Instead of erotic noir, a grim study of failed sobriety.

BEYOND THE PALE MOTEL

Sober for nearly 12 years, Catt and her best friend, Bree, have created perfect lives for themselves in Los Angeles. But sobriety, like perfection, is a fragile thing.

They style hair at the ominously named Head Hunter, work out at the Body Farm and maintain their blog, Love Monster, which comments on all the things that make a sober life tolerable. And together, they manage to care for Bree’s son, since her “Baby Daddy” usually has better things to do. When murdered and mutilated women’s bodies start turning up, the entire community goes on high alert. All the victims are model beautiful—and bear a disturbing resemblance to Bree—and each has lost her legs or arms. When Catt’s husband, Dash, leaves her to start a family with another woman, her personal life begins spiraling down. Although she ought to be locking her doors and avoiding strangers, she joins an online dating service and falls into bed with nearly every man she meets. Who can she really trust? Big Bob, the creepy owner of the Body Farm? Scott, her workout buddy, who seems to be paler every time she seems him? Dash’s brother, Cyan, the sexy but remote photographer? Her reckless behavior threatens not only her sobriety, but also the careful life she’s constructed. Block (Love in the Time of Global Warming, 2013, etc.) again examines the interstices of addiction and sexuality and the limits of what a woman will do for those she loves. Aiming for a haunting eroticism, she instead achieves a numbing sense of dread, as the reader wonders not what the serial killer will do next but how Catt will degrade herself further. Even the final showdown between Catt and the killer is marred by exposition, which defuses much of the tension.

Instead of erotic noir, a grim study of failed sobriety.

Pub Date: Sept. 16, 2014

ISBN: 9781250033123

Page Count: 320

Publisher: St. Martin's

Review Posted Online: July 14, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2014

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Miller makes Homer pertinent to women facing 21st-century monsters.

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CIRCE

A retelling of ancient Greek lore gives exhilarating voice to a witch.

“Monsters are a boon for gods. Imagine all the prayers.” So says Circe, a sly, petulant, and finally commanding voice that narrates the entirety of Miller’s dazzling second novel. The writer returns to Homer, the wellspring that led her to an Orange Prize for The Song of Achilles (2012). This time, she dips into The Odyssey for the legend of Circe, a nymph who turns Odysseus’ crew of men into pigs. The novel, with its distinctive feminist tang, starts with the sentence: “When I was born, the name for what I was did not exist.” Readers will relish following the puzzle of this unpromising daughter of the sun god Helios and his wife, Perse, who had negligible use for their child. It takes banishment to the island Aeaea for Circe to sense her calling as a sorceress: “I will not be like a bird bred in a cage, I thought, too dull to fly even when the door stands open. I stepped into those woods and my life began.” This lonely, scorned figure learns herbs and potions, surrounds herself with lions, and, in a heart-stopping chapter, outwits the monster Scylla to propel Daedalus and his boat to safety. She makes lovers of Hermes and then two mortal men. She midwifes the birth of the Minotaur on Crete and performs her own C-section. And as she grows in power, she muses that “not even Odysseus could talk his way past [her] witchcraft. He had talked his way past the witch instead.” Circe’s fascination with mortals becomes the book’s marrow and delivers its thrilling ending. All the while, the supernatural sits intriguingly alongside “the tonic of ordinary things.” A few passages coil toward melodrama, and one inelegant line after a rape seems jarringly modern, but the spell holds fast. Expect Miller’s readership to mushroom like one of Circe’s spells.

Miller makes Homer pertinent to women facing 21st-century monsters.

Pub Date: April 10, 2018

ISBN: 978-0-316-55634-7

Page Count: 400

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: Jan. 23, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2018

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ANIMAL FARM

A FAIRY STORY

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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