THE OPERATOR'S MANUAL FOR PLANET EARTH

AN ADVENTURE FOR THE SOUL

Spiritual fiction, as in The Pilgrim's Progress and Tolstoy's moral tales, can be sublime. In less imaginative works, such as The Celestine Prophecy and this debut novel, fiction turns to fortune cookie. Hunt (Learning to Learn: Maximizing Your Performance Potential, 1992, not reviewed) is an international business consultant, motivational speaker, and cofounder of a learning institute. Her present work tells of a band of 25 luminous beings as they are trained to take on human life and help rebuild human conditions on a spiritual foundation. At first completely ingenuous, each sentience comes to have a special quality: ``Zendar is centered and strong. Justin is feisty. Ashley is insightful. Jaron is open-minded and resourceful, and êlan brings enthusiasm to every adventure.'' They are led singly or in pairs through the Window of Time into simulations of Earth-life, where they have confrontations that generally dismay but eventually strengthen them. The whole band then experiences them at once, and discussion follows each simulation, while other learning devices include the nine Matos Mantras (willingness prayers) that the beings must remember and use. The Bunyanesque central device is that the beings should attempt to reach and climb Mount Akros to find the Cave of Compassion, where the peace and wisdom essential to spiritual life will be found. Occasionally, a being meets up with a difficulty faintly resembling the depravity of human life that causes prisons to be built (the climax, surprisingly, turns on a genetic defect: club feet), but a focus on inner strength and compassion sees the temporarily beleaguered being through despondency. The Message: There are two purposes to human life, one planetary (``to live the law of unconditional love in action'') and one personal (to use love in fulfilling minor missions that contribute to the whole of the human family). All you need is love, as John Lennon told us in three minutes. Is there an audience? Does care of the soul sell books? Are you kidding?

Pub Date: Oct. 3, 1996

ISBN: 0-7868-6177-0

Page Count: 384

Publisher: Hyperion

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 1996

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A love letter to the power of books and friendship.

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THE GIVER OF STARS

Women become horseback librarians in 1930s Kentucky and face challenges from the landscape, the weather, and the men around them.

Alice thought marrying attractive American Bennett Van Cleve would be her ticket out of her stifling life in England. But when she and Bennett settle in Baileyville, Kentucky, she realizes that her life consists of nothing more than staying in their giant house all day and getting yelled at by his unpleasant father, who owns a coal mine. She’s just about to resign herself to a life of boredom when an opportunity presents itself in the form of a traveling horseback library—an initiative from Eleanor Roosevelt meant to counteract the devastating effects of the Depression by focusing on literacy and learning. Much to the dismay of her husband and father-in-law, Alice signs up and soon learns the ropes from the library’s leader, Margery. Margery doesn’t care what anyone thinks of her, rejects marriage, and would rather be on horseback than in a kitchen. And even though all this makes Margery a town pariah, Alice quickly grows to like her. Along with several other women (including one black woman, Sophia, whose employment causes controversy in a town that doesn’t believe black and white people should be allowed to use the same library), Margery and Alice supply magazines, Bible stories, and copies of books like Little Women to the largely poor residents who live in remote areas. Alice spends long days in terrible weather on horseback, but she finally feels happy in her new life in Kentucky, even as her marriage to Bennett is failing. But her powerful father-in-law doesn’t care for Alice’s job or Margery’s lifestyle, and he’ll stop at nothing to shut their library down. Basing her novel on the true story of the Pack Horse Library Project established by the Works Progress Administration in the 1930s, Moyes (Still Me, 2018, etc.) brings an often forgotten slice of history to life. She writes about Kentucky with lush descriptions of the landscape and tender respect for the townspeople, most of whom are poor, uneducated, and grateful for the chance to learn. Although Alice and Margery both have their own romances, the true power of the story is in the bonds between the women of the library. They may have different backgrounds, but their commitment to helping the people of Baileyville brings them together.

A love letter to the power of books and friendship.

Pub Date: Oct. 8, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-399-56248-8

Page Count: 400

Publisher: Pamela Dorman/Viking

Review Posted Online: July 1, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2019

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ONE DAY IN THE LIFE OF IVAN DENISOVICH

While a few weeks ago it seemed as if Praeger would have a two month lead over Dutton in their presentation of this Soviet best seller, both the "authorized" edition (Dutton's) and the "unauthorized" (Praeger's) will appear almost simultaneously. There has been considerable advance attention on what appears to be as much of a publishing cause celebre here as the original appearance of the book in Russia. Without entering into the scrimmage, or dismissing it as a plague on both your houses, we will limit ourselves to a few facts. Royalties from the "unauthorized" edition will go to the International Rescue Committee; Dutton with their contracted edition is adhering to copyright conventions. The Praeger edition has two translators and one of them is the translator of Doctor Zhivago Dutton's translator, Ralph Parker, has been stigmatized by Praeger as "an apologist for the Soviet regime". To the untutored eye, the Dutton translation seems a little more literary, the Praeger perhaps closer to the rather primitive style of the original. The book itself is an account of one day in the three thousand six hundred and fifty three days of the sentence to be served by a carpenter, Ivan Denisovich Shukhov. (Solzhenitsyn was a political prisoner.) From the unrelenting cold without, to the conditions within, from the bathhouse to the latrine to the cells where survival for more than two weeks is impossible, this records the hopeless facts of existence as faced by thousands who went on "living like this, with your eyes on the ground". The Dutton edition has an excellent introduction providing an orientation on the political background to its appearance in Russia by Marvin Kalb. All involved in its publication (translators, introducers, etc.) claim for it great "artistic" values which we cannot share, although there is no question of its importance as a political and human document and as significant and tangible evidence of the de-Stalinization program.

Pub Date: June 15, 1963

ISBN: 0451228146

Page Count: 181

Publisher: Praeger

Review Posted Online: Oct. 5, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 1963

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