Rosner offers a gentle meditation on love and loss: "Rivers, oceans, the passing of molecules back and forth, darkness into...

ELECTRIC CITY

Rosner (Blue Nude, 2006, etc.) draws on the immigrant experience of Charles Porteus Steinmetz, the Wizard of Schenectady, as the background to a coming-of-age novel.

The novel starts off in 1919 exploring Steinmetz's work at "The Company" in Electric City (think General Electric in Schenectady) and the great scientist’s friendship with Joseph Longboat, a Mohawk. Later, the story takes up the lives of Sophie Levine, Henry Van Curler, and Martin Longboat, Joseph's grandson. Sophie’s parents escaped from Holland, their families consumed by the Holocaust. Henry, surviving scion of the region’s first settlers, copes with disconnected parents grieving the accidental death of an older son. Martin, like his grandfather, is a gentle soul attuned to nature. In 1965, the three are approaching the end of their high school years. An unlikely romance begins between Sophie and Henry. That love doesn’t shut out Martin, but he "had no idea what to offer when a girl aimed her heart away from him." Later, as the three lark about ice skating, Henry falls through the ice and drowns. Sophie and Martin each suffer differently. "Losses were the exact size of sorrows left unspoken." With deft descriptions, Rosner sketches the bustling city, on land long cherished by aboriginal culture, which grew and flourished as whites invaded and industrialized. The narrative is woven through with symbolic allusions; for instance, the characters' personal losses are mirrored by the physical decline of the once-vibrant city after bottom line–obsessed managers begin sending jobs overseas—"Electric City was being disconnected, unplugged from its own socket." Rosner’s best work, however, is developing the characters of the three young people—Henry, tentative, suppressed, dead before he had a chance to flourish; Sophie, gutted by Henry’s death, turning every energy to the study of medicine; and Martin, haunted by the oppression of his people and choosing Canada over the Vietnam draft. 

Rosner offers a gentle meditation on love and loss: "Rivers, oceans, the passing of molecules back and forth, darkness into brilliance and then gone."

Pub Date: Oct. 14, 2014

ISBN: 9781619023468

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Counterpoint

Review Posted Online: July 31, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2014

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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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A unique story about Appalachia and the healing power of the written word.

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THE BOOK WOMAN OF TROUBLESOME CREEK

One of Kentucky’s last living “Blue People” works as a traveling librarian in 1930s Appalachia.

Cussy Mary Carter is a 19-year-old from Troublesome Creek, Kentucky. She was born with a rare genetic condition, and her skin has always been tinged an allover deep blue. Cussy lives with her widowed father, a coal miner who relentlessly attempts to marry her off. Unfortunately, with blue skin and questionable genetics, Cussy is a tough sell. Cussy would rather keep her job as a pack-horse librarian than keep house for a husband anyway. As part of the new governmental program aimed at bringing reading material to isolated rural Kentuckians, Cussy rides a mule over treacherous terrain, delivering books and periodicals to people of limited means. Cussy’s patrons refer to her as “Bluet” or “Book Woman,” and she delights in bringing them books as well as messages, medicine, and advice. When a local pastor takes a nefarious interest in Cussy, claiming that God has sent him to rid society of her “blue demons,” efforts to defend herself leave Cussy at risk of arrest, or worse. The local doctor agrees to protect Cussy in exchange for her submission to medical testing. As Doc finds answers about Cussy’s condition, she begins to re-examine what it means to be a Blue and what life after a cure might look like. Although the novel gets off to a slow start, once Cussy begins traveling to the city for medical testing, the stakes get higher, as does the suspense of the story. Cussy's first-person narrative voice is engaging, laced with a thick Kentucky accent and colloquialisms of Depression-era Appalachia. Through the bigotry and discrimination Cussy suffers as a result of her skin color, the author artfully depicts the insidious behavior that can result when a society’s members feel threatened by things they don't understand. With a focus on the personal joy and broadened horizons that can result from access to reading material, this well-researched tale serves as a solid history lesson on 1930s Kentucky.

A unique story about Appalachia and the healing power of the written word.

Pub Date: May 7, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-4926-7152-7

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Sourcebooks Landmark

Review Posted Online: Feb. 28, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2019

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