The authenticity of this account of a stark American journey remains undeniable; best enjoyed as a historically rich memoir.

The Road To LaReta


In this debut autobiographical novel, King chronicles her father’s early Depression-era life while he completes a 900-mile road trip to attend the funeral of his estranged wife and reunite with his 3-year-old daughter, LaReta.

The eponymous road Webb Bateman takes throughout the book literally runs from Nebraska, through Wyoming and Montana, and ends in his home state of North Dakota. As he travels in March 1939, the landscape is cold and bleak, his car is far from reliable, and, thanks to his loyal but long-suffering family, he has a few dollars for gas plus an inquisitive sister and a bottle of whiskey as companions. By age 28, when Webb embarks on this desolate journey, he is eking out a living as a heavy machinery operator. Reared in a big Midwestern family with no financial security, he has worked at many daunting and backbreaking jobs—on farms, in mines, in a traveling circus—always moving when a new opportunity arises. Webb is also a young charmer who likes to drink, gamble, and romance girls. He marries the pregnant Dorothy in 1935, but his peripatetic life and reluctance to commit to his family cause her great distress. Through her actual letters to Webb, readers learn of her constant money troubles and her fervent wish for him to join in parenting her beloved LaReta, even briefly. He regrets his inadequacies as a father and husband and fears Dorothy’s disapproving family. The book is an amalgam of memoir, family scrapbook, and encyclopedic inclusions of Depression-era culture. Some photos and letters are impelling. With the accompanying photo, the depiction of “Honest Bill’s Motorized Circus” makes an indelible impression, as when Ben, an old-timer, informs Webb and his brother that, “ ‘Jargo’ means, why pay for a real animal, when two guys dressed up like one will do....One of you is the back end and the other is the front end holding up the neck and head.” But exhaustive explanations of the Civilian Conservation Corp., the workings of the 1923 Model T, among many other details, contribute little.

The authenticity of this account of a stark American journey remains undeniable; best enjoyed as a historically rich memoir.

Pub Date: Sept. 19, 2016

ISBN: 978-0-9979391-0-1

Page Count: 346

Publisher: CreateSpace

Review Posted Online: Nov. 11, 2016

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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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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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