Shallow people and a sluggish narrative fail to illuminate a difficult and painful dilemma.


Best-selling Bohjalian (the Oprah-blessed Midwives, 1997, etc.) explores the fluid nature of love, gender, and identity in a graphically detailed story about a transsexual man's medical and psychological journey.

In between excerpts from an imaginary National Public Radio broadcast, four characters alternately offer their takes on the events covered by the NPR program. Set in a small Vermont village, the tale deliberately raises many contentious issues, including the role of teachers in a community and the right to privacy, as it depicts the varied and unexpected ways sexual attraction is manifested. Carly, daughter of divorced Allie and Will Banks and soon to be a college freshman, begins by describing her first impressions of Dana Stevens. He teaches film at the local university, and Allie, a sixth-grade teacher auditing the course, is attracted to handsome and empathetic Dana; the two are soon lovers. Will, still carrying a torch for Allie, is initially jealous of the relationship. But , truth to say, Dana has never been comfortable as a man, and he shocks Allie by telling her that he he’s heading out to Colorado at the end of the year to have sex-changing surgery. As a result, Carly is forced to do some deep thinking about gender and sexual orientation. Allie, in the meantime, is even more confused about her feelings, but she supports Dana and after the operation brings her former lover back to her house to recuperate. This nearly costs Allie her job, as parents remove their children from her class in protest. Dana is soon a gorgeous woman, but Allie realizes she preferred her as a man. Female Dana, who thought she was a lesbian, is confused by what she's now feeling. Meanwhile, readers are likely to feel they’re getting a seminar instead of a novel.

Shallow people and a sluggish narrative fail to illuminate a difficult and painful dilemma.

Pub Date: May 1, 2000

ISBN: 0-609-60407-4

Page Count: 368

Publisher: Harmony

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2000

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A modern day fable, with modern implications in a deceiving simplicity, by the author of Dickens. Dali and Others (Reynal & Hitchcock, p. 138), whose critical brilliance is well adapted to this type of satire. This tells of the revolt on a farm, against humans, when the pigs take over the intellectual superiority, training the horses, cows, sheep, etc., into acknowledging their greatness. The first hints come with the reading out of a pig who instigated the building of a windmill, so that the electric power would be theirs, the idea taken over by Napoleon who becomes topman with no maybes about it. Napoleon trains the young puppies to be his guards, dickers with humans, gradually instigates a reign of terror, and breaks the final commandment against any animal walking on two legs. The old faithful followers find themselves no better off for food and work than they were when man ruled them, learn their final disgrace when they see Napoleon and Squealer carousing with their enemies... A basic statement of the evils of dictatorship in that it not only corrupts the leaders, but deadens the intelligence and awareness of those led so that tyranny is inevitable. Mr. Orwell's animals exist in their own right, with a narrative as individual as it is apt in political parody.

Pub Date: Aug. 26, 1946

ISBN: 0452277507

Page Count: 114

Publisher: Harcourt, Brace

Review Posted Online: Nov. 2, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 1946

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Doerr captures the sights and sounds of wartime and focuses, refreshingly, on the innate goodness of his major characters.

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Doerr presents us with two intricate stories, both of which take place during World War II; late in the novel, inevitably, they intersect.

In August 1944, Marie-Laure LeBlanc is a blind 16-year-old living in the walled port city of Saint-Malo in Brittany and hoping to escape the effects of Allied bombing. D-Day took place two months earlier, and Cherbourg, Caen and Rennes have already been liberated. She’s taken refuge in this city with her great-uncle Etienne, at first a fairly frightening figure to her. Marie-Laure’s father was a locksmith and craftsman who made scale models of cities that Marie-Laure studied so she could travel around on her own. He also crafted clever and intricate boxes, within which treasures could be hidden. Parallel to the story of Marie-Laure we meet Werner and Jutta Pfennig, a brother and sister, both orphans who have been raised in the Children’s House outside Essen, in Germany. Through flashbacks we learn that Werner had been a curious and bright child who developed an obsession with radio transmitters and receivers, both in their infancies during this period. Eventually, Werner goes to a select technical school and then, at 18, into the Wehrmacht, where his technical aptitudes are recognized and he’s put on a team trying to track down illegal radio transmissions. Etienne and Marie-Laure are responsible for some of these transmissions, but Werner is intrigued since what she’s broadcasting is innocent—she shares her passion for Jules Verne by reading aloud 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea. A further subplot involves Marie-Laure’s father’s having hidden a valuable diamond, one being tracked down by Reinhold von Rumpel, a relentless German sergeant-major.

Doerr captures the sights and sounds of wartime and focuses, refreshingly, on the innate goodness of his major characters.

Pub Date: May 6, 2014

ISBN: 978-1-4767-4658-6

Page Count: 448

Publisher: Scribner

Review Posted Online: March 6, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2014

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