MORGAN'S PASSING

You could say Morgan was a man who'd gone to pieces. . . maybe he'd arrived unassembled." Yes, this is the odyssey of fortyish Morgan Gower—and in the soft muddle of Morgan's familial netting and his calls to freedom, Tyler again finds both warmth and a certain hard coherence. Manager (in name only) of a run-down hardware store and trapped within his Baltimore household web—cheerfully sloppy wife Bonnie, seven industriously dull daughters, a senile mother, an addled sister—Morgan buzzes noisily but to little effect. He's not a "temperate person." He dribbles ashes, fiddles with his beard, and scatters himself through half-baked projects, varied identities, assorted wardrobes. But then Morgan enters the lives of young puppeteers Emily and Leon Meredith: he first meets them when there's a call for "a doctor in the house"—and Morgan pops up to deliver Emily's baby daughter on the spot, posing as "Dr. Morgan." And a year later, his home life withering, Morgan begins to spy, fascinated, on the Merediths, envying their "austerity, certitude, their mapped and charted lives." Then, in an antic confrontation, "Dr. Morgan" confesses his impersonation, but Emily understands "he has to get out of his life sometimes," and soon Morgan's love for Emily blinks on like a desert sunrise. Will romance bloom? Yes, eventually. Emily (product of a stifling past) begins to find Leon too rigid and buttoned-in, an affair commences, Emily becomes pregnant, Morgan elatedly arranges their respective separations from spouses—and the two leave Baltimore with baby and puppets, Morgan taking the name of Meredith. As far as wife Bonnie is concerned (and hence the title) Morgan has "passed on" from his real self—she places a maliciously playful obituary in the local paper. But Morgan can only, in a final summing-up, feel sure that "it matters who you love and why." The Tyler trademarks—surface warmth and humor with a cutting undertow—again on impressive, irresistible display.

Pub Date: March 1, 1980

ISBN: 0449911721

Page Count: 351

Publisher: Knopf

Review Posted Online: Oct. 6, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 1980

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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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