist for the Soviet regime". To the untutored eye, the Dutton translation seems a little more literary, the Praeger perhaps closer to the rather primitive style of the original. The book itself is an account of one day in the three thousand six hundred and fifty three days of the sentence to be served by a carpenter, Ivan Denisovich Shukhov. (Solzhenitsyn was a political prisoner.) From the unrelenting cold without, to the conditions within, from the bathhouse to the latrine to the cells where survival for more than two weeks is impossible, this records the hopeless facts of existence as faced by thousands who went on "living like this, with your eyes on the ground". The Dutton edition has an excellent introduction providing an orientation on the political background to its appearance in Russia by Marvin Kalb. All involved in its publication (translators, introducers, etc.) claim for it great "artistic" values which we cannot share, although there is no question of its importance as a political and human document and as significant and tangible evidence of the de-Stalinization program.

Pub Date: June 15, 1963

ISBN: 0451228146

Page Count: 181

Publisher: Praeger

Review Posted Online: Oct. 5, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 1963

Did you like this book?