Felicitous characters and a scrumptious plot make Hicks’ second novel refreshing and fun.

AMATEURS

The personal and social lives of a group of friends are on display in this modern novel of manners.

Hicks’ second novel, after Boarded Windows (2012), is smart, witty, and endearing. In a brief prologue, dated April 1972, we meet the Crennel family. Marion, a daughter, has written an unfinished novel that was “meant to be a parody and refraction of the kind of nuptial denouement one finds in Shakespeare or Austen.” (Sounds a lot like Hicks’ own novel.) She hides it in the attic. Then Part 1, titled "Prenuptial," begins in May 2011. The novel is divided into months over 11 years. Episodes go back and forth in time. We meet characters in one episode and then jump a few years ahead in the next episode to see them now older, maybe wiser. New characters, mostly minor, pop up along the way, and gradually, all the characters are jumping back and forth in time, slowly moving toward Part 2, "Postnuptial," with the last episode set in September 2011. It’s very much a modern Austen-esque novel of manners. Carefully plotted, it’s jumpy at first, but once settled in, the story takes off, providing a clever, jaunty ride. In May 2011, we first meet Karyn and her young son, Maxwell. She’s been invited to her cousin Archer Bondarenko’s wedding to Gemma in June. His family makes dildos, and they’re plenty rich. He’s published a successful novel which he may or may not have written. In August 2004, we meet Sara Crennel, a burgeoning writer; she’s with Lucas Pope, who was previously with Gemma. Sara may or may not have written Archer’s novel. Scandal ensues. A handy score card of who what when helps keep track of everyone in this sprightly tale about friendship and courtship, money, love, assorted complications—and writers.

Felicitous characters and a scrumptious plot make Hicks’ second novel refreshing and fun.

Pub Date: May 3, 2016

ISBN: 978-1-56689-432-6

Page Count: 280

Publisher: Coffee House

Review Posted Online: Feb. 15, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2016

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IF BEALE STREET COULD TALK

This new Baldwin novel is told by a 19-year-old black girl named Tish in a New York City ghetto about how she fell in love with a young black man, Fonny. He got framed on a rape charge and she got pregnant before they could marry and move into their loft; but Tish and her family Finance a trip to Puerto Rico to track down the rape victim and rescue Fonny, a sculptor with slanted eyes and treasured independence. The book is anomalous for the 1970's with its Raisin in the Sun wholesomeness. It is sometimes saccharine, but it possesses a genuinely sweet and free spirit too. Along with the reflex sprinkles of hate-whitey, there are powerful showdowns between the two black families, and a Frieze of people who — unlike Fonny's father — gave up and "congregated on the garbage heaps of their lives." The style wobbles as Tish mixes street talk with lyricism and polemic and a bogus kind of Young Adult hesitancy. Baldwin slips past the conflict between fighting the garbage heap and settling into a long-gone private chianti-chisel-and-garret idyll, as do Fonny and Tish and the baby. But Baldwin makes the affirmation of the humanity of black people which is all too missing in various kinds of Superfly and sub-fly novels.

Pub Date: May 24, 1974

ISBN: 0307275930

Page Count: -

Publisher: Dial Books

Review Posted Online: Sept. 16, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 1974

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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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