A touching, very simple tale made all the more powerful by its lack of artifice.

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MIRAGE

A Sri Lankan first-novelist, now based in Northamptonshire, describes the travails of a poor Saudi peasant who moves to the city to earn a living.

Originally self-published in 1999 in England, Chandraratna’s story (see above) became a great critical success in Britain and was nearly short-listed for the Booker Prize. It takes us into the harsh yet beautiful world of Sayeed, a simple Muslim farmer in an unnamed Middle Eastern country (clearly Saudi Arabia) who leaves his ancestral village to take a job as a hospital porter in the big city. Unused to urban life, Sayeed is unhappy among the crowds of strangers and foreigners thronging the streets each day, but he works hard and is able to save much more money than he could ever have earned at home. He works so hard, in fact, that his brother Mustafa worries he may soon be too old to marry. So Mustafa arranges a wedding for Sayeed to Latifah, a beautiful young widow from a good family, and Sayeed agrees to the match. Soon he and Latifah are wed, and Sayeed returns to the city with his new family (including Latifah’s little girl Leila). Sayeed had to borrow money for the wedding, and he now needs to work harder than ever to pay back the debt and provide for his wife and stepdaughter, but he is happy and proud of his new status as husband and father. The city, however, is full of new tensions: The increasing number of foreign workers (often well-paid technocrats from non-Muslim countries) who don’t share the local traditions has created a backlash among Islamic fundamentalists. Attempts to enforce traditional codes of behavior have become more and more strident—and women are under great scrutiny to conform to the old ways. Sayeed is no reformer by any stretch, but he soon finds his newfound happiness threatened—and eventually destroyed—by the backlash.

A touching, very simple tale made all the more powerful by its lack of artifice.

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 2003

ISBN: 1-57423-196-0

Page Count: 224

Publisher: Black Sparrow/Godine

Review Posted Online: June 24, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2003

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A strict report, worthy of sympathy.

THE CATCHER IN THE RYE

A violent surfacing of adolescence (which has little in common with Tarkington's earlier, broadly comic, Seventeen) has a compulsive impact.

"Nobody big except me" is the dream world of Holden Caulfield and his first person story is down to the basic, drab English of the pre-collegiate. For Holden is now being bounced from fancy prep, and, after a vicious evening with hall- and roommates, heads for New York to try to keep his latest failure from his parents. He tries to have a wild evening (all he does is pay the check), is terrorized by the hotel elevator man and his on-call whore, has a date with a girl he likes—and hates, sees his 10 year old sister, Phoebe. He also visits a sympathetic English teacher after trying on a drunken session, and when he keeps his date with Phoebe, who turns up with her suitcase to join him on his flight, he heads home to a hospital siege. This is tender and true, and impossible, in its picture of the old hells of young boys, the lonesomeness and tentative attempts to be mature and secure, the awful block between youth and being grown-up, the fright and sickness that humans and their behavior cause the challenging, the dramatization of the big bang. It is a sorry little worm's view of the off-beat of adult pressure, of contemporary strictures and conformity, of sentiment….

A strict report, worthy of sympathy.

Pub Date: June 15, 1951

ISBN: 0316769177

Page Count: -

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: Nov. 2, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 1951

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Shalvis’ latest retains her spark and sizzle.

ALMOST JUST FRIENDS

Piper Manning is determined to sell her family’s property so she can leave her hometown behind, but when her siblings come back with life-changing secrets and her sexy neighbor begins to feel like “The One,” she might have to redo her to-do list.

As children, Piper and her younger siblings, Gavin and Winnie, were sent to live with their grandparents in Wildstone, California, from the Congo after one of Gavin’s friends was killed. Their parents were supposed to meet them later but never made it. Piper wound up being more of a parent than her grandparents, though: “In the end, Piper had done all the raising. It’d taken forever, but now, finally, her brother and sister were off living their own lives.” Piper, the queen of the bullet journal, plans to fix up the family’s lakeside property her grandparents left the three siblings when they died. Selling it will enable her to study to be a physician’s assistant as she’s always wanted. However, just as the goal seems in sight, Gavin and Winnie come home, ostensibly for Piper’s 30th birthday, and then never leave. Turns out, Piper’s brother and sister have recently managed to get into a couple buckets of trouble, and they need some time to reevaluate their options. They aren’t willing to share their problems with Piper, though they’ve been completely open with each other. And Winnie, who’s pregnant, has been very open with Piper’s neighbor Emmitt Reid and his visiting son, Camden, since the baby’s father is Cam’s younger brother, Rowan, who died a few months earlier in a car accident. Everyone has issues to navigate, made more complicated by Gavin and Winnie’s swearing Cam to secrecy just as he and Piper try—and fail—to ignore their attraction to each other. Shalvis keeps the physical and emotional tension high, though the siblings’ refusal to share with Piper becomes tedious and starts to feel childish.

Shalvis’ latest retains her spark and sizzle.

Pub Date: Jan. 28, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-06-296139-6

Page Count: 384

Publisher: Morrow/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Oct. 28, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15, 2019

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