A painful journey over well-trod ground.


One of the civil-rights movement’s most iconic projects, Freedom Summer 1964, is revisited in this first novel by an actress who was also a participant.

Celeste Tyree is a 19-year-old light-skinned black woman from Detroit who has come to Mississippi as a volunteer. She does so without telling her father Shuck, a prosperous bar owner who fusses over her dangerous mission. Movement headquarters sends Celeste to the small town of Pineyville, scene of a 1959 lynching, near the Louisiana border. She stays with Geneva Owens, a dignified, intensely religious widow, in her tumbledown home (there’s an outdoor spigot and an outdoor toilet). Celeste must sleep on the floor after the windows are shot up. By day, she teaches five children in the black church; at night, she prepares adults for voter registration. Registration at the county office yields the book’s climax. Dynamic community leader Reverend Singleton is hurled to the floor by the sheriff, who puts a gun to Celeste’s head. They are briefly jailed and their church is burnt to the ground, yet, on their third attempt, they register three voters, a small but significant victory. Despite overheated language, Nicholas conveys the pervasive fear; the confrontations with the white power structure are effective; and she enlarges her picture of freedom fighters battling bigots with a thuggish fellow volunteer and a tyrannical black father. Still, Freedom Summer 1964 has been amply documented in print and on screen and Nicholas falls short in presenting the subject in a fresh light. She focuses on Celeste’s troubled relationship with her mother, living with her second husband in New Mexico, and on her identity issues. Celeste’s internal struggle goes unresolved and acts only as a distraction from the nightmare of being black in Mississippi.

A painful journey over well-trod ground.

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 2005

ISBN: 1-932841-10-5

Page Count: 300

Publisher: Agate

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2005

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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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Doerr captures the sights and sounds of wartime and focuses, refreshingly, on the innate goodness of his major characters.

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Doerr presents us with two intricate stories, both of which take place during World War II; late in the novel, inevitably, they intersect.

In August 1944, Marie-Laure LeBlanc is a blind 16-year-old living in the walled port city of Saint-Malo in Brittany and hoping to escape the effects of Allied bombing. D-Day took place two months earlier, and Cherbourg, Caen and Rennes have already been liberated. She’s taken refuge in this city with her great-uncle Etienne, at first a fairly frightening figure to her. Marie-Laure’s father was a locksmith and craftsman who made scale models of cities that Marie-Laure studied so she could travel around on her own. He also crafted clever and intricate boxes, within which treasures could be hidden. Parallel to the story of Marie-Laure we meet Werner and Jutta Pfennig, a brother and sister, both orphans who have been raised in the Children’s House outside Essen, in Germany. Through flashbacks we learn that Werner had been a curious and bright child who developed an obsession with radio transmitters and receivers, both in their infancies during this period. Eventually, Werner goes to a select technical school and then, at 18, into the Wehrmacht, where his technical aptitudes are recognized and he’s put on a team trying to track down illegal radio transmissions. Etienne and Marie-Laure are responsible for some of these transmissions, but Werner is intrigued since what she’s broadcasting is innocent—she shares her passion for Jules Verne by reading aloud 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea. A further subplot involves Marie-Laure’s father’s having hidden a valuable diamond, one being tracked down by Reinhold von Rumpel, a relentless German sergeant-major.

Doerr captures the sights and sounds of wartime and focuses, refreshingly, on the innate goodness of his major characters.

Pub Date: May 6, 2014

ISBN: 978-1-4767-4658-6

Page Count: 448

Publisher: Scribner

Review Posted Online: March 6, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2014

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