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

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Dated sermonizing on career versus motherhood, and conflict driven by characters’ willed helplessness, sap this tale of...

FIREFLY LANE

Lifelong, conflicted friendship of two women is the premise of Hannah’s maudlin latest (Magic Hour, 2006, etc.), again set in Washington State.

Tallulah “Tully” Hart, father unknown, is the daughter of a hippie, Cloud, who makes only intermittent appearances in her life. Tully takes refuge with the family of her “best friend forever,” Kate Mularkey, who compares herself unfavorably with Tully, in regards to looks and charisma. In college, “TullyandKate” pledge the same sorority and major in communications. Tully has a life goal for them both: They will become network TV anchorwomen. Tully lands an internship at KCPO-TV in Seattle and finagles a producing job for Kate. Kate no longer wishes to follow Tully into broadcasting and is more drawn to fiction writing, but she hesitates to tell her overbearing friend. Meanwhile a love triangle blooms at KCPO: Hard-bitten, irresistibly handsome, former war correspondent Johnny is clearly smitten with Tully. Expecting rejection, Kate keeps her infatuation with Johnny secret. When Tully lands a reporting job with a Today-like show, her career shifts into hyperdrive. Johnny and Kate had started an affair once Tully moved to Manhattan, and when Kate gets pregnant with daughter Marah, they marry. Kate is content as a stay-at-home mom, but frets about being Johnny’s second choice and about her unrealized writing ambitions. Tully becomes Seattle’s answer to Oprah. She hires Johnny, which spells riches for him and Kate. But Kate’s buttons are fully depressed by pitched battles over slutwear and curfews with teenaged Marah, who idolizes her godmother Tully. In an improbable twist, Tully invites Kate and Marah to resolve their differences on her show, only to blindside Kate by accusing her, on live TV, of overprotecting Marah. The BFFs are sundered. Tully’s latest attempt to salvage Cloud fails: The incorrigible, now geriatric hippie absconds once more. Just as Kate develops a spine, she’s given some devastating news. Will the friends reconcile before it’s too late?

Dated sermonizing on career versus motherhood, and conflict driven by characters’ willed helplessness, sap this tale of poignancy.

Pub Date: Feb. 1, 2008

ISBN: 978-0-312-36408-3

Page Count: 496

Publisher: St. Martin's

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 2007

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A kind of Holden Caulfield who speaks bravely and winningly from inside the sorrows of autism: wonderful, simple, easy,...

THE CURIOUS INCIDENT OF THE DOG IN THE NIGHT-TIME

Britisher Haddon debuts in the adult novel with the bittersweet tale of a 15-year-old autistic who’s also a math genius.

Christopher Boone has had some bad knocks: his mother has died (well, she went to the hospital and never came back), and soon after he found a neighbor’s dog on the front lawn, slain by a garden fork stuck through it. A teacher said that he should write something that he “would like to read himself”—and so he embarks on this book, a murder mystery that will reveal who killed Mrs. Shears’s dog. First off, though, is a night in jail for hitting the policeman who questions him about the dog (the cop made the mistake of grabbing the boy by the arm when he can’t stand to be touched—any more than he can stand the colors yellow or brown, or not knowing what’s going to happen next). Christopher’s father bails him out but forbids his doing any more “detecting” about the dog-murder. When Christopher disobeys (and writes about it in his book), a fight ensues and his father confiscates the book. In time, detective-Christopher finds it, along with certain other clues that reveal a very great deal indeed about his mother’s “death,” his father’s own part in it—and the murder of the dog. Calming himself by doing roots, cubes, prime numbers, and math problems in his head, Christopher runs away, braves a train-ride to London, and finds—his mother. How can this be? Read and see. Neither parent, if truth be told, is the least bit prepossessing or more than a cutout. Christopher, though, with pet rat Toby in his pocket and advanced “maths” in his head, is another matter indeed, and readers will cheer when, way precociously, he takes his A-level maths and does brilliantly.

A kind of Holden Caulfield who speaks bravely and winningly from inside the sorrows of autism: wonderful, simple, easy, moving, and likely to be a smash.

Pub Date: June 17, 2003

ISBN: 0-385-50945-6

Page Count: 224

Publisher: Doubleday

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2003

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