A laudable set of premises, but thin writing and faux disclosures keep this garden from bursting into full bloom.

GARDEN PRIMITIVES

SHORT STORIES

A debut collection from a Minnesota writer pits its mainly suburban characters against a nature that is both unforgiving and creepily profligate.

Sosin has a gift for the narrative hook. Many of these 12 stories place their protagonists in potentially humiliating situations, then watch them struggle out with varying degrees of grace. In ``Internal Medicine,'' a woman talks a group of firstyear medical students through her own pelvic exam while pondering her recent divorce. ``Ice Age'' gives us a resentful farmer who, cornered by his own act of kindness, finds himself trapped at an awkward dinner with yuppies he despises for encroaching on his land. At her best, Sosin is able to milk these reversaloffortune setups to alchemical effect. ``Mother Superior,” one of the best pieces here and the only one to depart from a middleclass milieu, follows a burntout former bar owner through a date gone sadly wrong; the quietly devastating climax feels like a slap not only to her face, but to ours. Elsewhere, though, these revelations can sound like unintentional punch lines, especially when allegories from nature start gumming up the works. ``Submersion'' draws a clunky parallel between a woman's obsessive vigil over a turtle nest on a Mexican beach and the recent drowning death of her son, revealed at the end in a distinctly unsurprising twist. ``There Are No Green Butterflies'' solemnly depicts the unraveling of a nascent romance that the reader is unlikely to mourn (`` `Sex is holy,' he says, looking off in the distance''). Only the title story steps back from this relentless intersubjectivity, offering a restrained, almost photographic vignette of the varied urban types frequenting a public greenhouse. Meanwhile, Sosin's generally graceful prose has moments of startling infelicity: one heroine lies in bed ``exacerbated,'' wielding ``the fineedged knife of selfblame.''

A laudable set of premises, but thin writing and faux disclosures keep this garden from bursting into full bloom.

Pub Date: April 1, 2000

ISBN: 1-56689-100-0

Page Count: 176

Publisher: Coffee House

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2000

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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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