A creative but cluttered book that swarms with twists and turns but may lose readers in gratuitous detail.

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ROOTS, RUMORS & WRATH

Bronzy (761.207, 2017) delivers a whimsical thriller about a refugee’s struggles in America.

Haway Halabi is a displaced person from the Middle East who’s been relocated to Boise, Idaho. Although she speaks good English and is well-liked by those around her, she longs for her hometown of Aleppo. Of course, with Syria still at war, a return to Aleppo is impossible, so Haway keeps busy the best that she can, attending college classes and designing headscarves. Luckily, she’s aided by her pleasant, artist uncle Dahan. But when he dies suddenly, ostensibly of a heart attack, she thinks the circumstances are suspicious. Why was Dahan visited by two men shortly before he died? Readers find out that the pair, Otto Hahn and Pierro Conti, work for the Pontifical Academy of Sciences. They have an unofficial mission to track down religious artifacts and documents, and when they seize such items, they tend to quietly dispose of those who possess them. But while they may have killed Dahan, they didn’t manage to find an ancient chest he owned. What does the chest contain, and how far will the men go to find it? This conflict is at the heart of the swirling tale, though it’s hardly the whole story. Additional characters include, but are not limited to, a one-legged military veteran, an African-American New York City rabbi, and an investigator from a task force called AFRICA (named after the American Freedom to Report and Implicate or Collusion Act). Despite the abundance of players and geographic locations, however, the narrative is never difficult to follow, even when Bronzy takes readers to strange, surprising places. The multitude of back stories, though, can be overwhelming at times. The lengthy, detailed story behind the veteran’s loss of his leg, for example, isn’t particularly thrilling, nor is it pertinent to the greater struggle. Readers wind up learning a lot about relatively minor characters, but it adds more to the page count than to the overall excitement.

A creative but cluttered book that swarms with twists and turns but may lose readers in gratuitous detail.

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 2017

ISBN: 978-0-9992750-1-6

Page Count: 364

Publisher: CreateSpace

Review Posted Online: Sept. 25, 2017

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A strict report, worthy of sympathy.

THE CATCHER IN THE RYE

A violent surfacing of adolescence (which has little in common with Tarkington's earlier, broadly comic, Seventeen) has a compulsive impact.

"Nobody big except me" is the dream world of Holden Caulfield and his first person story is down to the basic, drab English of the pre-collegiate. For Holden is now being bounced from fancy prep, and, after a vicious evening with hall- and roommates, heads for New York to try to keep his latest failure from his parents. He tries to have a wild evening (all he does is pay the check), is terrorized by the hotel elevator man and his on-call whore, has a date with a girl he likes—and hates, sees his 10 year old sister, Phoebe. He also visits a sympathetic English teacher after trying on a drunken session, and when he keeps his date with Phoebe, who turns up with her suitcase to join him on his flight, he heads home to a hospital siege. This is tender and true, and impossible, in its picture of the old hells of young boys, the lonesomeness and tentative attempts to be mature and secure, the awful block between youth and being grown-up, the fright and sickness that humans and their behavior cause the challenging, the dramatization of the big bang. It is a sorry little worm's view of the off-beat of adult pressure, of contemporary strictures and conformity, of sentiment….

A strict report, worthy of sympathy.

Pub Date: June 15, 1951

ISBN: 0316769177

Page Count: -

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: Nov. 2, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 1951

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LAST ORDERS

Britisher Swift's sixth novel (Ever After, 1992 etc.) and fourth to appear here is a slow-to-start but then captivating tale of English working-class families in the four decades following WW II. When Jack Dodds dies suddenly of cancer after years of running a butcher shop in London, he leaves a strange request—namely, that his ashes be scattered off Margate pier into the sea. And who could better be suited to fulfill this wish than his three oldest drinking buddies—insurance man Ray, vegetable seller Lenny, and undertaker Vic, all of whom, like Jack himself, fought also as soldiers or sailors in the long-ago world war. Swift's narrative start, with its potential for the melodramatic, is developed instead with an economy, heart, and eye that release (through the characters' own voices, one after another) the story's humanity and depth instead of its schmaltz. The jokes may be weak and self- conscious when the three old friends meet at their local pub in the company of the urn holding Jack's ashes; but once the group gets on the road, in an expensive car driven by Jack's adoptive son, Vince, the story starts gradually to move forward, cohere, and deepen. The reader learns in time why it is that no wife comes along, why three marriages out of three broke apart, and why Vince always hated his stepfather Jack and still does—or so he thinks. There will be stories of innocent youth, suffering wives, early loves, lost daughters, secret affairs, and old antagonisms—including a fistfight over the dead on an English hilltop, and a strewing of Jack's ashes into roiling seawaves that will draw up feelings perhaps unexpectedly strong. Without affectation, Swift listens closely to the lives that are his subject and creates a songbook of voices part lyric, part epic, part working-class social realism—with, in all, the ring to it of the honest, human, and true.

Pub Date: April 5, 1996

ISBN: 0-679-41224-7

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Knopf

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 1996

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