An often engaging novel with a touch of magic, hampered by a problematic trope at its center.

LITTLE BY LITTLE

From the Tower Room series , Vol. 3

In this third book in her Tower Room fantasy series, Davis (Falling, 2017, etc.) takes her Canadian protagonist from 1920s Toronto to 1850s Buffalo, New York, right in the middle of an Underground Railroad escape.

It’s 1929, and Dilys Frank feels exhausted and spiritually empty. Once a nurse for Toronto General Hospital, she now lazily keeps the doors open at the unlicensed Makeshift Pharmacy on behalf of her father, Gus Frank, a gambling photographer, con artist, and thief. Her stress about her father’s shady activities is exacerbated by the recent loss of her baby daughter, Pearl, who was born out of wedlock and lived only a few short weeks. When Gus invites her to his home to show her evidence of his previous time travel, Dilys is skeptical and angry. But when she snoops around the magical tower room, it takes her on her own adventure—landing her in Buffalo in 1850. Once there, she meets Caleb Breneman, a kindly Quaker who needs a nurse to attend a wounded child whom he’s helping along the Underground Railroad. She quickly discovers that she’s not a slave, but the disguised white daughter of a plantation owner named Caroline, who fled with her young friend, a slave named Jackson. When Caroline’s father comes to town, the need to secret the children away to Canada becomes more urgent. Over the course of the novel, Davis presents a story that’s well written, well researched, and features an intriguing central conflict. Although this installment in the series may easily be read as a stand-alone novel, readers will get helpful context if they start from the beginning; the time-travel device, for example, ties the overarching story together, but it’s hardly explained here. Also, some readers may find the white-savior narrative structure, which puts Dilys at the heart of a slave-rescue story, to be distasteful. Overall, though, the novel does effectively manage to bring some historical injustices to light.

An often engaging novel with a touch of magic, hampered by a problematic trope at its center.

Pub Date: Oct. 24, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-5255-5526-8

Page Count: 312

Publisher: FriesenPress

Review Posted Online: Dec. 19, 2019

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ONE DAY IN THE LIFE OF IVAN DENISOVICH

While a few weeks ago it seemed as if Praeger would have a two month lead over Dutton in their presentation of this Soviet best seller, both the "authorized" edition (Dutton's) and the "unauthorized" (Praeger's) will appear almost simultaneously. There has been considerable advance attention on what appears to be as much of a publishing cause celebre here as the original appearance of the book in Russia. Without entering into the scrimmage, or dismissing it as a plague on both your houses, we will limit ourselves to a few facts. Royalties from the "unauthorized" edition will go to the International Rescue Committee; Dutton with their contracted edition is adhering to copyright conventions. The Praeger edition has two translators and one of them is the translator of Doctor Zhivago Dutton's translator, Ralph Parker, has been stigmatized by Praeger as "an apologist for the Soviet regime". To the untutored eye, the Dutton translation seems a little more literary, the Praeger perhaps closer to the rather primitive style of the original. The book itself is an account of one day in the three thousand six hundred and fifty three days of the sentence to be served by a carpenter, Ivan Denisovich Shukhov. (Solzhenitsyn was a political prisoner.) From the unrelenting cold without, to the conditions within, from the bathhouse to the latrine to the cells where survival for more than two weeks is impossible, this records the hopeless facts of existence as faced by thousands who went on "living like this, with your eyes on the ground". The Dutton edition has an excellent introduction providing an orientation on the political background to its appearance in Russia by Marvin Kalb. All involved in its publication (translators, introducers, etc.) claim for it great "artistic" values which we cannot share, although there is no question of its importance as a political and human document and as significant and tangible evidence of the de-Stalinization program.

Pub Date: June 15, 1963

ISBN: 0451228146

Page Count: 181

Publisher: Praeger

Review Posted Online: Oct. 5, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 1963

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A touching family drama that effectively explores the negative impact of stress on fragile relationships.

A WEEK AT THE SHORE

A middle-aged woman returns to her childhood home to care for her ailing father, confronting many painful secrets from her past.

When Mallory Aldiss gets a call from a long-ago boyfriend telling her that her elderly father has been gallivanting around town with a gun in his hand, Mallory decides it’s time to return to the small Rhode Island town that she’s been avoiding for more than a decade. Mallory’s precocious 13-year-old daughter, Joy, is thrilled that she'll get to meet her grandfather at long last, and an aunt, too, and she'll finally see the place where her mother grew up. When they arrive in Bay Bluff, it’s barely a few hours before Mallory bumps into her old flame, Jack, the only man she’s ever really loved. Gone is the rebellious young person she remembers, and in his place stands a compassionate, accomplished adult. As they try to reconnect, Mallory realizes that the same obstacle that pushed them apart decades earlier is still standing in their way: Jack blames Mallory’s father for his mother’s death. No one knows exactly how Jack’s mother died, but Jack thinks a love affair between her and Mallory’s father had something to do with it. As Jack and Mallory chase down answers, Mallory also tries to repair her rocky relationships with her two sisters and determine why her father has always been so hard on her. Told entirely from Mallory’s perspective, the novel has a haunting, nostalgic quality. Despite the complex and overlapping layers to the history of Bay Bluff and its inhabitants, the book at times trudges too slowly through Mallory’s meanderings down Memory Lane. Even so, Delinsky sometimes manages to pick up the pace, and in those moments the beauty and nuance of this complicated family tale shine through. Readers who don’t mind skimming past details that do little to advance the plot may find that the juicier nuggets and realistically rendered human connections are worth the effort.

A touching family drama that effectively explores the negative impact of stress on fragile relationships.

Pub Date: May 19, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-250-11951-3

Page Count: 416

Publisher: St. Martin's

Review Posted Online: March 2, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2020

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