This tightly focused study of two marriages and its partners’ carefully guarded inner lives is the first full-length novel from the veteran poet and prose writer whose earlier fiction includes several story collections and the novella Tenorman (1995). Huddle tells the tale through the reminiscences of seven different narrators living at various times in a Cleveland suburb: the result is a kind of suburban midwestern, domestic Rashomon whose finest sequences offer disturbingly candid revelations of how even the most intimate and trusting relationships are fraught with misunderstanding and secrecy. Beautiful Marcy Bunkleman, for example, will never confess either to her parents or her husband the affair she conducted, when only 15, with her mother’s 40ish married friend Robert. Neither Marcy’s self-absorbed husband Allen (nicknamed “A.B.C.”) Crandall nor her best friend Uta will reveal that their friendship led them to a single (shabby) sexual episode—nor will Uta’s deferential “house-husband” Jimmy Rago (who’s also Allen’s old college buddy) let on that he’s guessed their secret, or attempt to act on his lifelong love for the amiable though indifferent Marcy. The emotional gyrations these four push themselves (and one another) through are cast into vivid relief in single sequences that are narrated, respectively, by the aging Robert, who even years afterward cannot come to terms with his feelings for Marcy and memories of his “seduction” of her; by Robert’s unhappy wife Suzanne, who understands her wayward husband’s psyche far better than she knows her own; and finally by Marcy’s adult daughter Suellen, whose climactic view of her mother alone (after Allen has left Marcy) hauntingly underscores the several ways these people have isolated, second-guessed, and, ultimately, both served and cheated themselves. An old story (comparisons to Updike and Cheever are inevitable), but Huddle makes it fresh by giving his characters vividly distinctive personalities—and the rueful honesty to see themselves as the flawed people they have somehow become.

Pub Date: Sept. 20, 1999

ISBN: 0-395-96605-1

Page Count: 244

Publisher: Houghton Mifflin

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 1999

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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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With her second novel, Ng further proves she’s a sensitive, insightful writer with a striking ability to illuminate life in...

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This incandescent portrait of suburbia and family, creativity, and consumerism burns bright.

It’s not for nothing that Ng (Everything I Never Told You, 2014) begins her second novel, about the events leading to the burning of the home of an outwardly perfect-seeming family in Shaker Heights, Ohio, circa 1997, with two epigraphs about the planned community itself—attesting to its ability to provide its residents with “protection forever against…unwelcome change” and “a rather happy life” in Utopia. But unwelcome change is precisely what disrupts the Richardson family’s rather happy life, when Mia, a charismatic, somewhat mysterious artist, and her smart, shy 15-year-old daughter, Pearl, move to town and become tenants in a rental house Mrs. Richardson inherited from her parents. Mia and Pearl live a markedly different life from the Richardsons, an affluent couple and their four high school–age children—making art instead of money (apart from what little they need to get by); rooted in each other rather than a particular place (packing up what fits in their battered VW and moving on when “the bug” hits); and assembling a hodgepodge home from creatively repurposed, scavenged castoffs and love rather than gathering around them the symbols of a successful life in the American suburbs (a big house, a large family, gleaming appliances, chic clothes, many cars). What really sets Mia and Pearl apart and sets in motion the events leading to the “little fires everywhere” that will consume the Richardsons’ secure, stable world, however, is the way they hew to their own rules. In a place like Shaker Heights, a town built on plans and rules, and for a family like the Richardsons, who have structured their lives according to them, disdain for conformity acts as an accelerant, setting fire to the dormant sparks within them. The ultimate effect is cataclysmic. As in Everything I Never Told You, Ng conjures a sense of place and displacement and shows a remarkable ability to see—and reveal—a story from different perspectives. The characters she creates here are wonderfully appealing, and watching their paths connect—like little trails of flame leading inexorably toward one another to create a big inferno—is mesmerizing, casting into new light ideas about creativity and consumerism, parenthood and privilege.

With her second novel, Ng further proves she’s a sensitive, insightful writer with a striking ability to illuminate life in America.

Pub Date: Sept. 12, 2017

ISBN: 978-0-7352-2429-2

Page Count: 384

Publisher: Penguin Press

Review Posted Online: June 20, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2017

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