CATHOLIC GIRLS

Not, as the title suggests, about Catholic girlhood per se, but rather about girls and young women who rebel against their religious upbringing. Fifty-two stories, poems, and memoirs comprise this anthology, which lets little stand in the way of its political agenda. A handful of pieces speak well of ordinary faith, most notably Sharon Meyer's delightful ``The Forbidden List,'' about a bishop who encourages intellectual freedom (``I rollerskated home, weighed down with forbidden books and self-esteem''). Mostly, however, the authors are gunning for the Church. Jane Kremsreiter writes of a girl who expurgates the Bible of sexist language; Maura Stanton remembers bitchy nuns; editor Sumrall, a poet from California (as is co-editor Vecchione), describes a priest in the confessional who rants about French kissing. A poem by Kathleen Guillaume mixes Christian imagery and violence (``Her hairpin scoops into me/scrapes me clean/...Soon it will be May/the month of Mary''). Joyce Goldenstern offers a depressing tale of physical misfits (``My father is missing a leg. My mother is missing a breast'') and parochial school. There are some big names here, all offering book excerpts: Mary Gordon, Louise Erdrich, Francine Prose, Mary McCarthy. Otherwise, the editors, using a narrow-band magnet (``we placed calls for material in many feminist publications and writers' magazines''), draw in material largely from small-press publications and original contributions. The overriding emotional tone is drizzly, with rumblings of thunder and occasional outbursts of lighting, encapsulated perfectly in the anthology's last sentence, from Kristina McGrath's ``Housework'': ``I should have been a pagan, she said to herself, a few years later, and began a rosary...as she caught her hand in the wringer and screamed.'' ``Even now,'' the editors declare, ``the church is still threatened by our voices.'' Perhaps—but this anthology will provoke more yawns than yelps.

Pub Date: Oct. 29, 1992

ISBN: 0-452-26842-7

Page Count: 304

Publisher: N/A

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 1992

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Miller makes Homer pertinent to women facing 21st-century monsters.

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CIRCE

A retelling of ancient Greek lore gives exhilarating voice to a witch.

“Monsters are a boon for gods. Imagine all the prayers.” So says Circe, a sly, petulant, and finally commanding voice that narrates the entirety of Miller’s dazzling second novel. The writer returns to Homer, the wellspring that led her to an Orange Prize for The Song of Achilles (2012). This time, she dips into The Odyssey for the legend of Circe, a nymph who turns Odysseus’ crew of men into pigs. The novel, with its distinctive feminist tang, starts with the sentence: “When I was born, the name for what I was did not exist.” Readers will relish following the puzzle of this unpromising daughter of the sun god Helios and his wife, Perse, who had negligible use for their child. It takes banishment to the island Aeaea for Circe to sense her calling as a sorceress: “I will not be like a bird bred in a cage, I thought, too dull to fly even when the door stands open. I stepped into those woods and my life began.” This lonely, scorned figure learns herbs and potions, surrounds herself with lions, and, in a heart-stopping chapter, outwits the monster Scylla to propel Daedalus and his boat to safety. She makes lovers of Hermes and then two mortal men. She midwifes the birth of the Minotaur on Crete and performs her own C-section. And as she grows in power, she muses that “not even Odysseus could talk his way past [her] witchcraft. He had talked his way past the witch instead.” Circe’s fascination with mortals becomes the book’s marrow and delivers its thrilling ending. All the while, the supernatural sits intriguingly alongside “the tonic of ordinary things.” A few passages coil toward melodrama, and one inelegant line after a rape seems jarringly modern, but the spell holds fast. Expect Miller’s readership to mushroom like one of Circe’s spells.

Miller makes Homer pertinent to women facing 21st-century monsters.

Pub Date: April 10, 2018

ISBN: 978-0-316-55634-7

Page Count: 400

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: Jan. 23, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2018

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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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ALL THE LIGHT WE CANNOT SEE

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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