A delicious love letter to readers and co-conspirators everywhere.

THE GIFT

In this exquisite meditation on gift-giving, intimacy, the body, and performance, Browning (I’m Trying to Reach You, 2012, etc.) dashes the boundaries between autofiction and novel and offers daring readers something more intimate and muscular than a mere book.

Barbara Andersen, a clear stand-in for Browning, teaches performance theory in New York City by day and records ukulele covers by night. Enthralled by Lewis Hyde’s The Gift, Barbara sends recordings to strangers she meets by chance on the internet as well as to prominent public thinkers like David Graeber and Lauren Berlant. “The recent implosion of the global financial system made it evident that we needed to try something else,” Barbara muses about her impulses. Her fascination with “inappropriate intimacy” ultimately draws her into an erotic long-distance relationship with musical virtuoso Sami, an autistic man who lives in Germany. But when Barbara finally flies overseas to meet Sami in person, he has a breakdown that prevents their meeting and causes Barbara to question everything. Against this development, Barbara traces the work of her friend Tye, a gifted performance artist and trans man, weaving descriptions of his performances into details about her own teaching, activism, and art. At one point, Barbara reveals her struggles with memory, transforming the act of writing—and reading—this novel into a collaborative performance of recovery and creation between writer and reader. “It’s not just that I seem to have erased quite a few unpleasant memories,” Barbara writes. “Sometimes I think this is what opened up some space on my hard drive for imagining things.” Browning takes a book that could easily exist in hypotheticals, layers, and masks and instead grounds it in the chaos of its time, including the disruptive politics of the Occupy movement, the infamous Pussy Riot protests and arrests in Russia, and the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy. The effect is indeed intimate but never inappropriate. Browning is working at the edges of her craft, and it’s utterly thrilling to watch.

A delicious love letter to readers and co-conspirators everywhere.

Pub Date: May 9, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-56689-468-5

Page Count: 248

Publisher: Coffee House

Review Posted Online: Feb. 20, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2017

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TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD

A first novel, this is also a first person account of Scout's (Jean Louise) recall of the years that led to the ending of a mystery, the breaking of her brother Jem's elbow, the death of her father's enemy — and the close of childhood years. A widower, Atticus raises his children with legal dispassion and paternal intelligence, and is ably abetted by Calpurnia, the colored cook, while the Alabama town of Maycomb, in the 1930's, remains aloof to their divergence from its tribal patterns. Scout and Jem, with their summer-time companion, Dill, find their paths free from interference — but not from dangers; their curiosity about the imprisoned Boo, whose miserable past is incorporated in their play, results in a tentative friendliness; their fears of Atticus' lack of distinction is dissipated when he shoots a mad dog; his defense of a Negro accused of raping a white girl, Mayella Ewell, is followed with avid interest and turns the rabble whites against him. Scout is the means of averting an attack on Atticus but when he loses the case it is Boo who saves Jem and Scout by killing Mayella's father when he attempts to murder them. The shadows of a beginning for black-white understanding, the persistent fight that Scout carries on against school, Jem's emergence into adulthood, Calpurnia's quiet power, and all the incidents touching on the children's "growing outward" have an attractive starchiness that keeps this southern picture pert and provocative. There is much advance interest in this book; it has been selected by the Literary Guild and Reader's Digest; it should win many friends.

Pub Date: July 11, 1960

ISBN: 0060935464

Page Count: 323

Publisher: Lippincott

Review Posted Online: Oct. 7, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 1960

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Nothing original, but in Hilderbrand’s hands it’s easy to get lost in the story.

BAREFOOT

Privileged 30-somethings hide from their woes in Nantucket.

Hilderbrand’s saga follows the lives of Melanie, Brenda and Vicki. Vicki, alpha mom and perfect wife, is battling late-stage lung cancer and, in an uncharacteristically flaky moment, opts for chemotherapy at the beach. Vicki shares ownership of a tiny Nantucket cottage with her younger sister Brenda. Brenda, a literature professor, tags along for the summer, partly out of familial duty, partly because she’s fleeing the fallout from her illicit affair with a student. As for Melanie, she gets a last minute invite from Vicki, after Melanie confides that Melanie’s husband is having an affair. Between Melanie and Brenda, Vicki feels her two young boys should have adequate supervision, but a disastrous first day on the island forces the trio to source some outside help. Enter Josh, the adorable and affable local who is hired to tend to the boys. On break from college, Josh learns about the pitfalls of mature love as he falls for the beauties in the snug abode. Josh likes beer, analysis-free relationships and hot older women. In a word, he’s believable. In addition to a healthy dose of testosterone, the novel is balanced by powerful descriptions of Vicki’s bond with her two boys. Emotions run high as she prepares for death.

Nothing original, but in Hilderbrand’s hands it’s easy to get lost in the story.

Pub Date: July 2, 2007

ISBN: 978-0-316-01858-6

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: June 24, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2007

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