A haunting book from a novelist (Loving Pedro Infant, 2001, etc.) who inspires us to appreciate what we have before it is...

THE KING AND QUEEN OF COMEZÓN

Chávez's new novel is the sprawling tale of Comezóna New Mexico border town. The book is anchored by the aging master of ceremonies of the town's yearly fiesta, Arnulfo Olivárez, as he regretfully looks back on his life.

Longing, the author’s  translation of “comezón,” is at the center of this book and all its characters. Longing for the local priest, El Padre Manolito (Juliana Olivárez); longing for the crippled Juliana, the woman he cannot have (El Padre Manolito); longing for the family she knows is her right (Juliana's sister, Lucinda Olivárez); longing for peace from his obsession with the illegals he helped deport to Mexico (Rey Suárez the bar owner); and longing for her husband’s attention (Emilia Olivárez). Everyone longs for love and for the body they desire—whether that body be their own full and healthy again or the body of a lover. “What was he doing here…besides longing for love?” asks El Padre Manolito. Indeed, whose longings will be satisfied and whose will go unrequited becomes the central drama of the novel. And when Emilia suffers a near-fatal stroke, it sets off a chain of events that forces the characters, especially her husband, Arnulfo, to reconsider what they truly desire. Told in the close third person, the narrative shifts among the points of view of all the characters. While the rotating perspective does create some beautiful moments and reveal some delicious ironies, at times the story slows when information is repeated from multiple perspectives without adding further depth. But if you have a penchant for winding narratives in which the drama of the story takes place within the Proustian world of memory, this is the book for you. 

A haunting book from a novelist (Loving Pedro Infant, 2001, etc.) who inspires us to appreciate what we have before it is gone.

Pub Date: Sept. 18, 2014

ISBN: 978-0-8061-4483-2

Page Count: 328

Publisher: Univ. of Oklahoma

Review Posted Online: July 28, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2014

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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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Unrelenting gloom relieved only occasionally by wrenching trauma; somehow, though, Hannah’s storytelling chops keep the...

FLY AWAY

Hannah’s sequel to Firefly Lane (2008) demonstrates that those who ignore family history are often condemned to repeat it.

When we last left Kate and Tully, the best friends portrayed in Firefly Lane, the friendship was on rocky ground. Now Kate has died of cancer, and Tully, whose once-stellar TV talk show career is in free fall, is wracked with guilt over her failure to be there for Kate until her very last days. Kate’s death has cemented the distrust between her husband, Johnny, and daughter Marah, who expresses her grief by cutting herself and dropping out of college to hang out with goth poet Paxton. Told mostly in flashbacks by Tully, Johnny, Marah and Tully’s long-estranged mother, Dorothy, aka Cloud, the story piles up disasters like the derailment of a high-speed train. Increasingly addicted to prescription sedatives and alcohol, Tully crashes her car and now hovers near death, attended by Kate’s spirit, as the other characters gather to see what their shortsightedness has wrought. We learn that Tully had tried to parent Marah after her father no longer could. Her hard-drinking decline was triggered by Johnny’s anger at her for keeping Marah and Paxton’s liaison secret. Johnny realizes that he only exacerbated Marah’s depression by uprooting the family from their Seattle home. Unexpectedly, Cloud, who rebuffed Tully’s every attempt to reconcile, also appears at her daughter’s bedside. Sixty-nine years old and finally sober, Cloud details for the first time the abusive childhood, complete with commitments to mental hospitals and electroshock treatments, that led to her life as a junkie lowlife and punching bag for trailer-trash men. Although powerful, Cloud’s largely peripheral story deflects focus away from the main conflict, as if Hannah was loath to tackle the intractable thicket in which she mired her main characters.

Unrelenting gloom relieved only occasionally by wrenching trauma; somehow, though, Hannah’s storytelling chops keep the pages turning even as readers begin to resent being drawn into this masochistic morass.

Pub Date: April 23, 2013

ISBN: 978-0-312-57721-6

Page Count: 416

Publisher: St. Martin's

Review Posted Online: Feb. 18, 2013

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2013

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