A philosophically charged critique of government, couched in the form of a novel.

DRAINING THE SWAMP

A parable about a woman’s education in Washington politics, as she pursues a career full of frustrated hopes.

Gibney, the author of a study of evolution (Evolutionary Philosophy, 2012) and a short story writer, spent the bulk of his professional career working in the political beltway, pulling stints in the massive bureaucracies of the FBI and the Department of Homeland Security. Drawing on that expertise, he offers a fictional examination of Washington’s perennial dysfunction. Justine Swensen arrives in the nation’s capital from Minnesota with strident, idealistic aspirations of government as an agent of social change. Intoxicated by a new senator’s promises to transform government for the better, she starts out as a staffer in his office, brimming with enthusiasm. However, she quickly learns that his promises are more rhetoric than reality, and she embarks on a career in various jobs in D.C. politics. Justine is serially disenchanted with the House Appropriations Committee, the Government Accountability Office, the Office of Management and Budget, and the Department of Homeland Security, to name a few. Each time, corruption and cynicism crush her high hopes; she even tries her luck in the private sector before finally running for office herself. This novel doubles as a sort of American civics textbook, explaining the functions of each agency while adding the spice of insider knowledge. It’s bookended with references to Ayn Rand’s brand of libertarianism, which provides philosophical power to the concluding moral: “In the private sector, you were able to see the futility of any single job in just a few years because your companies were so small and could fail so quickly,” Justine says. “The government though is so sprawling and so stable that it took me an entire career to just figure that out.” The book can be a bit didactic, as it’s somewhat heavy-handedly structured to provide a lesson in the grim reality of American politics. (The final chapter is even titled “The Moral of the Story.”) Still, its crisp dialogue (“Is lunch going to be enough or do I need to apologize for all of DC?”) and deep knowledge of Washington’s inner workings make it an edifying read.

A philosophically charged critique of government, couched in the form of a novel.

Pub Date: Oct. 17, 2012

ISBN: 978-1492940098

Page Count: 214

Publisher: CreateSpace

Review Posted Online: May 30, 2014

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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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Nothing original, but in Hilderbrand’s hands it’s easy to get lost in the story.

BAREFOOT

Privileged 30-somethings hide from their woes in Nantucket.

Hilderbrand’s saga follows the lives of Melanie, Brenda and Vicki. Vicki, alpha mom and perfect wife, is battling late-stage lung cancer and, in an uncharacteristically flaky moment, opts for chemotherapy at the beach. Vicki shares ownership of a tiny Nantucket cottage with her younger sister Brenda. Brenda, a literature professor, tags along for the summer, partly out of familial duty, partly because she’s fleeing the fallout from her illicit affair with a student. As for Melanie, she gets a last minute invite from Vicki, after Melanie confides that Melanie’s husband is having an affair. Between Melanie and Brenda, Vicki feels her two young boys should have adequate supervision, but a disastrous first day on the island forces the trio to source some outside help. Enter Josh, the adorable and affable local who is hired to tend to the boys. On break from college, Josh learns about the pitfalls of mature love as he falls for the beauties in the snug abode. Josh likes beer, analysis-free relationships and hot older women. In a word, he’s believable. In addition to a healthy dose of testosterone, the novel is balanced by powerful descriptions of Vicki’s bond with her two boys. Emotions run high as she prepares for death.

Nothing original, but in Hilderbrand’s hands it’s easy to get lost in the story.

Pub Date: July 2, 2007

ISBN: 978-0-316-01858-6

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: June 24, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2007

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