A potentially intriguing tale of magical realism marred by punctuation oddities and other narrative challenges.

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In this debut novel, a modern-day woman encounters a mysterious female spirit in a hand mirror, leading to her traveling to Mexico and uncovering family secrets.

Marie is alone in her grandmother Rose’s ancestral Connecticut home. Rose has just died, and Marie recalls that her grandmother made her promise that a certain silver hand mirror would never be sold. Marie goes to the gloomy bedroom where the mirror sits and turns it over. She sees a woman who looks just like her staring back at her. Through conversations with this spirit and assisted by a family lawyer, Marie learns that the woman in the mirror is Louise Theresa Guiterrez, the Mexican woman whom Rose’s father Charles had married while serving under Gen. Pershing during the Mexican Revolutionary War. Louise died in childbirth in that dark bedroom while Charles’ social-climbing mother did nothing to help her. Charles then followed through on his mother’s plan for him to marry wealthy Tillie, but he never recovered from Louise’s death or from other actions taken shortly thereafter. Rose learned of some of these secrets when she turned 21, but Marie now uncovers more of the story as she conducts additional research, then returns with the mirror to Mexico. Taking on the daunting task of making the spirit world believable, first-time novelist Lagone is largely successful. For example, the scenes in which Marie talks to the mirror could have been laughable, yet in this narrative, they hold surprising power. Unfortunately, Lagone decided not to set off dialogue with quotations marks, which creates a run-on effect that’s often difficult to decipher. Additionally, the rather intricate retelling of Louise’s story cuts among different times and perspectives (Louise, Tillie, the family lawyer, etc.), which still leaves many elements, including Marie, somewhat shadowy. Still, there’s plenty of promise here, culminating in a dramatic twist ending that, like the rest of the novel, would benefit from further development.

A potentially intriguing tale of magical realism marred by punctuation oddities and other narrative challenges.

Pub Date: Oct. 21, 2013

ISBN: 978-1491817926

Page Count: 286

Publisher: AuthorHouse

Review Posted Online: Sept. 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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Cheerfully engaging.

WHAT ALICE FORGOT

From Australian Moriarty (The Last Anniversary, 2006, etc.), domestic escapism about a woman whose temporary amnesia makes her re-examine what really matters to her.

Alice wakes from what she thinks is a dream, assuming she is a recently married 29-year-old expecting her first child. Actually she is 39, the mother of three and in the middle of an acrimonious custody battle with her soon-to-be ex-husband Nick. She’s fallen off her exercise bike, and the resulting bump on her head has not only erased her memory of the last 10 years but has also taken her psychologically back to a younger, more easygoing self at odds with the woman she gathers she has become. While Alice-at-29 is loving and playful if lacking ambition or self-confidence, Alice-at-39 is a highly efficient if too tightly wound supermom. She is also thin and rich since Nick now heads the company where she remembers him struggling in an entry-level position. Alice-at-29 cannot conceive that she and Nick would no longer be rapturously in love or that she and her adored older sister Elisabeth could be estranged, and she is shocked that her shy mother has married Nick’s bumptious father and taken up salsa dancing. She neither remembers nor recognizes her three children, each given a distinct if slightly too cute personality. Nor does she know what to make of the perfectly nice boyfriend Alice-at-39 has acquired. As memory gradually returns, Alice-at-29 initially misinterprets the scattered images and flashes of emotion, especially those concerning Gina, a woman who evidently caused the rift with Nick. Alice-at-29 assumes Gina was Nick’s mistress, only to discover that Gina was her best friend. Gina died in a freak car accident and in her honor, Alice-at-39 has organized mothers from the kids’ school to bake the largest lemon meringue pie on record. But Alice-at-29 senses that Gina may not have been a completely positive influence. Moriarty handles the two Alice consciousnesses with finesse and also delves into infertility issues through Elizabeth’s diary.

Cheerfully engaging.

Pub Date: June 2, 2011

ISBN: 978-0-399-15718-9

Page Count: 432

Publisher: Amy Einhorn/Putnam

Review Posted Online: April 4, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2011

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