Brown (Lamb in Love, 1999, etc.) tells her story with great delicacy, giving an otherworldly, luminous air to a tawdry...

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THE HATBOX BABY

A respected doctor and a notorious fan dancer fall in love at the Chicago Century of Progress Exposition, circa 1933.

This unlikely pair is brought together by a baby—born three months early and carried to the fairgrounds in a hatbox by his desperate young father, who hopes that Dr. Leo Hoffman, a pioneer in neonatology, can save him. To raise money for the care of these mostly unwanted newborns, Dr. Hoffman (based on a real doctor) exhibits them and their devoted nurses to the curious public in a special, scrupulously clean display known as the Infantorium. There, in an oxygenated incubator, the hatbox baby clings to life as visitors flock to view the tiny infants. Unlike the raucous carnival atmosphere that pervades most of the Exposition, the mood is one of hushed awe, almost reverence, for the nobly self-effacing doctor and his fragile little patients. Caro, the fan dancer (loosely based on Sally Rand) who performs next door, is a pink-and-white goddess, a free spirit who takes lovers as she pleases—although she remains essentially indifferent to all but Dr. Hoffman, who cannot resist her forthright sensuality. Her cousin, St. Louis, who serves as her go-between and protector, was himself born prematurely and takes an avid interest in the Infantorium—especially the hatbox baby, who remains unnamed and unclaimed after his anonymous father is mysteriously murdered amidst a crazed fairgrounds mob. St. Louis—a pickpocket, con man, and all-around trickster—then befriends a wet nurse the better to gain access to the infants. When misguided but determined protestors have the Infantorium shut down, St. Louis envisions a lonely future without the babies or Caro—and so steals the hatbox baby and heads home to the Virginia countryside.

Brown (Lamb in Love, 1999, etc.) tells her story with great delicacy, giving an otherworldly, luminous air to a tawdry setting and great dignity to her characters. A fascinating, lyrically written tale.

Pub Date: Sept. 22, 2000

ISBN: 1-56512-299-2

Page Count: 348

Publisher: Algonquin

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2000

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A daring concept not so daringly developed.

THE BOOK OF LONGINGS

In Kidd’s (The Invention of Wings, 2014, etc.) feminist take on the New Testament, Jesus has a wife whose fondest longing is to write.

Ana is the daughter of Matthias, head scribe to Herod Antipas, tetrarch of Galilee. She demonstrates an exceptional aptitude for writing, and Matthias, for a time, indulges her with reed pens, papyri, and other 16 C.E. office supplies. Her mother disapproves, but her aunt, Yaltha, mentors Ana in the ways of the enlightened women of Alexandria, from whence Yaltha, suspected of murdering her brutal husband, was exiled years before. Yaltha was also forced to give up her daughter, Chaya, for adoption. As Ana reaches puberty, parental tolerance of her nonconformity wanes, outweighed by the imperative to marry her off. Her adopted brother, Judas—yes, that Judas—is soon disowned for his nonconformity—plotting against Antipas. On the very day Ana, age 14, meets her prospective betrothed, the repellent Nathanial, in the town market, she also encounters Jesus, a young tradesman, to whom she’s instantly drawn. Their connection deepens after she encounters Jesus in the cave where she is concealing her writings about oppressed women. When Nathanial dies after his betrothal to Ana but before their marriage, Ana is shunned for insufficiently mourning him—and after refusing to become Antipas’ concubine, she is about to be stoned until Jesus defuses the situation with that famous admonition. She marries Jesus and moves into his widowed mother’s humble compound in Nazareth, accompanied by Yaltha. There, poverty, not sexism, prohibits her from continuing her writing—office supplies are expensive. Kidd skirts the issue of miracles, portraying Jesus as a fully human and, for the period, accepting husband—after a stillbirth, he condones Ana’s practice of herbal birth control. A structural problem is posed when Jesus’ active ministry begins—what will Ana’s role be? Problem avoided when, notified by Judas that Antipas is seeking her arrest, she and Yaltha journey to Alexandria in search of Chaya. In addition to depriving her of the opportunity to write the first and only contemporaneous gospel, removing Ana from the main action destroys the novel’s momentum.

A daring concept not so daringly developed.

Pub Date: April 21, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-525-42976-0

Page Count: 432

Publisher: Viking

Review Posted Online: Jan. 27, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2020

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A touching family drama that effectively explores the negative impact of stress on fragile relationships.

A WEEK AT THE SHORE

A middle-aged woman returns to her childhood home to care for her ailing father, confronting many painful secrets from her past.

When Mallory Aldiss gets a call from a long-ago boyfriend telling her that her elderly father has been gallivanting around town with a gun in his hand, Mallory decides it’s time to return to the small Rhode Island town that she’s been avoiding for more than a decade. Mallory’s precocious 13-year-old daughter, Joy, is thrilled that she'll get to meet her grandfather at long last, and an aunt, too, and she'll finally see the place where her mother grew up. When they arrive in Bay Bluff, it’s barely a few hours before Mallory bumps into her old flame, Jack, the only man she’s ever really loved. Gone is the rebellious young person she remembers, and in his place stands a compassionate, accomplished adult. As they try to reconnect, Mallory realizes that the same obstacle that pushed them apart decades earlier is still standing in their way: Jack blames Mallory’s father for his mother’s death. No one knows exactly how Jack’s mother died, but Jack thinks a love affair between her and Mallory’s father had something to do with it. As Jack and Mallory chase down answers, Mallory also tries to repair her rocky relationships with her two sisters and determine why her father has always been so hard on her. Told entirely from Mallory’s perspective, the novel has a haunting, nostalgic quality. Despite the complex and overlapping layers to the history of Bay Bluff and its inhabitants, the book at times trudges too slowly through Mallory’s meanderings down Memory Lane. Even so, Delinsky sometimes manages to pick up the pace, and in those moments the beauty and nuance of this complicated family tale shine through. Readers who don’t mind skimming past details that do little to advance the plot may find that the juicier nuggets and realistically rendered human connections are worth the effort.

A touching family drama that effectively explores the negative impact of stress on fragile relationships.

Pub Date: May 19, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-250-11951-3

Page Count: 416

Publisher: St. Martin's

Review Posted Online: March 2, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2020

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