Haunting look at bad science, bad parenting and the making of a damaged individual.


In this debut novel, Kent Tucker is sent to a state hospital in 1950s Appalachia to “cure” his homosexuality, leading to terrible compulsions and crimes as an adult.

In 1986, Sarah Tucker learns that son Kent, a child murderer, has died in prison. “He just came out wrong,” she muses. Shifting back to 1957, Sarah and husband Herb run a bar in Appalachia. Herb forces 12-year-old Kent to play baseball, but the puny boy proves embarrassing. Then a schoolmate puts Kent’s hand on his penis and, when caught, implies Kent was the instigator. The principal arranges for a “cure” in the state hospital. There, Kent deals with a theorizing doctor (boys lure older men into sex, etc.) and is raped by a male attendant. Upon release, life hellishly continues, with Herb prone to violence and schoolmates even trying to electroshock his genitalia. Jumping ahead to 1963, Kent returns to the hospital several times and drops out of school at 16. Now dreaming of escape, he steals money from the bar but is caught by Sarah. Put on probation, he lives on his aging grandparents’ farm. Herb beats Sarah one time too many, and she divorces him and soon remarries and inherits the farm, which she then sells. Kent now goes to prison, caught again by Sarah for swiping a case of beer for some local kids. He becomes the “punk” of another inmate and is gang-raped prior to being released. Kent tries to start life over, even getting married, but is increasingly drawn to young boys, leading to tragic encounters and his final end. First-time novelist Wears has crafted a gripping, sometimes overly brutal and melodramatic narrative to explain the trajectory of a character whose fate is stated at the start of this novel. The hospital scenes are particularly powerful, laying the groundwork for Kent’s psychosexual fantasies. Sarah’s detachment is chilling even in rather sparse detail, with one wishing for a bit more development in this area. Overall, however, it’s a sad and cautionary tale that leaves a mark.

Haunting look at bad science, bad parenting and the making of a damaged individual.

Pub Date: March 17, 2015

ISBN: 978-1499361766

Page Count: 318

Publisher: CreateSpace

Review Posted Online: Nov. 25, 2014

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While a few weeks ago it seemed as if Praeger would have a two month lead over Dutton in their presentation of this Soviet best seller, both the "authorized" edition (Dutton's) and the "unauthorized" (Praeger's) will appear almost simultaneously. There has been considerable advance attention on what appears to be as much of a publishing cause celebre here as the original appearance of the book in Russia. Without entering into the scrimmage, or dismissing it as a plague on both your houses, we will limit ourselves to a few facts. Royalties from the "unauthorized" edition will go to the International Rescue Committee; Dutton with their contracted edition is adhering to copyright conventions. The Praeger edition has two translators and one of them is the translator of Doctor Zhivago Dutton's translator, Ralph Parker, has been stigmatized by Praeger as "an apologist for the Soviet regime". To the untutored eye, the Dutton translation seems a little more literary, the Praeger perhaps closer to the rather primitive style of the original. The book itself is an account of one day in the three thousand six hundred and fifty three days of the sentence to be served by a carpenter, Ivan Denisovich Shukhov. (Solzhenitsyn was a political prisoner.) From the unrelenting cold without, to the conditions within, from the bathhouse to the latrine to the cells where survival for more than two weeks is impossible, this records the hopeless facts of existence as faced by thousands who went on "living like this, with your eyes on the ground". The Dutton edition has an excellent introduction providing an orientation on the political background to its appearance in Russia by Marvin Kalb. All involved in its publication (translators, introducers, etc.) claim for it great "artistic" values which we cannot share, although there is no question of its importance as a political and human document and as significant and tangible evidence of the de-Stalinization program.

Pub Date: June 15, 1963

ISBN: 0451228146

Page Count: 181

Publisher: Praeger

Review Posted Online: Oct. 5, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 1963

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Thoroughbreds and Virginia blue-bloods cavort, commit murder, and fall in love in Roberts's (Hidden Riches, 1994, etc.) latest romantic thriller — this one set in the world of championship horse racing. Rich, sheltered Kelsey Byden is recovering from a recent divorce when she receives a letter from her mother, Naomi, a woman she has believed dead for over 20 years. When Kelsey confronts her genteel English professor father, though, he sheepishly confesses that, no, her mother isn't dead; throughout Kelsey's childhood, she was doing time for the murder of her lover. Kelsey meets with Naomi and not only finds her quite charming, but the owner of Three Willows, one of the most splendid horse farms in Virginia. Kelsey is further intrigued when she meets Gabe Slater, a blue-eyed gambling man who owns a neighboring horse farm; when one of Gabe's horses is mated with Naomi's, nostrils flare, flanks quiver, and the romance is on. Since both Naomi and Gabe have horses entered in the Kentucky Derby, Kelsey is soon swept into the whirlwind of the Triple Crown, in spite of her family's objections to her reconciliation with the notorious Naomi. The rivalry between the two horse farms remains friendly, but other competitors — one of them is Gabe's father, a vicious alcoholic who resents his son's success — prove less scrupulous. Bodies, horse and human, start piling up, just as Kelsey decides to investigate the murky details of her mother's crime. Is it possible she was framed? The ground is thick with no-goods, including haughty patricians, disgruntled grooms, and jockeys with tragic pasts, but despite all the distractions, the identity of the true culprit behind the mayhem — past and present — remains fairly obvious. The plot lopes rather than races to the finish. Gambling metaphors abound, and sexual doings have a distinctly equine tone. But Roberts's style has a fresh, contemporary snap that gets the story past its own worst excesses.

Pub Date: June 13, 1995

ISBN: 0-399-14059-X

Page Count: 400

Publisher: Putnam

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 1995

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