A sweeping, poignant tale of love, war, and the pain of political disenchantment.

ENGAGEMENT

A NOVEL

An idealistic soldier deployed to Iraq and his new wife wrestle with the emotional fallout of an ugly, protracted war in Gelberg’s (Fertility, 2013, etc.) novel.

Tomas Jorgensen and Sunny Adler were sweethearts in high school, and remained so when they both graduated from college in 2003. In some ways, though, they couldn’t be more different—Tomas is a patriotic West Point cadet, and Sunny is a student at Vassar College, preparing for a career in education. His graduation speech is delivered by Vice President Dick Cheney and offers a rousing call to public duty, while hers is by writer Susan Sontag, who inspires the crowd with a dissident’s critique of government. They marry at the West Point chapel in the Jewish faith—Maj. Arnold Weinstein, a rabbi who serves as the couple’s spiritual mentor, officiates the ceremony—and the two settle into a new life together. In the beginning, their principal challenge is prolonged separation; after Tomas’ first post at Fort Drum in upstate New York, he’s selected for Army Ranger school in Georgia. Sunny throws herself into her new job as a first-grade teacher and into maintaining the household to dampen the pain of his absence. Meanwhile, Tomas, excited and anxious about the prospect of combat, finally gets orders to deploy with his brigade to Iraq. Soon, though, he and his fellow troops are enraged by the incompetence and mendacity of the nation’s political leadership and demoralized by mounting casualties. Gelberg demonstrates extraordinary restraint, allowing the couple’s collective disillusionment to build slowly but affectingly. The tenderness of their love, and its resilience, are truly endearing, and their relationship is captured in simple but often powerful prose. For example, the terrifying possibility that Tomas could die yanks Sunny into a reality that she hasn’t thought through; she tells Tomas before his deployment: “All those field exercises, I knew you loved them. The whole thing seemed like an elaborate version of man-camp.” But that “man-camp” was training for war, and Gelberg goes on to show that both Tomas and Sunny are emotionally unprepared for the danger he faces. Overall, this is a story that transcends political partisanship, and it’s resonant because it manages to be not only topical, but also timeless.

A sweeping, poignant tale of love, war, and the pain of political disenchantment.

Pub Date: Nov. 3, 2016

ISBN: 978-1-5397-7127-2

Page Count: 392

Publisher: CreateSpace

Review Posted Online: Dec. 13, 2016

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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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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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