This tale of two survivors should move you, cajole you, upset you, and seduce you.

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A homeless man comes tantalizingly close to his old life and happiness only to question that joy.

In this novel, Wright (The Sky Is Far Away, 2018, etc.) gives readers a homeless, nameless man trying to survive after the mother of all housing bubbles has burst. He is somewhere in Florida, breaking into foreclosed houses in search of food. He has bottomed out: He’s lost his job and his family and even spent a year in prison. He has also lost all hope and wants only to be left alone. Then he comes upon a little girl—as hungry and thirsty as he is—in an abandoned house. Try as he might, he cannot bring himself to desert her. He finds an abandoned cabin and a job with a guy who is scrapping a nearby defunct amusement park, Fun-O-Rama (a wonderful metaphor). The girl, whose name readers finally learn is Jessie, is severely traumatized and mute. Ever so slowly, she begins to trust the man (her first words to him: “Are you Jesus?”). When she falls sick, he gets her to a hospital. She recovers, but now the police are very interested in his relationship with this kid and in his past. Many more things happen, but it is his need for Jessie that drives it all. The ending is artistically risky but truer than the conclusion readers will probably crave. Wright is a flat-out wonderful writer. The prose is crisp (“Unhappy should be a weather forecast like rain or snow”), the details spot-on, and the slow development meticulous. The nameless man—the first-person narrator—is an unforgettable character, always talking about the stories in life, like the “I Work Out and Exercise” and “Never Feed a Stray Animal” tales. He is in love with his bitterness but, try as he might, can’t excise his basic decency. This painful novel delivers heartbreak—but no sentimentality—and consummate thaumaturgy or, in the narrator’s words, “I’m both the magician and the trick.”

This tale of two survivors should move you, cajole you, upset you, and seduce you.

Pub Date: Oct. 16, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-389-06047-2

Page Count: 354

Publisher: Blurb

Review Posted Online: Nov. 23, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2019

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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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