Luminous with clear-sighted compassion for its imperfect characters, alive to life’s bitter disappointments and transcendent...

SWIMMING TOWARD THE OCEAN

A tender, rueful first novel by the author of Useful Gifts (stories: 1989 Flannery O’Connor winner).

When she finds out she’s pregnant in the fall of 1953, 45-year-old Chenia Arnow is so despairing that she walks into the ocean off Coney Island. But the thought of leaving her two school-age children at the mercy of their selfish, irritable father drives her back onto the beach, where she’s briefly comforted by a handsome stranger. He proves, after Chenia gives birth to Devorah and they meet again, to be Harry Taubman, manager of a shoe store and everything husband Ruben is not: attentive, well educated and, when their intense conversations evolve into an affair, a sensitive, skillful lover. It takes Chenia years to learn that Ruben is also cheating (with two women) and one devastating minute to discover Harry is married. After a second suicide attempt, Chenia seems frail and defeated to four-year-old Devorah, but she will wrest joy from life again. Visits to the Cloisters provided a lifeline to this uneducated woman after the disorienting move from Brighton Beach to Washington Heights; now, with Devorah attending a Manhattan private school, Chenia immerses herself in the Metropolitan Museum. Art opens wider the intellectual vistas she first glimpsed talking with Harry, and some nicely crafted plot turns propel her into a happy marriage with a wealthy businessman. Devorah tells Chenia’s story, and although it takes a while to get used to a narration describing events that occurred before she was born or out of her sight, we come to understand that this novel is a daughter’s tribute to her mother, reconstructed and partly imagined from clues and hints dropped over a lifetime. Each character is a full-bodied individual, but towering over them all is Chenia, with her Yiddish accent and Old World superstitions, her ferocious intelligence and biting humor, the deep-rooted sorrow her children can assuage but not heal. She’s the Jewish mother Philip Roth never understood well enough to depict; Glickfeld gives Chenia her due and makes a vital addition to Jewish-American literature.

Luminous with clear-sighted compassion for its imperfect characters, alive to life’s bitter disappointments and transcendent possibilities: very exciting fiction indeed.

Pub Date: Feb. 21, 2001

ISBN: 0-375-40892-4

Page Count: 400

Publisher: Knopf

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2000

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TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD

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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ONE DAY IN THE LIFE OF IVAN DENISOVICH

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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