A family saga shines in its depiction of the oddities and inanities of real life and in its delving into the numerous...

Finding Albert Strange

A debut novel paints an intergenerational portrait of an Australian clan in crisis over one fateful day.

Set in the present day, the story focuses on the Saville family, living in a wealthy suburb north of Sydney. Roger, the patriarch, is an aggressive businessman set to make a profitable yet ethically unsound real estate deal against the reservations of his business partner, Lawrence Beck. One problem, though: Roger’s briefcase, holding some important documents, has vanished, and he must tackle the task of finding it while managing the many moving parts around his deal. Meanwhile his wife, Joanne, despite seemingly having it all, feels oddly empty, worried about the future though unsure of what exactly she should fear. Compounding this is the arrival of her father, the titular Albert Strange, who has come to reconnect with his daughter’s family and march with his 14-year-old granddaughter, Samantha, in the annual Anzac Day parade (“A bit like Independence Day in the States,” one character explains). It’s really more like Memorial Day: a remembrance of those who served in the military. Albert, a World War II veteran, left home when Joanne was young; she feels that time is running out to reconcile with her distant father. Willie, Joanne’s 17-year-old son who has not been home for months, starts his day in an unfamiliar apartment, trying to piece together the events of his drug-fueled night, and then ventures out into the city with two dubious friends. The narration alternates among the characters—Roger, Joanne, Lawrence, Albert, and Willie, mostly—and the storylines intersect and reflect upon one another in intriguing, thought-provoking ways. Canning’s characters are well-rounded and nuanced; although not always likable, they act realistically, and he constantly puts them in compelling situations. In addition to ace character work, the author inserts thoughtful digressions and conversations about war, memory, ethics, business, sexuality, and aging into his novel, making for an absorbing read with few slack moments. Canning’s only trip-ups occur when the action becomes too bogged down in business minutiae, but these are easy to overlook amid the overall quality of the book.

A family saga shines in its depiction of the oddities and inanities of real life and in its delving into the numerous concerns of each day.

Pub Date: Feb. 7, 2013

ISBN: 978-0-473-22130-0

Page Count: 352

Publisher: CreateSpace

Review Posted Online: Oct. 19, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15, 2016

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet

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

Did you like this book?

Nothing original, but in Hilderbrand’s hands it’s easy to get lost in the story.

BAREFOOT

Privileged 30-somethings hide from their woes in Nantucket.

Hilderbrand’s saga follows the lives of Melanie, Brenda and Vicki. Vicki, alpha mom and perfect wife, is battling late-stage lung cancer and, in an uncharacteristically flaky moment, opts for chemotherapy at the beach. Vicki shares ownership of a tiny Nantucket cottage with her younger sister Brenda. Brenda, a literature professor, tags along for the summer, partly out of familial duty, partly because she’s fleeing the fallout from her illicit affair with a student. As for Melanie, she gets a last minute invite from Vicki, after Melanie confides that Melanie’s husband is having an affair. Between Melanie and Brenda, Vicki feels her two young boys should have adequate supervision, but a disastrous first day on the island forces the trio to source some outside help. Enter Josh, the adorable and affable local who is hired to tend to the boys. On break from college, Josh learns about the pitfalls of mature love as he falls for the beauties in the snug abode. Josh likes beer, analysis-free relationships and hot older women. In a word, he’s believable. In addition to a healthy dose of testosterone, the novel is balanced by powerful descriptions of Vicki’s bond with her two boys. Emotions run high as she prepares for death.

Nothing original, but in Hilderbrand’s hands it’s easy to get lost in the story.

Pub Date: July 2, 2007

ISBN: 978-0-316-01858-6

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: June 24, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2007

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet
more