Nevertheless, the author possesses a gift for infusing a mundane situation (an abandoned housewife) with the implausible (a...

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THE MERMAID OF BROOKLYN

A woman drowning in self-pity and depression takes a plunge but manages to stay afloat with the help of a mermaid in this second novel by aquatic-obsessed Shearn (How Far is the Ocean from Here, 2008).

Jenny Lipkin’s life consists of breast-feeding her infant daughter, idle chitchat with other mothers in the park, trips to the store, a home in disarray, walking the dog and lots of Cheerios. Husband Harry works at his family-owned candy company, which isn’t doing too well, given current health trends and, perhaps, his mismanagement. When he fails to return home one evening, and $1,000 is missing from the company’s account, Jenny, a frazzled mess to begin with, becomes even more unwound. She’s angry with her husband, who’s a compulsive gambler, but she’s not all that concerned for his well-being; being left to cope with finances, her daughters and her mother-in-law is enough to drive her over the edge. Sinking further into a long-occurring depression, she dons a great looking pair of shoes and decides to jump off a bridge. But at the last minute, she glances at the shoes and, loathing the thought of another woman wearing them, changes her mind. Too late, she loses her balance, and into the water she goes; but instead of drowning, she’s rescued by a mermaid, a rusalka of Slavic lore, who then inhabits Jenny’s body and helps her turn her life around. Jenny cleans house, both literally and figuratively. Shearn’s narrative is delightfully manic and extremely witty at times, but the very elements that make parts of this book so pleasurable also become slightly monotonous toward the end: Jenny is a bit too consumed with her colicky kids, lactating breasts and relationships with family, friends and Harry.

Nevertheless, the author possesses a gift for infusing a mundane situation (an abandoned housewife) with the implausible (a mermaid) and building a story that many readers will find intuitive, clever and, on many levels, perfectly believable.

Pub Date: April 2, 2013

ISBN: 978-1-4516-7828-4

Page Count: 368

Publisher: Touchstone/Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: Jan. 3, 2013

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2013

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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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NORMAL PEOPLE

A young Irish couple gets together, splits up, gets together, splits up—sorry, can't tell you how it ends!

Irish writer Rooney has made a trans-Atlantic splash since publishing her first novel, Conversations With Friends, in 2017. Her second has already won the Costa Novel Award, among other honors, since it was published in Ireland and Britain last year. In outline it's a simple story, but Rooney tells it with bravura intelligence, wit, and delicacy. Connell Waldron and Marianne Sheridan are classmates in the small Irish town of Carricklea, where his mother works for her family as a cleaner. It's 2011, after the financial crisis, which hovers around the edges of the book like a ghost. Connell is popular in school, good at soccer, and nice; Marianne is strange and friendless. They're the smartest kids in their class, and they forge an intimacy when Connell picks his mother up from Marianne's house. Soon they're having sex, but Connell doesn't want anyone to know and Marianne doesn't mind; either she really doesn't care, or it's all she thinks she deserves. Or both. Though one time when she's forced into a social situation with some of their classmates, she briefly fantasizes about what would happen if she revealed their connection: "How much terrifying and bewildering status would accrue to her in this one moment, how destabilising it would be, how destructive." When they both move to Dublin for Trinity College, their positions are swapped: Marianne now seems electric and in-demand while Connell feels adrift in this unfamiliar environment. Rooney's genius lies in her ability to track her characters' subtle shifts in power, both within themselves and in relation to each other, and the ways they do and don't know each other; they both feel most like themselves when they're together, but they still have disastrous failures of communication. "Sorry about last night," Marianne says to Connell in February 2012. Then Rooney elaborates: "She tries to pronounce this in a way that communicates several things: apology, painful embarrassment, some additional pained embarrassment that serves to ironise and dilute the painful kind, a sense that she knows she will be forgiven or is already, a desire not to 'make a big deal.' " Then: "Forget about it, he says." Rooney precisely articulates everything that's going on below the surface; there's humor and insight here as well as the pleasure of getting to know two prickly, complicated people as they try to figure out who they are and who they want to become.

Absolutely enthralling. Read it.

Pub Date: April 16, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-984-82217-8

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Hogarth/Crown

Review Posted Online: Feb. 18, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2019

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