Intelligently done: a nice kaleidoscope of emotion, history, and regret.


A melancholy account of a young man’s attempt to discover the meaning of his father’s death—and the path of his own future.

Schrank (Miracle Man, 1999) begins his tale on the Lower East Side of Manhattan, the erstwhile Jewish ghetto that has gone through several incarnations since most of the kosher delis closed down. It is now the home turf of one Michael Zabusky, a graduate student at City University working on a dissertation about the golem (the mythical man-like monster created by Rabbi Loeb in 16th-century Prague to be the “avenger of the Jews”). Mike has the good fortune early on to meet the beautiful Katherine Staresina (a domestic-violence lawyer who obligingly introduces herself at a party and takes Mike into the bathroom for some quick but heated sex), who is very appealing in a shiksa sort of way. This is a family weakness, apparently, for Mike’s father Jeff also hooked up with a gentile after his divorce—and neither he nor Mike’s mother can understand why he is wasting his time with this Jewish Studies shtick. Mike is not really sure himself, but soon his career confusion is eclipsed by domestic shock when his father dies, apparently by his own hand. Jeff Zabusky was a stockbroker who had overextended himself and got caught when the markets took a dive. He also was in love with Sarah Caldwell, who’d begun to keep her distance from him. Which was the cause of his final despair? While trying to figure this out, Mike also fights to keep his father’s house in upstate New York from the bank. And Katherine has abruptly said that she can no longer see him. With a sharp sense of his own solitude pressing on him, Mike could be forgiven for his fantasies of creating a golem of his own. But he’s no Rabbi Loeb.

Intelligently done: a nice kaleidoscope of emotion, history, and regret.

Pub Date: March 19, 2002

ISBN: 0-375-50707-8

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Random House

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2001

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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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