Norris’ debut historical drama follows a young U.S. soldier sent to Vietnam the same year as the Tet Offensive; he’s confronted with dwindling support back home and mutual animosity and distrust between Americans and South Vietnamese.
It’s 1968, and Pfc. Jared Christopher, barely 20, is stationed in Quang Ngãi. Jared isn’t like some of his fellow soldiers, who hate the local villagers and associate them with the Viet Cong. He quickly befriends a young girl and street vendor, Dam, and later visits an orphanage to drop off food, baby powder and other supplies. The various combat assaults are harrowing: The infantrymen trek through the dense jungle and are often killed by the Viet Cong. But Jared also faces resentment from American soldiers, who view him as a VC sympathizer when he takes in and even hopes to adopt Quang, a Vietnamese boy orphaned by the war. The novel can be a dark, disheartening affair: Jared loses a few of his close friends in combat, and one man in particular, whom Jared greatly admires, is introduced and killed in quick succession. Jared feels overwhelmingly guilty about his own actions, including shooting a boy not yet in his teens. But the protagonist’s good deeds—sitting with a small family and helping polish rice or not telling fellow troops about a woman, possibly a VC, and her newborn baby—give him a sense of purpose and serve as a counterbalance to all the violence. Norris extends the horrors of war to the Vietnamese jungles, filled with giant mosquitoes and leeches, whose knack for digging into the skin is relayed in all its stomach-churning glory. Norris effectively conveys the loss of hope in Vietnam and villagers’ loss of trust in soldiers who don’t respect them. But Jared brings humanity to the story; even Quang, who stays at the Army base, escapes from the orphanage to be with him.

Authentically details a ferocious year in Vietnam and delivers an unforgettable ending.

Pub Date: March 20, 2014

ISBN: 978-0991540907

Page Count: 250

Publisher: Nekko Books LLC

Review Posted Online: July 9, 2014

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While a few weeks ago it seemed as if Praeger would have a two month lead over Dutton in their presentation of this Soviet best seller, both the "authorized" edition (Dutton's) and the "unauthorized" (Praeger's) will appear almost simultaneously. There has been considerable advance attention on what appears to be as much of a publishing cause celebre here as the original appearance of the book in Russia. Without entering into the scrimmage, or dismissing it as a plague on both your houses, we will limit ourselves to a few facts. Royalties from the "unauthorized" edition will go to the International Rescue Committee; Dutton with their contracted edition is adhering to copyright conventions. The Praeger edition has two translators and one of them is the translator of Doctor Zhivago Dutton's translator, Ralph Parker, has been stigmatized by Praeger as "an apologist for the Soviet regime". To the untutored eye, the Dutton translation seems a little more literary, the Praeger perhaps closer to the rather primitive style of the original. The book itself is an account of one day in the three thousand six hundred and fifty three days of the sentence to be served by a carpenter, Ivan Denisovich Shukhov. (Solzhenitsyn was a political prisoner.) From the unrelenting cold without, to the conditions within, from the bathhouse to the latrine to the cells where survival for more than two weeks is impossible, this records the hopeless facts of existence as faced by thousands who went on "living like this, with your eyes on the ground". The Dutton edition has an excellent introduction providing an orientation on the political background to its appearance in Russia by Marvin Kalb. All involved in its publication (translators, introducers, etc.) claim for it great "artistic" values which we cannot share, although there is no question of its importance as a political and human document and as significant and tangible evidence of the de-Stalinization program.

Pub Date: June 15, 1963

ISBN: 0451228146

Page Count: 181

Publisher: Praeger

Review Posted Online: Oct. 5, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 1963

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Unrelenting gloom relieved only occasionally by wrenching trauma; somehow, though, Hannah’s storytelling chops keep the...


Hannah’s sequel to Firefly Lane (2008) demonstrates that those who ignore family history are often condemned to repeat it.

When we last left Kate and Tully, the best friends portrayed in Firefly Lane, the friendship was on rocky ground. Now Kate has died of cancer, and Tully, whose once-stellar TV talk show career is in free fall, is wracked with guilt over her failure to be there for Kate until her very last days. Kate’s death has cemented the distrust between her husband, Johnny, and daughter Marah, who expresses her grief by cutting herself and dropping out of college to hang out with goth poet Paxton. Told mostly in flashbacks by Tully, Johnny, Marah and Tully’s long-estranged mother, Dorothy, aka Cloud, the story piles up disasters like the derailment of a high-speed train. Increasingly addicted to prescription sedatives and alcohol, Tully crashes her car and now hovers near death, attended by Kate’s spirit, as the other characters gather to see what their shortsightedness has wrought. We learn that Tully had tried to parent Marah after her father no longer could. Her hard-drinking decline was triggered by Johnny’s anger at her for keeping Marah and Paxton’s liaison secret. Johnny realizes that he only exacerbated Marah’s depression by uprooting the family from their Seattle home. Unexpectedly, Cloud, who rebuffed Tully’s every attempt to reconcile, also appears at her daughter’s bedside. Sixty-nine years old and finally sober, Cloud details for the first time the abusive childhood, complete with commitments to mental hospitals and electroshock treatments, that led to her life as a junkie lowlife and punching bag for trailer-trash men. Although powerful, Cloud’s largely peripheral story deflects focus away from the main conflict, as if Hannah was loath to tackle the intractable thicket in which she mired her main characters.

Unrelenting gloom relieved only occasionally by wrenching trauma; somehow, though, Hannah’s storytelling chops keep the pages turning even as readers begin to resent being drawn into this masochistic morass.

Pub Date: April 23, 2013

ISBN: 978-0-312-57721-6

Page Count: 416

Publisher: St. Martin's

Review Posted Online: Feb. 18, 2013

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2013

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