Chepaitis (Feeding Christine, 2000) is a polished writer, but her second effort comes up short.


A story about the challenge of surviving grief begins well, but falters toward end.

Cricket Thompson, not quite 40 and not quite happy, lives the unexamined life in upstate New York with her two teenaged daughters and dependable husband. On the weekends she volunteers at a bird sanctuary run by town eccentric Pass Christian, planning the gardens and building a butterfly house. Then one day a madman steps into the local mall and begins shooting people, including Cricket's 13-year-old daughter Grace. Seriously injured, Grace lies comatose in a hospital bed with Cricket by her side—for days, weeks, then months. Believing that at any moment her child will wake up, she all but withdraws from the world and rarely returns home, virtually ignoring the adulterous solace her husband is taking with her own sister and the effect of the tragedy on older daughter Janis. When Grace dies, Cricket becomes delusional. At this point, the novel slips into familiar terrain. The first half, which quietly explores monotony and then details the slow unraveling of Cricket's life, provides a generous and sympathetic account of a mundane existence that is nonetheless so much better than the alternative on offer. But after Grace's death, Cricket embarks on a predictable middle-aged search for identity. She finds comfort with birdman Pass, and the two take his mentally handicapped brother Law with them on a trip to New Orleans to look at butterflies. When Cricket discovers Law may have been involved in the mall shootings, she drives away in a futile attempt to escape sorrow. Her subsequent wanderings in New Mexico (is she mad? hallucinating? really enjoying her new life as a waitress?) lack the poignancy of the opening chapters and rely too often on quasi-spiritual coincidences to bring about Cricket's recovery of self.

Chepaitis (Feeding Christine, 2000) is a polished writer, but her second effort comes up short.

Pub Date: Feb. 26, 2002

ISBN: 0-7434-3750-0

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Pocket

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2002

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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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Doerr captures the sights and sounds of wartime and focuses, refreshingly, on the innate goodness of his major characters.

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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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