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The joyful sense of community within this love story offers a charming and refreshing escape from the modern world.

The sudden death of her parents in 1910 sends a teenager on a journey from heartbreak to self-discovery through the American Midwest.

Ruby Drake, named for the red birthmark on her chest, would be too sweet to be believed if not for her terrible secret—she’s in love with a married man. After being shuttled from her cold great-aunt’s home in Beardsley, Illinois, to the farm of a kindly German couple, the orphaned Ruby lands in Harvester, Minnesota, to work for Emma Schoonover, whose own children have died. There, farming becomes an “endless source of wonderment” for Ruby, and Sullivan’s (Good Night, Mr. Wodehouse, 2015, etc.) rapturous depiction of farm life makes it ring true. Ruby’s parents, who appear in memories and the small mementos Ruby carries with her from house to house, seem to watch over her from above. When she meets Roland Allen, his beautiful wife, Dora, is suicidal after the death of their firstborn daughter. Emma encourages Ruby to help Dora run the farm even though she never approved of Dora as Roland’s wife. Somehow, the two young women strike up a friendship, leaving Ruby in the difficult position of following her heart or doing what’s right. Barrett Cromwell, a family friend, would be a more suitable husband for Ruby, but will she trade love for stability? Though her droll observations root her in her time and place—“Is anyone ever their own boss?”—Ruby manages to build a life for herself with and without Roland. Whether her ending is happy or sad is a question to sit with and think about.

The joyful sense of community within this love story offers a charming and refreshing escape from the modern world.

Pub Date: Sept. 10, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-57131-132-0

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Milkweed

Review Posted Online: June 16, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2019

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The story's very ambiguity steadily feeds its mysteriousness and power, and Danielewski's mastery of postmodernist and...

An amazingly intricate and ambitious first novel - ten years in the making - that puts an engrossing new spin on the traditional haunted-house tale.

Texts within texts, preceded by intriguing introductory material and followed by 150 pages of appendices and related "documents" and photographs, tell the story of a mysterious old house in a Virginia suburb inhabited by esteemed photographer-filmmaker Will Navidson, his companion Karen Green (an ex-fashion model), and their young children Daisy and Chad.  The record of their experiences therein is preserved in Will's film The Davidson Record - which is the subject of an unpublished manuscript left behind by a (possibly insane) old man, Frank Zampano - which falls into the possession of Johnny Truant, a drifter who has survived an abusive childhood and the perverse possessiveness of his mad mother (who is institutionalized).  As Johnny reads Zampano's manuscript, he adds his own (autobiographical) annotations to the scholarly ones that already adorn and clutter the text (a trick perhaps influenced by David Foster Wallace's Infinite Jest) - and begins experiencing panic attacks and episodes of disorientation that echo with ominous precision the content of Davidson's film (their house's interior proves, "impossibly," to be larger than its exterior; previously unnoticed doors and corridors extend inward inexplicably, and swallow up or traumatize all who dare to "explore" their recesses).  Danielewski skillfully manipulates the reader's expectations and fears, employing ingeniously skewed typography, and throwing out hints that the house's apparent malevolence may be related to the history of the Jamestown colony, or to Davidson's Pulitzer Prize-winning photograph of a dying Vietnamese child stalked by a waiting vulture.  Or, as "some critics [have suggested,] the house's mutations reflect the psychology of anyone who enters it."

The story's very ambiguity steadily feeds its mysteriousness and power, and Danielewski's mastery of postmodernist and cinema-derived rhetoric up the ante continuously, and stunningly.  One of the most impressive excursions into the supernatural in many a year.

Pub Date: March 6, 2000

ISBN: 0-375-70376-4

Page Count: 704

Publisher: Pantheon

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2000

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Steinbeck is a genius and an original.

Steinbeck refuses to allow himself to be pigeonholed.

This is as completely different from Tortilla Flat and In Dubious Battle as they are from each other. Only in his complete understanding of the proletarian mentality does he sustain a connecting link though this is assuredly not a "proletarian novel." It is oddly absorbing this picture of the strange friendship between the strong man and the giant with the mind of a not-quite-bright child. Driven from job to job by the failure of the giant child to fit into the social pattern, they finally find in a ranch what they feel their chance to achieve a homely dream they have built. But once again, society defeats them. There's a simplicity, a directness, a poignancy in the story that gives it a singular power, difficult to define.  Steinbeck is a genius and an original.

Pub Date: Feb. 26, 1936

ISBN: 0140177396

Page Count: 83

Publisher: Covici, Friede

Review Posted Online: Oct. 5, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 1936

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