“Is all of this a fairy tale? Is that why, as in a fairy tale, nobody has any names?” We may understand it better in the...

FARTHER ALONG

A folk-tale atmosphere as thickly constructed as an elaborate patchwork quilt is comfortably draped over the eccentric particulars of this 14th of the Arkansas author’s Stay More chronicles.

The book’s several narrators include a nameless recluse who, having been abandoned by his wife and having abandoned a prestigious job as chief curator of a museum of Americana, returns to his mother’s homeland in the Ozarks and takes up residence in a rock shelter he shares with his dog atop a remote mountain. The bluff-dweller eventually yields the page to an elderly female neighbor (identified only as the Woman) who dwells in a mountainside cabin, feeds and enlightens the narrator/bluff-dweller and gradually relates the story of her life. Other stories are told by an amiable young moonshiner (Jick); a historian (Eliza Cunningham) whose own history impels her to undertake the restoration of the aforementioned town; and a voice that knows the Woman’s entire hidden story and seems, at different times, close kin to both her late husband and an overarching spiritual presence that calls itself Kind. Harington (The Pitcher Shower, 2005, etc.) depicts the bluff-dweller (accompanied everywhere by his none-too-intrepid German Shepherd companion) as an Appalachian Robinson Crusoe, and the details of his acclimatization to the mountain’s many worlds have a truly bewitching charm and mystery. But the novel’s latter pages, which climax with a transformative Indian burial, appear to raise more questions than they answer. One feels that this strangely seductive novel’s virtually symphonic emphasis on last things is moving us toward the series’ conclusion—but Harington is giving nothing away.

“Is all of this a fairy tale? Is that why, as in a fairy tale, nobody has any names?” We may understand it better in the next Stay More novel; or, as they say hereabouts, farther along.

Pub Date: May 1, 2008

ISBN: 978-1-59264-217-5

Page Count: 226

Publisher: Toby Press

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2008

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Absolutely enthralling. Read it.

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A young Irish couple gets together, splits up, gets together, splits up—sorry, can't tell you how it ends!

Irish writer Rooney has made a trans-Atlantic splash since publishing her first novel, Conversations With Friends, in 2017. Her second has already won the Costa Novel Award, among other honors, since it was published in Ireland and Britain last year. In outline it's a simple story, but Rooney tells it with bravura intelligence, wit, and delicacy. Connell Waldron and Marianne Sheridan are classmates in the small Irish town of Carricklea, where his mother works for her family as a cleaner. It's 2011, after the financial crisis, which hovers around the edges of the book like a ghost. Connell is popular in school, good at soccer, and nice; Marianne is strange and friendless. They're the smartest kids in their class, and they forge an intimacy when Connell picks his mother up from Marianne's house. Soon they're having sex, but Connell doesn't want anyone to know and Marianne doesn't mind; either she really doesn't care, or it's all she thinks she deserves. Or both. Though one time when she's forced into a social situation with some of their classmates, she briefly fantasizes about what would happen if she revealed their connection: "How much terrifying and bewildering status would accrue to her in this one moment, how destabilising it would be, how destructive." When they both move to Dublin for Trinity College, their positions are swapped: Marianne now seems electric and in-demand while Connell feels adrift in this unfamiliar environment. Rooney's genius lies in her ability to track her characters' subtle shifts in power, both within themselves and in relation to each other, and the ways they do and don't know each other; they both feel most like themselves when they're together, but they still have disastrous failures of communication. "Sorry about last night," Marianne says to Connell in February 2012. Then Rooney elaborates: "She tries to pronounce this in a way that communicates several things: apology, painful embarrassment, some additional pained embarrassment that serves to ironise and dilute the painful kind, a sense that she knows she will be forgiven or is already, a desire not to 'make a big deal.' " Then: "Forget about it, he says." Rooney precisely articulates everything that's going on below the surface; there's humor and insight here as well as the pleasure of getting to know two prickly, complicated people as they try to figure out who they are and who they want to become.

Absolutely enthralling. Read it.

Pub Date: April 16, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-984-82217-8

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Hogarth/Crown

Review Posted Online: Feb. 18, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2019

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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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ALL THE LIGHT WE CANNOT SEE

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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