Still, a spellbinding depiction of the hardships faced by a woman fighting her own war of independence.

SEVEN LOCKS

As the Revolutionary War looms, a colonial wife struggles to survive after her husband wanders away.

The unnamed principal narrator of Wade’s first novel was born into privilege, the daughter of a wealthy merchant and shipbuilder. Her mistake is her marriage to a feckless man who uses her dowry to buy a remote farm at the foot of the Catskills. After fathering two children, a son (also unnamed) and a daughter, Judith (a secondary narrator), the husband grows increasingly recalcitrant and balks at doing any work. The wife takes up the slack with her Dutch work ethic, but her nagging (the local townsfolk will gossip) finally drives the husband off. Leaving one day in a huff with his dog, Wolf, the husband disappears into the vast wilderness surrounding the settlement. The dog returns alone, and a search by neighbors proves fruitless. Finding that she is pregnant, the woman enters the woods to seek an abortion remedy from Indian women. For the next seven years, she works and manages the farm with only her two children as helpers. She trades butter and cheese at the village market, but no one buys her sausage. Gradually, her children learn the reason she is ostracized by the village: Not only is she a reputed shrew, she is rumored to have murdered her husband and ground him into wurst. Judith, eager for knowledge, is the protégée of the local schoolmaster, while her brother grows increasingly withdrawn. When war comes, the small family scatters in three directions. The last section of the novel, narrated by Judith, who has been far more fortunate in her marriage, skirts direct revelation of what befell her father. According to Wade’s afternote, the narrative is the back story of certain Washington Irving tales. Her decision, however, to substitute Judith’s generalized observations on mythmaking and legend for a detailed explanation of the father’s disappearance, is unfortunate.

Still, a spellbinding depiction of the hardships faced by a woman fighting her own war of independence.

Pub Date: Jan. 1, 2013

ISBN: 978-1-4516-7470-5

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Atria

Review Posted Online: Sept. 27, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 2012

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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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ALL THE LIGHT WE CANNOT SEE

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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A unique story about Appalachia and the healing power of the written word.

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THE BOOK WOMAN OF TROUBLESOME CREEK

One of Kentucky’s last living “Blue People” works as a traveling librarian in 1930s Appalachia.

Cussy Mary Carter is a 19-year-old from Troublesome Creek, Kentucky. She was born with a rare genetic condition, and her skin has always been tinged an allover deep blue. Cussy lives with her widowed father, a coal miner who relentlessly attempts to marry her off. Unfortunately, with blue skin and questionable genetics, Cussy is a tough sell. Cussy would rather keep her job as a pack-horse librarian than keep house for a husband anyway. As part of the new governmental program aimed at bringing reading material to isolated rural Kentuckians, Cussy rides a mule over treacherous terrain, delivering books and periodicals to people of limited means. Cussy’s patrons refer to her as “Bluet” or “Book Woman,” and she delights in bringing them books as well as messages, medicine, and advice. When a local pastor takes a nefarious interest in Cussy, claiming that God has sent him to rid society of her “blue demons,” efforts to defend herself leave Cussy at risk of arrest, or worse. The local doctor agrees to protect Cussy in exchange for her submission to medical testing. As Doc finds answers about Cussy’s condition, she begins to re-examine what it means to be a Blue and what life after a cure might look like. Although the novel gets off to a slow start, once Cussy begins traveling to the city for medical testing, the stakes get higher, as does the suspense of the story. Cussy's first-person narrative voice is engaging, laced with a thick Kentucky accent and colloquialisms of Depression-era Appalachia. Through the bigotry and discrimination Cussy suffers as a result of her skin color, the author artfully depicts the insidious behavior that can result when a society’s members feel threatened by things they don't understand. With a focus on the personal joy and broadened horizons that can result from access to reading material, this well-researched tale serves as a solid history lesson on 1930s Kentucky.

A unique story about Appalachia and the healing power of the written word.

Pub Date: May 7, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-4926-7152-7

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Sourcebooks Landmark

Review Posted Online: Feb. 28, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2019

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