Excessive navel-gazing and self-pity get in the way of the sharp observations and sense of humor that newcomer Burns...


Blow-by-blow account of a woman’s struggle to keep her sanity despite an autistic daughter and bipolar husband: a debut that tries to be both an issue-novel and an exploration of selfhood.

Narrator Bridget Fox is not a happy camper. A New Yorker by upbringing and inclination, she has recently moved to Minneapolis because her sculptor husband, Pierce, has a tenured teaching position there. Stuck in what she considers the boondocks caring for her two daughters, two-year-old Cleo and almost five-year-old Maeve, Bridget must watch from afar as her cousin/best friend Nessa dies of breast cancer and her brilliant and beloved if alcoholic father—as opposed to her distant, utterly sane mother—succumbs to kidney cancer. Meanwhile, Maeve’s development isn’t on track. She doesn’t talk or play normally and soon is diagnosed as autistic. Still grieving over the deaths, Bridget schleps Maeve to special classes, follows medication procedures, cleans up after her. Everyone tells Bridget how well she’s holding up, but she describes in detail just how scared and ambivalent she actually feels. The reader is never allowed to forget that this woman has had horribly bad luck. To top it off, Pierce turns out to be manic-depressive, requiring hospital stays and more medication-scheduling. Bridget joins a support group and almost takes up again with her first husband. Her mother drops in and offers unexpected solace. Maeve becomes only harder to handle while Cleo blossoms. Pierce ends up in the emergency ward. Bridget copes—until suddenly she can’t anymore and downs sleeping pills. Now she’s the one in the hospital coming to grips with her suppressed anger (as if she hasn’t been expressing it loudly all along) and with the need to place Maeve in a facility. Rising to the occasion, Pierce takes over at home. Bridget recovers. Maeve is placed. A shaky stability arrives.

Excessive navel-gazing and self-pity get in the way of the sharp observations and sense of humor that newcomer Burns displays.

Pub Date: March 1, 2003

ISBN: 1-4022-0041-2

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Sourcebooks Landmark

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2003

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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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