ONE OUT OF TWO

Comic novella from an acclaimed Mexican author (Almost Never, 2012).

The Gamal sisters are twins, and more than twins. After the death of their parents in a car accident—the girls were 13—they began to grow increasingly indistinguishable. Now in their 40s, they live together, they dress the same, they wear their hair in the same style. The slight differences in their personalities are obscured by the fact that they sometimes trade names. Then Constitución meets Oscar Segura, a “slender man of interesting age.” Suddenly, the Gamal sisters are no longer identical. Gloria grows bitter and silent. Constitución considers teasing her hair into a beehive and penciling her eyebrows to make herself into a new person, an individual. She abandons these thoughts, though, as she considers her sister’s heartbreak. Instead, she arrives at a radical solution to their predicament. Oscar has no idea that Constitución has a twin sister. What’s to stop them from taking turns in the role of Oscar’s sweetheart? Thus, both twins enjoy a taste of romance. There are, of course, problems with this plan, practical and existential. What follows is screwball comedy and melodramatic meditations on desire, dreams, and life’s dualities. The plot, like the book itself, is slight, and there is very little action. This tale is composed mostly of rumination, and the narrator emerges as the dominant character. Sada, who died in 2011, was known for his playfully extravagant style, a mix of earthy colloquialisms and fancy syntax. Here, he’s crafted a narrator that’s equal parts town gossip and armchair philosopher, a biographer and a fabulist, a storyteller who recruits the reader as a co-conspirator.

Slight, but disarming.

Pub Date: Nov. 3, 2015

ISBN: 978-1-55597-724-5

Page Count: 88

Publisher: Graywolf

Review Posted Online: July 29, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2015

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ANIMAL FARM

A FAIRY STORY

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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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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