This novel could have been a magical tale of spiritual discovery, yet it buckles under the weight of its own complexity.


When you go back home, can you really put the ghosts to rest? Can you at least save some lost souls?

In Black’s (Perfect Peace, 2010) sequel to his debut novel, They Tell Me of a Home (2005), Dr. Thomas L. Tyson (TL) returns home less than an hour after leaving. Back in Swamp Creek, Ark., TL is faced with several mysteries and challenges. Distraught over his sister’s untimely death, he worries about the role his adoptive mother, Marion, may have played in Sister’s death. Saddened by the death of his birth mother, Ms. Swinton, he wants to prove himself by taking over Ms. Swinton’s role as the teacher in a one-room schoolhouse. Marion challenges him to become a real man and determine his own fate, but TL must first rid himself of ties that pull him away from Swamp Creek, namely his neglected girlfriend back in New York and his best friend, George, who is desperately in love with him—and perhaps TL is in love with George, too. The town misfit Cliffesteen offers TL another mystery to solve: What happened to her Aunt Easter, a woman the townsfolk feared as magical? Once established as the new schoolteacher, TL accepts the responsibilities of not only educating the children of Swamp Creek, but also of rescuing one particular young boy from his abusive and sexually bigoted father. Further complicating matters, TL is hallucinating a city of gold marked by 12 gates, and Cliffesteen claims Sister is there. So many plot strands quickly overwhelm Black’s novel. Interspersed chapters in Sister’s otherworldly voice attempt to explain God’s plan for TL, yet not even Sister resolves the mysteries presented here.    

This novel could have been a magical tale of spiritual discovery, yet it buckles under the weight of its own complexity.

Pub Date: Dec. 6, 2011

ISBN: 978-0-312-58268-5

Page Count: 352

Publisher: St. Martin's

Review Posted Online: Oct. 17, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 2011

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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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