A few weak plot points may appeal to the reader’s blind faith rather than their reason, but this is a fully imagined,...

The Daughter of the Sea and the Sky

Litwack’s (Along the Watchtower, 2013, etc.) latest novel tells the story of a mysterious child who abandons her homeland in an effort to achieve spiritual forgiveness in a neighboring, hostile nation.

When star-crossed lovers Helena Brewster and Jason Adams save a child from drowning after her boat is dashed against the rocks, they are captivated by her ethereal nature, her vague and prophetic responses, and her insistence on referring to herself as “The Daughter of the Sea and the Sky.” The two are shocked to discover the child, Kailani, has left The Blessed Lands and a faith-based way of life to venture into The Republic, a land dedicated to reason and knowledge and her own nation’s fierce opponent in a series of bitter wars. The government of The Republic, under the direction of chief examiner Carlson, is quick to sequester Kailani and keep her under observation to determine if she is there on an evangelical mission—an illegal action that could lead to her incarceration. Carlson eventually releases her into the custody of Helena and Jason so she can stay with them in an art colony in the Northern Kingdom until her fate is decided by a tribunal hearing. Once there, Kailani becomes the object of obsessive interest to Benjamin, a fanatic who encourages a cult following to grow up around her, placing her legal status and her own safety at risk. Litwack artfully makes use of strange and familiar aspects of our own culture to eerie effect (Jason is helping establish a communication network obviously based upon the Internet, and The Northern Kingdom reads like Vermont). There are some points of weakness within the plot. It’s unclear, for instance, why it takes Jason, who is a communications engineer, so long to discover that a technically unsavvy individual is sending messages on his own machine.

A few weak plot points may appeal to the reader’s blind faith rather than their reason, but this is a fully imagined, gripping read nonetheless.

Pub Date: April 12, 2014

ISBN: 978-1622534326

Page Count: 290

Publisher: Evolved Publishing

Review Posted Online: June 4, 2014

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TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD

A first novel, this is also a first person account of Scout's (Jean Louise) recall of the years that led to the ending of a mystery, the breaking of her brother Jem's elbow, the death of her father's enemy — and the close of childhood years. A widower, Atticus raises his children with legal dispassion and paternal intelligence, and is ably abetted by Calpurnia, the colored cook, while the Alabama town of Maycomb, in the 1930's, remains aloof to their divergence from its tribal patterns. Scout and Jem, with their summer-time companion, Dill, find their paths free from interference — but not from dangers; their curiosity about the imprisoned Boo, whose miserable past is incorporated in their play, results in a tentative friendliness; their fears of Atticus' lack of distinction is dissipated when he shoots a mad dog; his defense of a Negro accused of raping a white girl, Mayella Ewell, is followed with avid interest and turns the rabble whites against him. Scout is the means of averting an attack on Atticus but when he loses the case it is Boo who saves Jem and Scout by killing Mayella's father when he attempts to murder them. The shadows of a beginning for black-white understanding, the persistent fight that Scout carries on against school, Jem's emergence into adulthood, Calpurnia's quiet power, and all the incidents touching on the children's "growing outward" have an attractive starchiness that keeps this southern picture pert and provocative. There is much advance interest in this book; it has been selected by the Literary Guild and Reader's Digest; it should win many friends.

Pub Date: July 11, 1960

ISBN: 0060935464

Page Count: 323

Publisher: Lippincott

Review Posted Online: Oct. 7, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 1960

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The phrase “tour de force” could have been invented for this audacious novel.

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A LITTLE LIFE

Four men who meet as college roommates move to New York and spend the next three decades gaining renown in their professions—as an architect, painter, actor and lawyer—and struggling with demons in their intertwined personal lives.

Yanagihara (The People in the Trees, 2013) takes the still-bold leap of writing about characters who don’t share her background; in addition to being male, JB is African-American, Malcolm has a black father and white mother, Willem is white, and “Jude’s race was undetermined”—deserted at birth, he was raised in a monastery and had an unspeakably traumatic childhood that’s revealed slowly over the course of the book. Two of them are gay, one straight and one bisexual. There isn’t a single significant female character, and for a long novel, there isn’t much plot. There aren’t even many markers of what’s happening in the outside world; Jude moves to a loft in SoHo as a young man, but we don’t see the neighborhood change from gritty artists’ enclave to glitzy tourist destination. What we get instead is an intensely interior look at the friends’ psyches and relationships, and it’s utterly enthralling. The four men think about work and creativity and success and failure; they cook for each other, compete with each other and jostle for each other’s affection. JB bases his entire artistic career on painting portraits of his friends, while Malcolm takes care of them by designing their apartments and houses. When Jude, as an adult, is adopted by his favorite Harvard law professor, his friends join him for Thanksgiving in Cambridge every year. And when Willem becomes a movie star, they all bask in his glow. Eventually, the tone darkens and the story narrows to focus on Jude as the pain of his past cuts deep into his carefully constructed life.  

The phrase “tour de force” could have been invented for this audacious novel.

Pub Date: March 10, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-385-53925-8

Page Count: 720

Publisher: Doubleday

Review Posted Online: Dec. 22, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2015

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