Gaige’s off-beat orientation, wit and piercing insights stand up to her first novel, this time in a more sober and less tidy...

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THE FOLDED WORLD

An idyllic marriage is tested in this idiosyncratic examination of how the experience of love, its absence and its presence, can shape lives.

Gaige was honored as one of the National Book Foundation’s “5 [exceptional authors] under 35” for her debut, O My Darling (2005). Her second time around again showcases a gift for capturing the simultaneous proximity and distance in a relationship. But this darker story connects the romance of coupledom to the territory of madness. The lovers, Alice and Charlie, are both the products of their upbringings: she, the bookish daughter of a disappointed single mother; he, the likable, talented golden child of “wonderful, clear presences.” Charlie’s ambition—to be “good”—leads him to a career in social work, but his innocent impulses cause problems in his charmed life, which has been further graced by the birth of twin girls. Her husband’s staying at work late leaves Alice lonely and mistrustful, while overstepping professional boundaries imperils both Charlie’s clients and his career. Mania stalks the characters in many forms, some abstract, others tangible. The sense of threat that hangs over the proceedings is fed by Charlie’s grandmother’s premonition of violence, yet in a gathering whirlwind of a conclusion, the author dodges expectations, while reaching grandly for a multiple vision of love and restoration.

Gaige’s off-beat orientation, wit and piercing insights stand up to her first novel, this time in a more sober and less tidy narrative that offers greater breadth in exchange for sweetness.

Pub Date: May 1, 2007

ISBN: 1-59051-248-0

Page Count: 300

Publisher: Other Press

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2007

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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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OF MICE AND MEN

Steinbeck refuses to allow himself to be pigeonholed. This is as completely different from Tortilla Flat and In Dubious Battle as they are from each other. Only in his complete understanding of the proletarian mentality does he sustain a connecting link though this is assuredly not a "proletarian novel". It is oddly absorbing this picture of the strange friendship between the strong man and the giant with the mind of a not-quite-bright child. Driven from job to job by the failure of the giant child to fit into the social pattern, they finally find in a ranch what they feel their chance to achieve a homely dream they have built. But once again, society defeats them. There's a simplicity, a directness, a poignancy in the story that gives it a singular power, difficult to define. Steinbeck is a genius and an original.

Pub Date: Feb. 26, 1936

ISBN: 0140177396

Page Count: 83

Publisher: Covici, Friede

Review Posted Online: Oct. 5, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 1936

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