Well-meaning thriller of sorts, marred by academic fussiness and extraneous historical detail. Uninspired debut in fiction...


Neo-Nazis in cahoots with the Christian right.

Professor Gillian Grace, an expert in modern German history, accepts a post at a small college in northern Wisconsin. Hoping to find a quiet haven for herself and her part-Indian daughter, she is troubled by the racism she and the girl occasionally encounter. Gillian suspects that Wisconsin right-to-lifers, neo-Nazis, and downtrodden born-again types have formed a loose alliance with one another, a suspicion that’s confirmed by young and handsome grad student Michael Landis, who had a Native American friend who was mysteriously murdered. It looks like the Sons of the Shepherd, a fundamentalist Christian sect, may have been involved. What Gillian and Michael don’t know: Lucy Wirth, forlorn wife of an infertile hardware-store owner, has been permitting the horny pastor of the Sons of the Shepherd to, um, spill his seed so that she can conceive a child at last. She knows it’s a sin, but. . . . She’s got mental problems anyway. As for Gillian and Michael, they have sweaty sex, eat lots of lentils, and try to figure it all out. Meanwhile, over in Germany, neo-Nazis are gathering, and, according to Michael, it looks like the local yokels may be connected to them somehow. The couple travel to Germany to investigate, though being seen with Michael in public is embarrassing for Gillian, not wanting to be perceived as “the lady professor and her pretty boy.” Back in the US: Lucy Wirth is blackmailed into spying on Gillian, and, ere long, Michael dies defusing a homemade bomb. But earnest Gillian saves the world for democracy.

Well-meaning thriller of sorts, marred by academic fussiness and extraneous historical detail. Uninspired debut in fiction by the author of a respected work on population control (Reproductive Rights and Wrongs, not reviewed).

Pub Date: April 19, 2002

ISBN: 0-7867-1021-7

Page Count: 272

Publisher: N/A

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2002

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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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